NOTE: Since there has been confusion about this article, I’m editing areas of confusion in another color to clarify and hopefully refine the conversation back to the original intent. It’s okay to promote used bookstores without bashing digital and Amazon and reader-shaming those who like e-books. It is okay to promote used bookstores without slamming the remaining ways we are paid. Writers cannot keep working for free and for “exposure.”
All righty. I’d vowed to take off for the holidays but *laughs hysterically* sure. Like THAT was going to happen. No, seriously, I’m working on resting more. I’m also working on learning to shut up. Clearly those two goals are getting re-slated for 2016 resolutions because the whole “Inside words stay inside…”
Not working out for me. So why not leave 2015 with a bang? Haters gonna hate.
To quote the great Tywin Lannister, Lions do not concern themselves with the opinions of sheep.
Today I’m going to say something that could quite possibly be grossly unpopular, but whatever. It’s for your own good. I’m feeding y’all broccoli to offset all that fudge and alcohol you’ve consumed during the holidays.
There’s a trend that just makes me see red and I’m calling it out today because if we do not address this 500 pound used paper elephant in the room, then it’s going to be really, really hard for you guys to reach your dreams, which I assume is to work as a full-time PAID writer.
For those of you who do NOT want to be PAID to write? The following does not apply. If you are content to work a full-time regular job AND slave over a manuscript as a second job and your ONLY reward is simply nice reviews, compliments, hugs, cuddles, and the joy your stories might create in the hearts of others?
I am NOT talking to you.
If, however, you have ever complained about “an evil day job” that you really wish you could leave because it is sucking out your soul and your very will to LIVE day by day and you would rather be lobotomized than return to Satan’s Cube Farm after the holidays?
Then probably want to pay attention.
Readers ARE Excused
Readers are different. Readers are excused from what I am about to discuss. Readers are NOT writers. Yes, I understand that many writers began as readers. But there is a difference. We have progressed past the point of consuming an intellectual/creative property and now we are producing this intellectual/creative property.
We now have something at stake.
So why am I in a tiff?
Yesterday, I was on Facebook and it would have been one thing to see one writer post this link. But I saw like TEN writers post this link and they were excited…as if this Washington Post article were announcing a GOOD thing for our profession.
In an Age of Amazon, Used Bookstores Making an Unlikely Comeback.
Here’s the deal. I don’t care about bookstores. I care about writers. In fact, readers should care about writers more than bookstores because no writers? Well no real point in bookstores now is there? Because if a bookstore has no inventory, no point to its existence, so I feel we are wise to care about writers first…bookstores next.
Want to support the arts? Pay artists. Want to support books? Pay writers. It is simple. Do this? Bookstores will do just fine. Before we go any further, some education…
How Are Writers Paid?
This seems a bit silly, but we all need to learn this when we decide to do this writing thing as a job.
First of all, I am not against doing stuff for free. But the thing is? Writers already do all kinds of stuff for free. Every friend, colleague and family member expects us to be an on-call resume-writing, essay writing and editorial service.
Most of the time? We oblige.
Often, we blog for free (though if you do it the way I teach you actually DO get a return on that investment). Once we are published? We do interviews and guest posts for…FREE.
So please. Do not expect to ALSO get our books for free. We are frankly DONE with free.
How can a writer get PAID?
So happy you asked.
Digital pays writers the best. Then print copies. NEW ones. Buy on-line or in a bookstore or at an event in person. We writers get a royalty. Depending on the contract, writers can even get paid if a book is checked out of a library. That library PAID for the book and the writer was then, in turn, paid a royalty.
Upon so many times checked out? The writer is then PAID again for a new “copy” of the book.
Want to support a writer in the new year? BUY BOOKS.
Writers are NOT PAID for the purchase of used copies. So while I LOVE used bookstores I want to make a point here. Writers make no money.
As a professional, I treat my fellow writers-at-arms the way I want to be treated. I do not buy used books as a first choice. If I DO happen to buy a used book, I make sure to purchase at least a digital copy so that writer is PAID for his or her hard work.
