The Book Influencer: Is it OK to sell ARCs?

This is a topic every reviewer and book influencer has asked at some point. If you Google this question, you will find people doing a deep dive into the ‘legality’ of it, instead of just asking the publishers directly, “Is it OK to sell ARCs?” So I asked this question for you.

For those who do not know what an ARC is, it is an acronym for Advanced Reader Copy, or galley. These books are gifted by the publisher to reviewers, influencers, libraries, booksellers, etc. for early review. It is not the final copy of the book, and considered an uncorrected proof (i.e. draft). On the cover, there is a notice that says “NOT FOR SALE.” It is on every ARC.

I reached out to the Big 5 and two independent publishers and asked them two questions: 1) Is it OK to sell ARCs?, and 2) What should people do with the ARCs once they are finished with the book?

The responses I received (so far) are below. As more publishers respond to my request, this post will be updated.

What prompted this article was seeing someone with a lot of followers giving some very bad advice to new Bookstagrammers. Each publisher has their own rules regarding what you should do with an ARC after you finish it, but every single one of them had the same answer on whether it was OK to sell ARCs and every single one said NO. It is NEVER OK to sell ARCs.

As for what you can do with an ARC after you are finished with it, this is the part you should pay attention to, because there are a few extras you should be aware of (that I wasn’t even aware of).

HarperCollins Publishers

HarperCollins is one of the Big 5 publishers with numerous imprints under their name. Of all of the publishers, they are the most staunch about the “Not For Sale” policy, going so far as to sue people selling ARCs (and winning in court each time – one person had a $15,000 judgment against them for selling an ARC).

I reached out to their imprint, Harlequin, and this is their response, which is also what I have been told verbally by others from HarperCollins:

“Harlequin supplies ARCs on a “not for sale” basis and we trust recipients to honor this both before and after publication of the book. Should we become aware of a recipient selling or trading on ARCs received from the company, we reserve the right to no longer supply ARCs to such recipient.”

Of importance here is that they include trading as something that is not allowed. That means those of you who trade ARCs with each other should stop. It is not acceptable.

As for what to do with ARCs after you are done, you can donate them to Little Free Libraries, do giveaways, etc., so long as no buying, selling, or trading occurred.

Shadow Mountain Publishing

Shadow Mountain Publishing is a general trade publisher of both fiction and non-fiction titles. Their imprint Proper Romance focuses on clean romance stories (think Jane Austen). I was first introduced to Shadow Mountain years ago because they publish my favorite middle-grade series Fablehaven and Dragonwatch by Brandon Mull (huge, huge fan!).

I reached out to Callie Hansen, their Product Manager, and this is her response:

Shadow Mountain’s policy on the sale of ARCs is to not resell them. Ever. They are purely a marketing piece to generate early book reviews.

I would say readers are welcome to pass along physical ARCs before the book is released. My preferences are to donate to a Little Free Library (most libraries will not accept ARCs), keep the ARC for yourself, share with a young reader in the book’s demographic (especially if the book is a children’s or YA book), or simply recycle the book.

I know recycling the book may sound weird to a reader, but because it’s not a final copy, if you’re not going to keep the book, we prefer to recycle ARCs especially once the final book is released.

Shadow Mountain recently alerted their influencers that their books should be recycled after review, but they can also be passed along (as per above).

Simon & Schuster

I reached out to Saga Press, an imprint of Gallery Books and Simon & Schuster (one of the Big 5) for their take. This is what Joe Monti, Founder and Editorial Director, had to say:

Advanced Reading Copies, or ARC’s (“arcs”) are meant to simply get the word out with booksellers, influencers, critics, and traditional media. These are shared at great expense to simply generate word of mouth, hopefully amongst readers whom will love it. They have no commercial value and should never be sold as that would be the equivalent of stealing from the author as they get no return on that sale. 

 That’s it!

 You can give it to someone to read, for sure. But never for money. 

You can toss it. 

You can also hold on to it forever, like my ARC of GOOD OMENS signed by Neil and Terry. 😇😈

Ok. So I’m jealous. But I loved that response.

The Answer Is…

So the ongoing consensus from publishers is that you should NEVER, EVER, EVER sell ARCs. Each one has suggested donating to Little Free Libraries or destroying it after reading. That latter part is difficult for most bibliophiles, because the thought of destroying a book, even if it is not in final form, is sacrilegious.

You can also do giveaways.

For those who trade, you’ll have to stop. This is considered a form of payment for a book, which would mean the book was for sale, even though it wasn’t money that was used to barter for it.

The best way to explain what to do with an ARC after you are done…keep it, give it away, or recycle it.