#9 Getting & distributing ARCs

NEIBA Question of the Week #9

The NEIBA Board members are starting a Question of the Week on the NEIBA Group at Yahoo! Groups (our Listserv). The goal is to share everyone’s common knowledge about bookselling or anything related to independent bookstores.  It is our hope that after the Board has run through with their questions other members will continue the asking.

This week’s question is:

We all receive many galleys, ARCs, which, as Tastemakers, we need to read in order to hand sell these books.

(If you do not receive galleys and would like to please respond to this email as well and let us know.)

Is the White Box from the ABA something you look forward to for galleys? Do you distribute galleys to your customers? To your staff? What do you do with galleys that are past the pub date? If you donate, what are the best places you have found for donations? Do you recycle them? If so where and how?

Any other suggestions on the galley/ARC distribution are welcome.

Alice Hutchinson, Byrd’s Books

I am a very small store with only two staff members- so they get first pick.

I do let my customers take them in exchange for an emailed mini-review. Then I have a shelf-talker from a local customer to put out when the book is published. It’s great to be able to offer a “free” book, and folks have been great about getting the “review” back to me.

Rondi Brower, Blackwood & Brouwer Booksellers Ltd

White Box – before we were on a number of galley lists, this was our main source, and still has greatest diversity.

Distribution – with a staff of 3, most of our galleys are read by friends/customers of all ages. The regulars come back and pick through the piles. Some scribble reviews in the front upon return, others discuss their opinions with me. I try to write them up for reps and/or Indiebound. Some galleys we ask specific people to read. Recent example, Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn (Viking Children’s, June) was compared to the Ally Carter books, so I sent it home with a young teen who loves those books. She loved this one, too.

Pub dates/recycling – a friend/customer is the official maintainer of the galley piles (2 boxes plus in the back room). She comes in about every 6 weeks and weeds out galleys that have been published. These are then sent off to one of several correctional facilities in our area (meaning people who visit or work in those facilities come and take ones they think might be of use) or recycled. Our community has single stream recycling, also the local Lutheran Church collects paper products as a fundraiser.

This sounds way more organized than it is. The piles are too big, I have at least a dozen already-read galleys that my reps haven’t heard reviews about yet, and it’s been two years since we were quoted in IndieNext (our goal as reviewers).

Mostly we try not to stress. We do what we have time for, and that will have to be good enough.

Nancy Felton, Broadside

We have a love/hate relationship with our ARCs. They pile up in the back room and it is often overwhelming. On the other hand, most of our staffers do read them and we have found many gems and staff picks. I check the shelves almost every day to see if there is anything new and we all really value getting them. We’ve developed a relationship with a local library to whom we donate many galleys when we’re done with them. We’ve also donated to the local jail in the past, although they are more particular about what they get. And we try to give the kid’s books to schools, especially schools in poorer areas which are struggling to build their libraries. We have one person who is in charge of organizing them and donating them when the shelves get too full.

Dawn Rennert, The Concord Bookshop

A timely question, as we’ve been putting out feelers to local organizations to gauge interest in receiving galleys for their clients.

Those who donate past-date galleys (to shelters, correctional facilities, etc.): Do you put a sticker on the books for donation – indicating the name of the bookshop, that the galley was provided courtesy of the publisher, and that it is not to be sold?

Nancy Felton, Broadside

We don’t sticker them, although it’s an interesting idea. The galleys say that they’re not for resale.

Annie Philbrick, Bank Square Books

We do not put stickers on the books we donate to shelters, correctional centers and such. Most ARCs say “Not for Sale” on the cover. When we donate to Operation Paperback (www.operationpaperback.org) we print stickers from their site and put them on the book. We then enclose a letter printed out from their site as well in the box explaining where the books are from. We also put a few bookmarks in the box and sometimes a handwritten note. We do this about every other month for about 2-4 small boxes of about 15 books each. We pay the APO postage which isn’t much and they love getting the books.

Josie Leavitt, Flying Pig Bookstore,

We donate galleys to a variety of organizations. We put a lovely Flying Pig bookplate in each book that explains what a galley is and how it can be used i.e., not for sale and not is circulating libraries. I think the bookplate is a great reminder to all who read the book that their local store donated it.

Elizabeth Bluemle, Flying Pig Bookstore

Here’s the wording of our labels:

These books are advance reading copies (ARCs) sent to bookstores from publishers. We are delighted to pass them along to readers. These books may not be sold, or added to library collections, but otherwise can be shared and enjoyed as you wish.

Happy reading from the folks at The Flying Pig!


I do like enclosing the label (usually inside the front cover or on a half-title page), since we donate to hospitals and other places farther afield, and hope some of those folks will discover the bookstore for the first time that way.

