BEA’s Orphaned ARCs

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

For some of us, acquiring advance reading copies at Book Expo America is an exercise in discernment. For others it is more like an athletic event, and for still other it is a blood sport. While the majority of visitors strolls the aisles at a leisurely pace thumbing interesting-looking galleys, bagging some and returning others to their stacks or politely declining the importunities of hopeful young editors, other attendees approach the process like a military operation whose objective is pillage, and who strip the book piles to the carpet like a Biblical horde of locusts.

These marauders have done their homework and mapped their game plans. Studying BEA bulletins, they know which galleys will be offered by which publishers and at what hours they will be released; they have plotted paths through the aisles and noted the booth numbers; they have armed themselves with multiple shopping bags of vast capacity and even wheeled suitcases; they arrive long before the doors open and stand at the foot of the escalators waiting like sprinters for the signal to ascend to the Expo floor.

The moment arrives and the guard steps aside. They stride, rather than glide, up the escalator and hit the floor running. They descend on their objective like well-trained soldiers. They snatch galleys indiscriminately from geometrically stacked piles and hurl them into their bags and carry-ons, check their maps and race to the next destination. Within minutes they have plundered the booths of their wares. When their sacks are replete they scuttle to a corner of the hall and sort through their swag. What they don’t want they surreptitiously leave behind. You may see these piles of discards all over the conference floor. Literally, the floor, reminding one of the empty wallets tossed away by pickpockets after removing the cash and credit cards.

It can be instructive to examine these piles of abandoned books, for they are the earliest harbingers of judgments to be rendered by reviewers and readers. On a few occasions, strollers will examine the galleys and glean one, reaffirming the adage that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

What happens to the books that those buccaneers have kept for themselves? Do they read them? Sell them? Donate them to libraries? We just don’t know. And those books left on the floor? Our hearts go out to their authors and editors. Indeed, our hearts go out to the books themselves, for they are like children standing unclaimed and forlorn while their parents race through a department store in the opening moments of Black Friday.

Richard Curtis



2 thoughts on “BEA’s Orphaned ARCs

  1. Lisa Marie

    I was envious of people who have the privilege of going to BEA this year — and I especially envied them because they had access to books that I’m dying to read. It sounds like it was a “grab and go” fest at BEA, with little thought of whether attendees actually wanted the galleys. The thought of orphaned books being tossed aside — on the floor! — like they mean nothing makes my heart hurt. Would that I could, I would give each and every one of them a proper home.

  2. Andrew Rhomberg

    It was fascinating to observe at BEA that for some ARCs people stood in a line 100 deep and in other cases the editor/author was hawking them at passer-by.

    In one case Random House put a copy on each seat in the Downtown auditorium.



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