Galleygate: Open Questions to Stephen Elliott

Since my critical comment in response to the Rumpus Book Club is “awaiting moderation,” I thought I would reproduce it here:

Since nobody here has the balls to ask important questions (and I fully expect this comment to be deleted), and Elliott has been far from transparent, here goes:

1. A galley typically costs at least $5 to make. Are you paying the publishers for these galleys with these funds? Or are you pocketing the cash and plundering these galleys, redistributing them among the people who pay you money for financial gain? If the latter, then how can this be considered even remotely ethical (particularly in light of the recent FTC blogger policy)?

2. How is it ethical to take money from subscribers when they can express their professional interest and have the galley sent to them for free when they write to the publisher?

3. Why are you disrespecting the authors with this plan? The galley is not the version that the author wishes to put out. It is riddled with typos, gaffes, and other errors. So not only are you besmirching an author’s vision. You are also taking away much needed sales to that author that will assist her in getting another book deal.

4. Why cut into the galley supply like this? Galleys are typically distributed to booksellers, critics, et al. so that a publisher stands a chance of getting some advance buzz or generating sales. When you take fifty galleys, then this destroys fifty potential shots at a book getting publicity. It is nothing less than monopolizing a supply that you have no right to horde.

RELATED: Liz Burns’s thoughts on a library that categorizes an ARC as the finished copy in its stacks.

UPDATE: Stephen Elliott has responded at the Rumpus:

I think you’re wrong about this. I don’t think we’ll be sending galleys out the majority of the time. I don’t want to commit to that, because I’m not sure, but I’m reasonably certain that the majority of time it will be hardcover books, not galleys. Or it might be a mix.

If the publishers don’t think participating in the book club will be good for sales they probably won’t agree to do it. The author has to agree to it as well. An awful lot of authors have already asked us to consider using their book.

While I appreciate Mr. Elliott’s civil tone, he has not yet directly addressed the four questions. Hopefully this open exchange will encourage him to do so.


  1. Another provocative post, Ed, and coincidentally I woke up at dawn in mid-contemplation of transparency. Were you in NY when it was revealed that the MTA had two sets of books?

    You know what set of galleys I’d like to get my hands on? Not the official Bloomberg plan for the waterfront, the so-called “Vision 20:20” (nice bedtime story for the children among us) but the other one I imagine is tucked under the golden pillow he lays his fascist (FDR’s definition) head down on. The one he’s not showing us. The real one, the one that will allow him to redraw the map of NYC, resell the waterfront to the highest bidder, and shore up his media support for a 2012 race against Obama. God help us, or maybe with a little prescience we can help ourselves.

    I hope and pray NYC Comptroller John Liu is as sharp-eyed and honorable about protecting New Yorkers, Americans and ultimately the whole wide world, as you are in looking out for the interests of authors. He’s got to have a lot of pressure bearing down on him right now, possibly irresistible. He’s new in his role and last time I saw him he didn’t have a Superman cape on. It wouldn’t hurt if the populace at large, aka us, offered him some support right now, some guidance to help him do the right thing–specifically, with respect to blocking Bloomberg’s attempted land grab for control of Battery Park City (we can’t count on the milquetoast Bill Thompson, newly appointed in that role by Governor David Paterson, see and generally, unearthing whatever he can about what’s on the other side of the scrim. I’m writing to him today to remind him to fight The Good Fight, the only fight worth fighting, at:

    The Hon. John Liu
    Office of the Comptroller
    City of New York
    One Centre Street
    New York, NY 10007

  2. Eddy

    I’m with you on this—though I suppose that there is a tinge of jealously that I wasn’t clever enough to contrive a way to monetize all those ARCs and galleys I receive, instead of giving them away to friends and literate strangers.

    Stephen’s point that no one is forcing publishers and authors is at first blush legitimate— unfortunately such is the hunger for any morsel of attention by some authors and publishing houses that this arrangement looks attractive

  3. I don’t get why he should provide a more comprehensive response than he has. He says bound galleys are a small part of the plan and that, at any rate, it won’t happen without the cooperation of publisher and author. So what more is there to discuss?

    People resell galleys all the time. It’s no more unethical than selling review copies. I know for a fact that expressing “professional interest” (even legitimately) is not always sufficient to have a publisher send you a galley free of charge, and if that’s what worries you then doesn’t it undercut the points you make in (3) and (4)? Are bound galleys really “disrespectful”? In what way? They are rarely “riddled” with errors because by then the manuscript has been copyedited and then proofed by the author, and a set of unbound galleys has been reviewed and proofed. And, finally, is it possible that if more programs (like Amazon’s) are set up to generate word of mouth by distributing pre-publication galleys to reg’lar folks, doesn’t that help promote the book and generate that all-important “buzz”? Isn’t that a cheap expense for publishers to assume (compared to, say, ads).

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