But that article? That article in The Washington Post was beyond the pale. I was livid. Ripping off artists is not cool. It is not cultural, not avant garde. Why did I feel ripped off? Because the article was shaming digital and Amazon sales….the best ways writers earn a living. It was possible to hail the used bookstore without also further undermining writer’s earning abilities.
To be clear, I do not mind used bookstores. What I mind is the attitude that somehow digital is bad and Amazon is bad whereas “paper” and used bookstores are “cultural” and therefore GOOD and preferable for writers.
And unfortunately, I witness a lot of this among writers. I “get” that many of you love old books and browsing dusty old shelves and discovering old treasures. For out of print books? No argument from me. Rock on. But…
We have to be really, really careful that as artists we are not perpetuating the very behavior that pisses us off.
We like getting paid for our work. We work really really hard and expect (rightfully) that we should be rewarded for doing so.
Surgeons work hard and they expect to get paid. No one gripes when the sales clerk gets paid. Heck, no one gripes when the UPS driver gets paid or the barista who makes the triple-shot espresso peppermint soy cappuccino with half foam and vanilla sprinkles in a special red holiday cup and does not commit MURDER gets paid.
Oh, but it is artsy and bohemian to rip writers off because old books are cool? It’s okay to denigrate digital and hurt our best earnings?
No. And again, let’s keep the debate clear here because I can already hear the blogs now, “Kristen Lamb hates bookstores!” No. Pay attention.
I love old books. Have stacks of them. Want to buy old copies of Jane Eyre? Be my guest. I doubt Charlotte Bronte is counting on that Amazon royalty check to pay to upgrade her Scrivner or unscrew Windows 10 or, I dunno, eat.
Want to support civilization? Buy old books. Want to support a writer and his/her family and career? Buy new ones or e-books.
Encourage and educate readers to do the same. Because here is the deal. If we writers go around cheering how AWESOME used bookstores are without also asking for a new sale? How the heck are readers going to know they are benevolently gutting our careers?
They (readers) see us posting the links. They ASSUME we are benefitting. They have no idea how we get paid. Why not direct them to places where we might make money?
I will parse this article in a moment but first? Let’s look at some of the common reasons people defend the used bookstore.
Used Bookstores Allow Readers To Discover New Authors for a Smaller Investment
Okay, so does digital. Difference is? The writer actually gets paid from an e-book.
Know who else claims they are doing writers a favor by letting readers “discover” new authors on the cheap?
Writers are the first to grab digital pitchforks when their work is pirated because they don’t get paid any royalties. GASP! The horror!
Some site offering their books and they don’t get a royalty. Burn them! Take down the site! They are stealing! Oh, but when a used bookstore
does the exact same thing also sells a book where a writer earns no royalties?
It’s okay. Because, well, it’s paper. It’s “culture.”
pirate used bookstore gave you “exposure.” Shouldn’t you be happy that a reader could…”discover” you. That pirate used bookstore is doing you a favor really.
Just to be clear, piracy is a whole other blog and not the topic of today and I KNOW used bookstores are not actually stealing. I am only using this to point out how Janus-faced we writers can be about the “Ooh! Exposure!” crap. Exposure in and of itself is not always a good thing.
The Author Can Get “Exposure”
Will Wheaton took Huffington Post to task on this. Again, what I am seeing is a Digital Versus Paper Bias. Huffington is a Pulitzer-winning news outlet that when it sold last year, sold for over $300 million dollars. Why can’t it then PAY writers who submit? (Hint: It can. Just doesn’t want to because it doesn’t have to).
Oh but you get “exposure.”
Granted, I bit. I allowed Huffington to repost a couple of my blogs that had already gone viral. I was flattered to be asked to write for them and then wrote a couple of pieces just to be able to add “Huffington” to my resume of accomplishments.
But, I’m ultimately a businesswoman. I had to ask the HARD question. What were they doing FOR ME?
Truth was? Not all that much. It wasn’t worth being troll food, because, when you post for Huffington, you have no control over comments and you have to be nice to people whose sole purpose in life is to crap in your Cheerios.
Here? I am benevolent dictator and do not have to be nice.
If you want to comment here and write something like this:
Kristen, you are a talentless hack and a hopeless amateur. Every time you speak a kitten dies from the sheer stupidity you spew into the ozone layer.
