See that galley? Sell it to me.

Alison Morris - June 29, 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.

15 thoughts on “See that galley? Sell it to me.

  1. Kris Bordessa

    Interesting. As an author (of NF, but still) it’s always so interesting to hear about things like this. Interesting? Maybe more like frustrating. What if my publisher is doing the same disservice to MY book? What if they SAY they will get it out to my long list of highly targeted contacts but they don’t ? (and yes, this really happened) Unfortunately, it seems like most authors have no control over this – and would be horrified to know if it happened with their book. Thanks for the little insight!

  2. Kevin A. Lewis

    Au contraire, Don-you wouldn’t submit a book proposal to an agent or editor (assuming you can find one who considers unagented material) without a synopsis, would you? So, why shouldn’t it work the other way? Time is money, y’know…

  3. Sally

    Waaaaaaah. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. I have sooooooo many books to read. How can I POSSIBLY be expected to read them without a summary? Seriously, COME ON. You wasted column inches on this? We get inundated as well and you know what? We suck it up and read them anyway. If, as you say, they’re by authors you love you’re going to read them even if they’re printed on the side of a pumpkin. So read them already and stop whining. A time is coming when galleys will not exist so enjoy it while you can.

  4. Wally

    seriously. some of you guys clearly woke up on the wrong side of the bed…the complaint was not that there is too much to read, but that it is inconvenient and difficult to assess your desire to read a book without a brief description…why should anyone, particularly a seller have to waste their time figuring out if they even like a book in the first place?

  5. Kevin A. Lewis

    It sounds like some people are having “rejection-letter DT’s” and are laying it on poor Alison, who’s just trying to help run a bookstore… Sharpen up your pitch and keep shooting; who knows, one of these days somebody might actually open their mail…

  6. Sally F.

    Are we just all grumpy because we have to work while other people are out shopping for barbecue meats, chips, and beer? *Raises hand* I am! P.S. We send summary sheets with our books.


    I hear ya Alison. I see this on finished books too and I will tell you I don’t buy a book if I don’t have a clue what it’s about let alone read it. I totally agree with you.

  8. njd

    If a summary is not important, why do publishers bother to print a description of the novel on the back cover? For that matter, make it even more exciting . . . don’t give us the name of the author or the title of the book.


    To me, the point of this is that the publishers aren’t sending these galleys because they’re oh-so-generous. They’re sending them because they want her to do something for them. If her time is limited, she’s much more likely to read, and therefore order and hand-sell, a book that sells itself in the form of a synopsis. Considering the amount of money a publisher spends to print and mail galleys, and the fact that it would cost basically nothing to add a few sentences of text to the cover of the galley, the publishers are being really unwise with the way they spend their promotional budget.

  10. cathylee772201

    Exactly. No one is complaining about too much to read. But if publishers actually want the book buyer (me) to choose their ARC to read and buy and promote, then perhaps it’s not the best idea to present it in a plain blue cover with no other details besides title & (unknown) author printed on it. Simple as that.

  11. Heather Pine

    I’m sorry so many people are being so rude to you! But don’t mind them. You are SO LUCKY to get boxes full of galleys and I don’t want you to be stressed about it, I bet you used to be happy whenever a new box of them arrived. I work in a library and do reader’s advisory, I will try to figure out how to email you and I can send you How to Read a Book in 5 minutes. I have several different ways to go about it, including How to Read a Book in 10 minutes! I would be THRILLED to get boxes of ARCs, and bet you were at first too. Goodness knows the publishers aren’t going to help you-they have too much work too.


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