money is awesome but getting sued is less awesome
May 3, 2012 5:11 PM   Subscribe

I got ahold of an Advanced Reader's Copy of a book that is not out yet. It is made by a famous actor (and it looks really, really bad). It has special wrapping related to said author and a "note" from the author (copied, in his handwriting, or at least it's supposed to be in his handwriting). Would it be illegal for me to sell it? Would it be immoral for me to sell it? Could I actually make a big pile of money by selling it?

The person I got it from said that he is not allowed to sell it 'cause he signed something saying she wouldn't, but that nothing's stopping me. But I don't want to get him sued, and I don't want to get sued either.
posted by Harry Potter and the Puppet of Sock to Law & Government (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Unlikely you'd make a "big pile" of money from it. And if the publisher finds out that it's your friend's copy, your friend is unlikely to get sued, but it's also unlikely that he (she? you used both pronouns) is going to get any further ARCs (which stands for Advance Reader's Copy, by the way, just a pet peeve of mine) from that publisher.

Which, if your friend is a professional reviewer, could be a big deal. I do know someone who got fired from a reviewing gig for selling ARCs; the publisher called the books editor and complained.

If the note comes with the book and is addressed to all the people who got an ARC, it is almost certainly not in the author's own handwriting. Publishers send out ARCs by the hundreds.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:16 PM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Illegal: It is very unlikely that it would break a criminal law to sell the book. It might violate your friend's contract. It depends on what the contract says - so yes, your friend could get sued. I have no idea if it's worth it for [whoever] to sue your friend or not.

Immoral: I have no opinion here.

Make a pile of money: Seems unlikely to me, but it's going to really depend on who the famous person is and how many similar items are for sale.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:18 PM on May 3, 2012

I've bought advanced reader's copies on eBay. No big deal. Sell it. You're unlikely to make much more than the sticker price, though.
posted by jayder at 5:19 PM on May 3, 2012

I really very profoundly doubt you will make a pile of money (these things are EVERYWHERE.) And it could cause headaches for your friend.

Come to think of it, both times I've ended up buying a reader's copy of something, it was not advertised as such - and they were selling it far below the sticker price. I remember thinking that I should have known that's what they'd be, given the prices and "good as new" quality claims (which were true, insofar as a lack of physical damage is concerned.)
posted by SMPA at 5:21 PM on May 3, 2012

If the note identifies your friend, the whole thing could be really embarrassing for him.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:21 PM on May 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

It seems like if you sell before it comes out someone might pay something for it (probably not), but you might make someone mad and get your friend in trouble. If you sell it after it comes out no one will probably care as much, but I'd be surprised if you could get the sticker price for it.

Hardly seems worth it to me, big potential downside, very small potential upside.
posted by bongo_x at 5:41 PM on May 3, 2012

Please don't do this. Reviewers work on an honor code system, and the more that people break that code, the more reluctant publishing houses will be to send out ARCs. Furthermore, some publishing houses put bar code stickers somewhere in the books they send out -- particularly with the hardcover final art copies. (I usually find them about midway through reading a book.) As others have said, it could hurt your friend and it probably won't make you much money.
posted by brina at 5:43 PM on May 3, 2012 [9 favorites]

Unless your friend isn't a reviewer and got the book because of some other connection to the author or the subject, you are putting their employment at risk just to make some (not very much) cash. That seems like a shitty friend thing to do.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:48 PM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's not illegal, but I'd be shocked if you could get much for it (former used bookstore employee).
posted by drezdn at 5:56 PM on May 3, 2012

is it a self-published thing in an unexpected genre? Give the guy a break and at least wait until it's out.
posted by mwhybark at 6:11 PM on May 3, 2012

I used to work for a Large Chain Bookstore That Is Now Bankrupt and we were given ARCs of books all the time with the express warning that we weren't to try to sell them and the follow-up caveat that even if we did TRY, there's no money to be made there.

It's unlikely that it would be trace to your friend... but also...there's really no market for it. They're not collectible by any means - unlike rare *published* editions of books, people just don't pay for them. Best you can do is pass it on to someone who wants to read it or donate it to an organization like a prison library that collects books.
posted by sonika at 6:25 PM on May 3, 2012

I don't think I've ever paid much over a dollar for an ARC. Those things are the opposite of valuable.
posted by languagehat at 6:57 PM on May 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

If there is an embargo on the book and you sell it and the book gets leaked early, it could potentially get traced back to you and your friend by some of the methods mentions above. If the leak costs the publisher money (in terms of lost sales), you or your friend could possibly get sued. This is, indeed, a slim possibility, but an embargo on a celebrity book is not uncommon (although generally that would mean that no ARCs would be produced or sent out, but that's not always the case).

You likely won't be able to get much money for it. They just aren't very valuable. Even ARCs signed by the author in person generally don't sell for much.

One other thought - most ARCs include a line inside the cover about how the ARC is the property of the publishing house and must be returned upon request. It would be really rare for that to be exercised, but it is in there for a reason.

I vote for please don't do this. It's a jerk move (in that it's not what the publishing house intended to be done with the ARC), and it's not likely to be profitable for you anyway.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:34 PM on May 3, 2012

Response by poster: Alright, cool, I won't do it. (The book in question, if you're wondering, is one coming out in a couple months by a certain young star of Glee. Googling will find which one it is, I'd rather this page not come up if someone *is* looking for a copy before the release date.)
posted by Harry Potter and the Puppet of Sock at 8:06 PM on May 3, 2012

Yeah to answer your question: no, no, and no. It's unlikely in the extreme the publisher would find out the provenance of the book - they send out so many of those puppies it's not funny, and it's equally unlikely you'd get more than twenty or thirty bucks for it. The odds of both obviously increase concurrently - the more rare the ARC, the more likely you get better money for it, and that the publisher tracks it.
posted by smoke at 8:28 PM on May 3, 2012

This is one of those instances where rarity does not translate into value. With books, first printings of first editions are what the collectors want.
posted by Boxenmacher at 9:46 AM on May 4, 2012

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