I have this wonderful thing called “edit function.” I can delete. OR, I can change your comment to read.
OMG, Kristen. You are supreme writer of all that is genius and I want to be JUST LIKE YOU one day. I have even started dressing JUST LIKE you, which is weird because I am a dude! ❤ ❤ ❤
Probably shouldn’t have told y’all that. Oh well. Sally forth…
Yes, here I blog seemingly for “free.” But I trust me, I don’t. Not wholly. Because this is MY blog. I own the content. I make money off my hard work. Which, by the way, is as it should be.
By the way. YOU work hard and guess what? I believe YOU should be paid, too. Wow! Imagine that.
And writers seem to have no problem getting very indignant that so many blogs and digital outlets expect them to work for free.
Oh, but sell my paper books and make all the profit? Go ahead! That’s “culture.”
And before anyone gets too ticked at me, yes, Amazon sells used books, but the difference is that there is ALSO an active promotion of that author’s OTHER books that are NOT used where the writer CAN be paid. On Amazon, it is also extremely easy for a browsing reader to discover and purchase other titles by that particular author.
So maybe I do buy a used book because it is out of print, but then I CAN buy something IN print so the author can…I dunno. EAT.
Back to This Article…
I think why this article aggravated me so much (aside from writers promoting the heck out of it) was it was treated as it it was some “grand thing” for the arts and some big favor to authors. It isn’t. It helps readers. YES. Writers? Eh, not so much. Passive exposure is not nearly as effective as it once was. Sure, before the Internet when our only option to get more books was to go to B.Dalton? yes, exposure was great. Now? It isn’t near enough though writers keep getting told it should be.
Let’s take a look, shall we? From the article…
Sierra, like other book lovers, has read articles about slowing e-book sales and watched as independent bookstores such as Politics and Prose thrive, catering to readers who value bookish places as cultural hubs and still think the best reading device is paper.
First of all, Sierra, e-book sales are NOT slowing. That is a patently FALSE claim that does not account for the explosion of indie and self-publishing. Yes, e-book sales have slowed for traditional publishers and print has picked up for traditional publishers, but namely because when publishers insist on charging the same for a PAPER book as an e-book? Readers will just go ahead and buy paper because $14.99 is just simply ridiculous for a digital book.
But even if that were the case, if you really do love books? Be a sweetheart and try supporting those who write them. Thank you.
And it’s a business with good economics. Used bookstores can beat Amazon and other online booksellers on price, offering shoppers both a browsing experience and a money-saving one. Also, profit margins on used books are better than new ones.
That part I outlined in red was my favorite.
It is amazing how much profit margins increase when you don’t actually have to pay the person who worked long and hard and sacrificed to create the product you are profiting from. The sky is the limit! Again, why are they insisting on bashing the best ways writers get paid new? Yes, I was hot.
Then there is THIS gem.
“It’s (the used bookstore) like having a museum or a theater. It’s a cultural center.” ~Gottwals
Except that museums are supported by private donations, government funding, grants and patrons PAYING A FEE to walk around and look at the collections. And theaters? Same thing. Try going to Phantom for free, Mr. Gottwals. Good luck getting a seat NOT in the nosebleed section for under $250.
“I can find these books online, but I don’t want to…and if you don’t support the little guys, they won’t be around anymore.” (Customer)
Exactly, dear customer. If you don’t support the little guys they won’t be around. They will have to give up writing and work retail and then saw open their wrists with a spork while listening to Bjork and I hope you are happy #writerkiller 😛
We Must Take Ourselves Seriously
Yes, I admit it. I’m ranting today. Why? Because if writers don’t take themselves seriously, why would anyone else? When I protested the article on social media, writers argued with me. They acted as if a book is the same thing as a house or a car.
A car is a tangible property, not intellectual property.
I have no problems with people reselling books to used bookstores. I do it. I buy books from used bookstores. BUT, I also actively go out of my way to make sure writers are PAID.
Because here’s the thing. We cannot cheer that used bookstores are “socking it to Amazon” and at the same time bemoan we aren’t making any money.
