Friday, May 14, 2010

Trashing & Defacing Advance Copies of Books

by Yvonne Perry

What do you do with advance copies or books when you are finished reviewing them?

Irene Watson, owner of Reader Views, posted an article, “Defacing Books: Why Don't Authors Have Respect for their End Result?” on Blogging Authors. I’ve excerpted portions of her post and gave my own reply. Irene and I would love to hear from you.

Did you just hear someone scream? Yes, that was me! Why? Because I'm looking at a stack of books that just came into this office for potential review and some of them have been defaced. By defaced I mean:

  • "Review Copy" stamped or written on the cover, inside the book, and/or on the ends
  • "Not for Sale" written across the front cover or inside the book
Why would a proud author, who just published his or her book, deface their pride-and-joy? Is it because:
  • They have a fear someone (reviewer) will sell their book?
  • They feel if they deface it, then the person may actually buy a copy?
  • An expert in the industry told them to put "review copy" on the book?
Why would anyone, who spent hundreds of hours and finally getting to the stage of opening up that first case of books, smelling the newly printed ink, running their hand over the smooth and shiny cover, immediately take a book out and deface it? This is the birth of a baby, and what do we do with a new born baby? We nurture it. We are proud of it. We handle it with care. Would these same people, when the new (human) baby arrives, take a thick sharpie and make a big "x" on the forehead so that no one will steal the baby? Doubtful. So, why do these same people, after birthing their book, deface it?

We, as reviewers, feel if the author has no respect for their own book, then why should we give it any consideration either. They want a free review, no, some actually some demand a free review, yet, they send us a product that has been defaced.

Yes, it is known in the industry that some reviewers do sell the books. In our case, most of the reviewers keep the books in their personal library.

They take pride in the book they reviewed, especially if the book is autographed. As well, we donate books to local libraries, charities, and Books For Soldiers. Defaced books cannot be used and are thrown away. What a shame. A soldier in Afghanistan would have appreciated some reading material after a long day in the desert, or, an abused wife in the local women's shelter could have used the book as an escape from her battered reality. Instead, the defaced book gets recycled and either hits the landfill or, hopefully, is used to make another book.

~~~~~~~~~~ My reply ~~~~~~~~~~

There are advance copies of my book circulating that I really didn't want resold because they are unedited. These advance copies are not defaced, but they do have a clear message on the copyright page that the unedited book is not for resale. These 100 copies were printed for the reviewers so I could get books into their hands with plenty of lead time (it takes months to get some reviews back) while I was improving the work.

Many of the advance copies of my book on stem cell research were sent to experts in the field to get their feedback, make sure I had quoted them correctly, and that my information was factual. Not only did the publisher leave out 25 pages of my bibliography in the advance copy, the tone of the final book was softened quite a bit. One passionate expert committed to the cause and volunteered to edit the entire book, so I’d say probably 15 percent of the text in the final version is different from the advance copy.

That’s why it’s hard for me to refer to my advance copies as babies—especially since I produce (either through editing or ghosting for clients, or writing my own material) about eight or more books per year.

I hope reviewers will honor my request that these copies not be resold, but I have no control over what happens to them once they leave my hands. If donated to a local library, there's a good chance the books would never see any shelf time because of the scrutiny and evaluation process donated books go through. An advance copy would probably be trashed or re-donated.

I don't have a problem with other titles of my books being donated to charity. It's better for a person having suicidal tendencies to read an unedited copy of MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE, True Stories About Death, Dying, and Afterlife than to not be helped by the information it contains. My first book, EMAIL EPISODES, A Hilariously Honest Look at Life was written before I had experience as an editor, but the book is so freaking funny it still cracks me up to this day even though it is full of typos. Regardless, I would prefer the advance copies of RIGHT TO RECOVER, Winning the Political and Religious Wars over Stem Cell Research in America be trashed.

Books are not babies; they are stacks of paper bound together with glue for ease of reading and transportation. To me, they are the output of doing business. Even so, they are an emblem of the hard work, time, energy, and love that created them.

Am I being too hard-nosed about this? What are your thoughts? Chime in at

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Virginia S Grenier said...

I couldn't agree more with you on this. At my magazine Stories for Children we always asked the publishing house or author to send us a book shelf ready copy because we donate all books to a children's library in the area. We make very clear so we don't get a defaced copy of a book. However, we still see at least 100 books a year with review copy or not for sale stamped somewhere on it. It makes me sad because we have to throw it away. We don't have the room to keep it every book we review in our office so donating it is best for us. Now if an author wants us to review a book before publication we ask them to send us a PDF or a copy so we can shred it.

I think there are many other ways publishers and authors can send review copies out without defacing a book.

The Writing Mama

Anonymous said...

Better late than never. ....................................................