Mitch Gaslin, Food for Thought Books

While we like seeing the white box, and we occasionally find something that we really like, to be honest most of it isn’t of much interest to a store like ours (progressive political store in a college town). Too much schlocky fiction, etc. We put much of what we aren’t interested in out in a cart asking for a $1 donation for each book that we give to the Prison Book Project, which sends books to prisoners that they actually want and can use (dictionaries, legal books, etc.). Since we didn’t actually request these books, and since we are not really “selling” them, it seems to work out well for everyone.

Wendy Hudson, Nantucket Bookworks

We do many of the same things listed, but to help encourage interaction and feedback I had a self inking stamp made up (like the ones you use to endorse checks) that says “This book courtesy of Nantucket Bookworks. If you love it, let us know!” then lists a phone number and email. We try to stress that we need help reviewing all the new releases so our customers are part of the team, so to speak. The YA readers in particular love that and are pretty good about emailing their opinionated reviews. The best ones get used as shelf talkers once the books are out*. (*Note to self: ramp that up!)

Nancy Oliver, Wit & Whimsy

We offer the galleys as part of a book swap night, where customers can bring in used children’s and YA books and exchange them with others. Any used books or galleys not selected are donated to the local children’s hospital.

Anne DeCourcey, HarperCollinsPublishers

I just subscribed to Annie’s recommended ( www.operationpaperback.org )Thanks for the link!

Now if only I could find a service for kids galleys to be sent to areas of need!

Ellen Richmond, Children’s Book Cellar

Check out Bess the Book Bus. I gave Jennifer a lot of ARCs last year.

Janet Bibeau, Storybook Cove

Being a children’s store I feel so guilty getting all of the adult arcs. I give them to good customers, my employees, the UPS driver and I admit I throw a lot of them away. The children’s arcs I use in a summer reading “reporter program”. I got the idea from Carol at Eight Cousins. Kids over the summer read the arcs and give a review of them. I give them a small gift certificate to the store. I amazingly found that our best kid customers don’t do the reviews, but loyal library kids come in multiple times over the summer to do reviews. Thus the gift certificate gets non-buying customers to buy a book. They can pick their favorite arc to keep at the end of the summer. I try to give the remaining arcs to day cares with after school programs.

Carol Chittenden, Eight Cousins

The best thing that came in a White Box was two audio books of new forthcoming titles. Reading time is so limited and so precious that the chance to listen made all the difference in being able to recommend and promote a wonderful adult hardcover last fall. It probably multiplied our sales of that book tenfold.

We often feel we’re drowning in honey: the ARC’s are so wonderful, and we don’t want them NOT to come, but we’re consistently overwhelmed — especially by multiple copies of the same one. Few teachers seem interested in them, though we make them very available, and there’s an occasional Gifted and Motivated class will undertake reviews for extra credit. We distribute the juvenile ones via local school libraries, all of which have swap boxes. And in some cases we know that’s been a godsend for kids who are readers but can’t afford to purchase books.

In one instance of a 1-day book fair, we take along bags of books and tell the kids “Buy one, take one free,” and by golly they do!

We flag our juvenile ARC’s by calendar quarter so we know when they can be moved along, and the flag shows the age of the intended audience. That makes it easier to sort them by school when their time comes.

A few devoted teen readers take ARC’s, read, and review them. We are now adding those reviews to our website (having taken a full decade to get around to it…), but I don’t think it does much for sales, because the forthcoming books are almost invariably hardcovers, which the kids never buy for themselves. Of course we love getting written reviews, but to make it easier, we have a standard review form that offers a checklist system for rating and describing the book.

The ratings are Fabulous, Very good; but not for just anyone; Pretty good; So-so; Third rate; and It stinks.

The descriptions are

Teaches important lessons

Uses Words & sentences well

Made me laugh

Made me feel good at the end

Made me cry

Has an exciting plot

Has interesting people

Has interesting animals

Made me feel gray inside

Was hard to believe

As for adult ARC’s, the staff is tickled to be receiving more of them now that we’re a more general bookstore. However, they pile up faster than people can read, so we’re often looking for outlets. For awhile we gave them to the military support group, which sends them to troops, but they, too, were overwhelmed, and felt many books were left untaken. Our latest gambit is to take bags of them to the local Senior Center, where there’s a regular book swap.

Kenny Brechner , DDG Booksellers

We use Arcs in school based literacy and review projects. We also distribute them, on loan, to members of our store reading groups, YA and Adult, for review. Past pub date donations are made to three area non-profit agencies which have literacy outreach components.

Alice Hutchinson, Byrd’s Books

Annie, thank you, we have signed up as well. (We are not as big as most of you, but the idea warms my heart).

Annie Philbrick, Bank Square Books

Alice, they will also take kids if you email Marisa@operationpaperback.org.