We cannot collectively cheer the “return of paper books” when they are in the used form and then also cry that we can’t leave the day job because we are not being paid for our work.
We can’t promote articles like these that reader shame people who like digital and Amazon, directing readers to outlets where we don’t make royalties and then stand mystified that no one takes our career seriously. Why are we promoting businesses who brag about not paying us? Again *head explodes*
We cannot say, “Well I am just happy when a reader discovers my story” if we are not in fact simply okay with just that. If cuddles and compliments are enough? Then good. But do not let me hear any complaint. I do not want to hear ONE word about how much that day job sucks.
And if we ARE going to promote used bookstores (which IS fine) then by GOD educate readers and ask for the sale. Let them know that you will not be paid off that sale and to please also buy a full-price version if they like your book.
Educate your readers because the bookstores aren’t going to. Clearly they do not care if writers get paid because they make money either way. In fact bookstores make MORE money if writers don’t. That’s just math.
Working for free while others are sole profiteers is NOT okay. It is exploitation. And we’ve done enough being expected to work for free.
No one else works for free. You shouldn’t either.
You don’t fill up gas and expect it for free. You don’t expect cashiers to work at the grocery store for free. You don’t expect people who cut your hair to do it for free. You value others and what they contribute to your life. And maybe I’m a jerk because all I am asking…all I am imploring is that you give the same honor to yourself.
Because in the new year? It won’t matter one whit what resolution you make. WE are the first step. WE have to draw the line and say that what we do has value. And we have to call people out when they devalue what we do.
And when bookstores go around bragging to The Washington Post about how much profit they make because the margins are so much better on used books than on selling NEW books (which is code for:We don’t have to pay royalties) and expect me the author to bite on some Book-Buying-Trickle-Down-Economics wrapped up with an “It’s Culture” ribbon?
Yes, I love paper books too. I buy them NEW.
Honor yourself. Honor your fellow authors. I love all of you. I believe in you and hope you see that I DO support bookstores, but dammit…it is about %$#ing time they returned the favor and supported those who are bleeding to line their pockets. You can promote used venues without hamstringing the artists who are supplying inventory. It IS possible to promote a used bookstore without undermining authors making a living wage.
You matter. Your dreams matter. Your work matters.
What are your thoughts? Have I finally gone too far? She is MAD! Mad it tell you! I would blame it on alcohol but I haven’t started drinking…yet. I needed to drink after that article. What are your thoughts? Do writers need to stand up more? We already do way too much for free. We needed to with the expansion of Web 2.0 But now that the Internet and social media has hit a critical mass, do you think we need to step back and start saying NO more? What are your thoughts? Were you unaware how writers were paid?
Do you think use bookstores need to do more to support the actual WRITERS instead of this cop out of “exposure”? Maybe take some of those “high profits” and invest in apps or tablets with links to NEW works by the authors? Maybe let authors come in and talk and promote NEW works so they can continue to WRITE? What are your thoughts? Are you dressing just like me? 😀
By the way, I LOVE this short film. There IS STRONG adult language so you are warned. But THIS!!!!!!
I love hearing from you!
Make SURE you sign up for my upcoming classes! This is part of how I fund my plans for global domination. Purchase a class! Buy a book! OR ignore all that follows but DAMN sure buy all your books NEW or I WILL FIND YOU ….
Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International. Your friends and family can get you something you need for Christmas. Social Media for Writers, Blogging for Writers, and Branding for Authors.
Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.
Enough of that…
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.
#1 by JunkChuck on December 29, 2015 - 5:33 pm
#2 by Diana Beebe on December 29, 2015 - 5:46 pm
Yes! Yes! Yes!
#3 by Elysabeth on December 29, 2015 - 5:49 pm
Right on. or maybe I should say WRITE On!!!!! and keep getting paid for doing what you do. I love that video and we writers definitely need to stick together and remember that we can’t get paid and pay our bills without the actual real sales – not the second-hand; used sales. E 🙂
FINALLY HOME, a Kelly Watson YA paranormal mystery
THE TIES OF TIME, a Kelly Watson YA paranormal mystery
#4 by newfsull on December 29, 2015 - 5:50 pm
Wow! I wrote that word, and then sat there wondering what to saw. Then it hit, you are already said what needed saying. Bravo, Ms. Lamb.
