Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Galley Game

The other day Melville House posted this on their blog, about the question about whether getting access to freebie ARCs means people buy fewer books because they have sense of entitlement to free books as a job/career perk, or just because they're so used to getting free stuff they don't buy anymore.

Whether or not I have access to galleys has little effect on what I buy. When I got them, I didn't buy full-price hardcovers unless I desperately wanted the book, and I still don't. Most of the books I received in galley were not books I'd rush out to buy in hardcover. If anything, I might buy the paperback eventually, but what galleys did do for me was make it easier for me to read things I might not think to pick up otherwise. Since I stopped working at a bookstore and moved to New York, my own access to galleys has more or less dried up (save for one or two sources) and I spend less time reading current fiction and more working through my to-be-read shelves. Fine. And I'm buying fewer books these days mostly because I don't have an income of my own.

In the past, sometimes I would sometimes ask for a review copy of something I really wanted to read, sometimes not, depending. Sometimes it felt like I asked for a lot and once in a while ought to buy something. And sometimes I just didn't want the obligation to review it right away, or review it positively, or at all. Plus, I just like to shop.

When I spent my days shelving, handling purchases and making recommendations in a bookstore, I bought more because I was exposed to more. All of a sudden the whole store felt like my to-be-read pile and it was just a matter of how much I would bring home every week. I could use my store discount to buy whatever I wanted, and I rarely asked for review copies that weren't available through the store.

Now I'm back to being a blogger, and I like getting review copies but I don't feel entitled to them. Which is a good thing considering I rarely receive them. (I think I fell off a lot of mailing lists when I moved.) As a bookseller it was more important to have access to advance copies because it was my job to sell the books and reading a hot book ahead of time made a real difference to the enthusiasm I could muster on the sales floor.  Same for when I worked as a librarian. Now, it feels more like a luxury and less like a necessary tool. And I'm just as happy not to have the obligation to post things by a certain date and all that.

I do wonder why people who don't actually sell books (or review them or encourage borrowing at the library) need advance copies of books they're not promoting.  I get that it's a job perk, and one that folks are used to, and expect, because it's fun and makes them feel special. It makes people in the industry feel like part of a community, which they are, and helps them share their enthusiasm about books with each other. They foster conversations and friendships and build relationships which help build careers. And it would be a brave publishing worker who would start denying freebies to their friends!

But still. When I hear people talking about bloggers and return-on-investment, I wonder about all the freebies given to people just because they're part of the club, and then I feel less badly about the perks I've been lucky enough to receive. (What drives me crazy? Listening to someone who works in a back-office administrative role, with no exposure to the public or role in promoting books to readers, opining on what bloggers "deserve." Really? One such person once gave me a hard time about getting a galley signed, something folks do all the time.) Sometimes I hear someone bemoan the number of galleys sent to bloggers, and then I'll hear a sales rep or someone else say they have so many galleys to give away they don't know what to do with them all. Something about the galley game is a little out of whack.

Not having access to galleys definitely means I don't read as much current fiction, which I miss, but I do read more from my TBR pile, which is probably a good thing. Lately I've read some older books I've always been meaning to get to, some less-old books I bought with the intention of reading them soon and it also means I'm actually acquiring fewer books than I read- and opening up space on the shelves for the first time in a while. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss access to free recent stuff.  Galleys are a great perk and it's hard to blame anyone who doesn't want to give them up.


ChaosIsAFriendOfMine said...

I brought a galley to a signing and the owner of the bookstore hosting the signing asked me suspiciously where I got it. Like I got it through the black market! Good to know I'm not the first person who's brought a galley to a signing.

I do wonder about bloggers who accept more galleys than the could ever read in their lifetime. Is it a status thing to see how many galleys you can pull in? And how do the publishers feel about taking galleys for several books but not reviewing any of them?

bermudaonion said...

I don't feel entitled to ARCs but do enjoy getting them. What's funny is, I buy quite a few books now but before I started blogging I always used the library.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This was an interesting post Marie. i still receive lots of arcs and sadly, many are genres I don't read. Even when I asked to be removed from a couple mailing lists, they still arrive unsolicited.

I am trying to cull my shelves and prefer getting eGalleys these days or read from my shelves. I still go to the library once a week as well.

Unknown said...

Over the last several years I've noticed ARCs getting more street cred among book dealers as collectibles. In many instances ARCs become the "true" first printing of a book and some collectors are willing to spend big money for them. ARCs of David Foster Wallace's, for instance, can go for several hundred dollars a piece. I have an ARC of Silence of the Lambs and last time I checked it was selling for $50. There's definitely a resale market for them these days, and maybe that's part of what's peeving some houses about bloggers getting them. Thanks for the provocative post, Marie!

Jeanne said...

Huh. I have at least once bought a finished copy of a book I got an ARC of, because it was one I wanted to reread and keep. Like you, though, I don't ask for or get very many advance copies. Occasionally an author will tell me I'm on his/her list to get an advance copy, but the publisher doesn't send it. Maybe that's because the people in the back room are scoffing and keeping them!