Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Sell my book! (Why this author loves used-book stores)

I know I'm a disappointment to many of my fellow authors, but I have never believed buying used books cheats authors out of royalty-producing sales. I've seen my first book selling on eBay for one dollar and on Amazon for one penny (those sellers make money by charging more for shipping than they actually spend on it) and that doesn't insult me in the least. Yes, writers make royalties only when new books are sold. But I've never subscribed to the prevailing opinion that your selling a used book cheats me, the writer, out of royalties.

Why don't I think that way? Because I, too, have bought used books. Many times I have purchased used books when I've wanted to test-drive new authors and genres. And believe me, nobody missed out on royalties because if the books had not been available to me used, I would almost certainly never have bought and read them.

In my previous post on this subject I made a distinction between authors attracting "customers" and cultivating a readership. I'm still taking that long view, partly because I just want my stuff read, even if people are going to read it without making contributions to my husband's sports-car fund. But do have a mercenary side, and that part of me firmly believes used book sales actually help create a market for new books, which in the long haul must increase authors' earnings.

For the past two years, every time I have received an e-mail from someone who has enjoyed my Finding Hope, I've thanked the sender and encouraged her to share the book with her friends. I'm wildly in favor of sharing books, whether that's between friends, through libraries or book-swapping clubs, or via used-book stores. The way I figure it, if a few thousand people have ended up reading my book without paying me for the privilege, that's a few thousand more people who know my name. Surely some of them will run to the bookstore in March and buy my second novel so my husband can get those sexy wire wheels he wants for his '69 MG.

I've said all this before, but I'm bringing it up again today because I've just found a New York Times (registration required) article that backs up my theory about used book sales creating markets for new books (the italics in the blockquote are mine):

True, consumers probably save a few dollars while authors and publishers may lose some sales from a used book market. Yet the evidence suggests that the costs to publishers are not large, and also suggests that the overall gains from such secondhand markets outweigh any losses.

Go read the whole article. And then if you've got a copy of Finding Hope that you're not planning to read again, why not consider giving it away or selling it? The author hereby gives you her blessing.


Anonymous said...

Well, I hope I'm not disappointing you, but I will never give away or lend "Finding Hope." I re-read it at least once a month, sometimes more if I'm feeling down since I find it really perks me up! I can't wait for your new release! Janet

beckylbow said...

I am so glad you feel this way! My mom and I are very big on buying used books! If not for Goodwill and other places, I would never have discovered Love Inspired books. I have been immensely blessed by these books! And, because I have now fallen in love with some of these authors, i have and will buy new books from them.

Brenda Coulter said...

Bless you, Janet, I was talking to the people who aren't planning to read it again. ;-)

Becky, thanks for speaking up. Readers rule!

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with your view on buying used books. I don't have the money to shell out full price for a book by an author I don't know. But once I find an author I like, I'm sticking with that author like glue and will buy brand new.

I have a copy of Finding Hope... But I plan on keeping it... some day I'm getting you to sign that puppy! *gg*

Katy said...

I'm with you, Brenda. I've got my own parking space at Amazon. If a book catches my eye, I don't think twice about buying it used, and I read as fast as I can. And if I like a book, I talk about it. And I buy it for people--and when I do that, I buy new. And if the author writes another book, I buy that one any way I can, as soon as I can. I think authors profit from my habit just fine, used books or no.

Barnes and Nobles lets people come in and spend the day. They provide the chairs and the Air Conditioning and the quiet music. Coffee's available, and yes, you can carry your cup around the store with you. (I once bought a book because I spilled coffee on it, and that book changed my life.)

If you want, you can read a whole book in the store and put it back on the shelf, and no one will ban you from the premises.

And B&N seems to do just fine.

Anonymous said...

I agree! Even free books make sales and fans. You are so right! CASE IN POINT: I don't think I ever read a LOVE INSPIRED novel before, but when you sent me a free one A FAMILY FOREVER to review -- I purchased your (other) first book FINDING HOPE. And I loved it. Now I'm buying many used copies of the LOVE INSPIRED type books. And you better believe when your THIRD novel is out -- I'll be ready and waiting. Looking at the long run is the way to grow your reader base, not to mention that some of us don't really have tons of cash to buy new.