#5 by coldhandboyack on December 29, 2015 - 5:51 pm
Awesome. I’m ebook only, so there is a bit of insulation. I also only read ebooks these days.
#6 by newfsull on December 29, 2015 - 5:51 pm
…….then it hit me, you had already said what needed saying. Bravo, Ms. Lamb.
#7 by amiegibbons15 on December 29, 2015 - 5:53 pm
Sing it! If you don’t take yourself seriously, how can you expect others to? 🙂
#8 by Dave L on December 29, 2015 - 6:05 pm
>Depending on the contract, writers can even get paid if a book is checked out of a library. That library PAID for the book and the writer was then, in turn, paid a royalty.
>Upon so many times checked out? The writer is then PAID again for a new “copy” of the book.
I am so glad to know this. Almost every new book I read I get from the library. I could not afford to support my reading if I had to buy every book I wanted to look at, especially if I’m uncertain as to whether or not I’ll read the whole thing.
I’m glad I’m not stealing (no other word for it) from my favorite writers.
But I have to say this:
OMG, Kristen. You are supreme writer of all that is genius and I want to be JUST LIKE YOU one day. I have even started dressing JUST LIKE you, which is weird because I am a dude! ❤ ❤ ❤
I know this may sound a little insulting, but I trust you not to change a word.
#9 by prudencemacleod on December 29, 2015 - 6:11 pm
Thank you, WANA Mamma. I’ve been singing this song for years. I don’t ask other people to work for free and I sure as hell won’t either. Now, I’m off to Facebook to share a link to this post. This needs to be mandatory reading every week for any writer with dreams of a full larder and a roof that doesn’t leak.
#10 by ecw0647 on January 1, 2016 - 8:15 pm
@ #8 As a retired librarian who purchased hundreds of thousands of books, I should point out that libraries very rarely pay full price for a book. Almost all have contracts with Baker & Taylor or other distributors through library systems that usually get discounts of 45-50% on trade books. University presses were less, perhaps 10-20% depending on the contract. Multiple copies of books were purchased only very rarely if demand was exceptionally high and that usually resulted in 30-50 people usage per book. Generally a well-bound hardcover (unusual these days of sloppy binding) would last about 50-60 circulations. Then they were sold at Friends of the Library sales or to used book stores.
#11 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 1, 2016 - 8:40 pm
Bookstores and libraries are two sacred cows in need of tipping. I’m not a huge fan of either.
#12 by ecw0647 on January 3, 2016 - 8:34 pm
Kristin: That seems a bit strange coming from someone who wants authors to make money since bookstores and libraries were the only source of revenue (unless you refer to advances, but most authors never got advances large enough to live on for a month) but remained the only way to earn back an advance. The New Yorker several years ago estimated that the market for literary fiction was at most about 7.000 copies and almost all of that was to libraries. Even most commercial first novel print runs were between 5,000 and 10,000. And that’s with an average return rate of 70%!
#13 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 3, 2016 - 9:05 pm
I would think that number is grossly flawed. I would hope that number is flawed because authors only make roughly $1.50 per book on a $10 book and that is before the agent is paid and taxes. Also traditional publishers limit authors to about a book a year, so your calculations have authors working for less money than most high school babysitters.
Even if the author made $5 a book on 5,000 book print run that is $25,000, then the agent would get 15% leaving $21,250 annually BEFORE the rape fest of self-employment taxes…and trad. authors make nowhere NEAR $5 on a $10 paper book (that would be 50%).
Print runs (as I understand) standard is about 10,000 books for a first-timer. Literary might be different because smaller market.
The reason I don’t care for bookstores is I am not a fan of the mega B&N model. I think the bookstore can and will be reinvented to do a FAR better job of selling and benefitting customers AND writers, not just big brand names. As far as libraries, they are beholden to the Big 5 machine as things currently stand. I’d like to see changes with them too and change won’t happen unless we point out there are flaws.
