If you’re not following Melville House through your various social media accounts, you probably should. It will put you on the sidelines for their tweets with @HarperPerennial, but you’ll also be able to catch first glimpse of some great blog posts. Yesterday, Mark Krotov and Alex Shephard posted a fascinating discussion called Have We Reached Peak ARC?, which raised dozens of really thoughtful questions about who should get advanced copies, what their real purpose is, and how that purpose may be changing. Take a few minutes to read it, my little blog will still be here.
There’s a ton to digest and there are several points I wanted to look at from a blogging angle. Here’s a quote that gets to the core.
“These books—like all books—should be sent out liberally to booksellers and to any critic or writer with something approaching an ‘audience.’ But how far should they be circulated outside of that audience? Industry buzz certainly goes a long way in building some books up, but I’m not sure how much of that buzz is galley-dependent. And yet, sending galleys within the industry at large has become the norm—a lot of publishing employees I know don’t buy books. The publishing industry has weirdly ceded what should be its most loyal demographic: itself.”
I agree with almost everything in the conversation, but I do think there’s something missing. Mark and Alex mention that many ARCs picked up from events like BEA never get read, but what about the waste in what’s being sent out? I’m not talking about books that are considered and not reviewed—since I think it’s totally up to a blogger to determine the content of their site—but the unsolicited ARCs that seem to miss the mark.
I’ve heard repeated stories of bloggers who receive multiple copies of the same unsolicited ARC, find themselves added to lists for genres they don’t read (even after request for removal), or continue to receive ARCs long after their blogs are inactive. While it’s great to receive ARCs ahead of publication, I don’t think anyone is thrilled to pile up books that won’t be read—but it’s happening. These readers have (or once had) great influence, but wouldn’t it be more effective to send those books to bloggers with matched interests, even if they have a smaller audience?
“Twitter and Instagram have changed the dynamic of galleys and ARCs. The audience for these objects is simply much larger than it used to be, though I imagine that that audience is considerably more theoretical than tangible: does posting a picture of a galley really have an impact on buzz? I think that the most confident answer one could give would be a very tentative ‘maybe.'”
Speaking of audience, this is a really interesting question. As a blogger, I think Instagram can be tricky—I want to share my books without pushing into galley brag territory. I try to wait until I’m actually reading an ARC to share pictures, which is where I absolutely agree with Mark: “Of course ARCs can generate enthusiasm, but to my mind, the most effective way they can do that is by being . . . well, good books.” I know pictures have definitely piqued my interest, and I’m sure I’m not alone, but I’m much more likely to be interested in a book someone loves than a photo of one that just showed up in their mailbox. As for Twitter, I can’t stop myself from raving when I’m reading something amazing. But does that translate into buzz or, more importantly, book sales?
“People want to put out galleys that get people to respond with ‘Want.’ on Twitter. That’s not a bad strategy, so long as the person ‘want-ing’ isn’t going to turn around and ask for a galley. I worry that in many cases though, that’s exactly what happens—that galleys are good at building word of mouth for galleys, but not for the books themselves.”
And here’s the rub. While I know blog readership is much wider than many of us often consider, the book blogging community is also very insular. I know this read-rave-request chain happens, since I’ve been involved in all parts of it, but I’m not sure it’s necessarily bad for a book. I get the sense that blogger book buying habits are rather fixed regardless of ARCs, but I’m curious what you all think.
What do you think? Is there a better way to get ARCs into the hands of ideal readers? Do you think galleys on Twitter or Instagram can build buzz? What do you think about the concept of “status galleys”? What else from the post stood out to you?