See that galley? Sell it to me.

Alison Morris -- June 29th, 2007

Last week I received a shipment of galleys in which the three "biggest" titles (in terms of the books’ likely popularity and initial print runs) included no plot synopses, to my great frustration. Many publishers have made this mistake in the past (and perhaps even in this very season), so I’m not mentioning the name of the specific publisher who made me grit my teeth last week. I am, though, asking ALL publishers to please consider the following…

Just as books have to sell themselves to customers, galleys have to sell themselves to booksellers. Given the overwhelming stacks of books I’m drowning in, both at home and in my office, the competition for my time is incredibly steep, and the odds of me reading any one ARC dwindle with the arrival of each new one. Imagine, then, my frustration to find that I don’t know even the basic plot of the forthcoming books by two of my favorite authors! I can assume, based on knowledge of their previous titles, that I will love both, but so what? I’m also assuming I’ll love all the other galleys in my ever-growing pile that I haven’t yet found the time to read. Not knowing what I can expect to find on a book’s pages therefore makes it harder for me to want to place it at the top of my pile. I have to say too, that in the cases of these two galleys, their covers aren’t helping matters — each gives me no indication whatsoever as to what stories the book might have to tell, adding to my bewilderment and frustration.

When this happens, couldn’t I just look up the mystery book in the offending publisher’s catalog and read the plot synopsis there? Of course I could. But doing so would require me to expend valuable time and energy that would be better spent selling publishers’ books rather than trying to unravel their mysteries. And what about the other booksellers, kids and teachers also reading galleys for our store? They don’t have access to catalog information with the ease that I do, so it’s especially important to provide plot synopses for them.

PLEASE, wonderful publishers out there, understand that we booksellers and librarians are even more inundated with reading material than the general public. Just as you need to make your finished books speak to our customers, you need to make your galleys speak to us, as clearly and eloquently as possible.

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