#14 by ecw0647ecw0647 on January 4, 2016 - 8:53 am
Hi Kristen: Multiple sources for my numbers, but here’s just one: http://askaliteraryagent.blogspot.com/2009/09/how-many-copies-must-book-sell-to-be.html. Unfortunately, the vast majority of writers do make less than babysitters. My wife, for example, is a reasonably succesful (defined as having more than 10 books published by traditional publishers) children’s book author. Her book that sold the most copies sold more than 160,000 copies over a period of 3 years. Her TOTAL income from that book was $8,000. (It was a paperback school reader that listed for $4.00 and usually sold at a discount so her return per copy was pennies.) To make matters worse, the line of school readers the book had been purchased for was bought by Random House and then shut down and replaced by their own competing line. That resulted in (according to her editor) the shredding of more than 100,000 copies from the warehouse. (We bought 2,000 of those at 25 cents each to sell ourselves and have boxes up in the attic still.) Since she doesn’t write series and writes for multiple YA ages as well, her annual income is way, way below that of a baby sitter. She gets some additional income from illustrating but without my salary, we’d starve. Writing is a horribly competitive and unrewarding business for everyone but a lucky few. Most do it simply because they love doing it.
#15 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 4, 2016 - 9:22 am
All the more reason to promote places where we MAKE ROYALTIES. Thanks for this. But oy 😦 .
#16 by prudencemacleod on January 3, 2016 - 7:00 am
Hey there, just saw you message. That is good information to have. Thanks for taking the time to share.
#17 by Marilynn Byerly on December 29, 2015 - 6:16 pm
First, I want to clarify one of your comments. Selling used paper books isn’t theft because of “The Doctrine of First Sale” which states that you are buying/selling the paper, ink, and glue of the paper book, not the contents/intellectual property within. This doctrine also protects ebooks from being resold because they are only contents/intellectual property.
For more details, here’s my article on the subject.
Authors and friends of authors are more than welcome to reprint that article or any of my articles on copyright from my blog.
I agree with most of your arguments. I don’t buy used unless it’s out of print, and I need it as a research source. I educate and encourage readers to buy new.
I don’t agree on your assessment of Amazon’s “Buy Used” as a good thing since every book in an author’s front and backlist are available used, even those just coming out, so they do nothing for the author’s bottom line.
Amazon and the other major used book companies are a bigger danger to the bottom line than a brick and mortar used bookstore because of the volume of books and ease of finding any book a reader wants. That doesn’t make used bookstores an asset to writers in these days of ebooks as backlist, but they aren’t the Big Bad in this discussion.
#18 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 29, 2015 - 6:20 pm
I am arguing they are a “theft” in concept. I don’t like the bragging about high profit margins “so much higher than new.” It hacks me off. These stores are being touted as being good for authors and I disagree. I know piracy is a genuine theft. I get that. Like I said that is for another time. But the argument that used bookstores “help” us are the same arguments pirates use for “helping” us as well—“exposure” and “discovery” all that jazz *rolls eyes*. This article is merely to point out that we need to educate readers how to truly support us and that is in ways we earn royalties.
And no they aren’t the “Big Bad” but as writers, we need to direct readers to buy places we MAKE MONEY.
#19 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 29, 2015 - 6:25 pm
Oh! And thanks for that link! If we discuss piracy here that will be handy to have. I know I am being a drama queen just I am so tired of everyone but writers getting PAID. *shouts at heavens*
#20 by pocketnaomi on January 10, 2016 - 8:47 am
“Everyone but writers” getting paid? What country do you live in, Kristen? I’d love to move there.
The fact is that, right now, almost NOBODY gets paid who isn’t a corporation or the high-level management of same. I know four working, full-time editors on salary; three with Master’s degrees and one with a doctorate; not one of them makes over $25,000 a year gross. These are not beginners; they average more than 13 years of experience. Those used bookstores that aren’t paying writers usually aren’t getting paid themselves, either; *any* bookstore is an inherently high-overhead business, because you need a substantial amount of space and stock in order to attract customers at all. They may be rejoicing because it is actually possible to keep the doors open again after 20 years in which *no* independent bookstore could survive; but ask them how much they’re taking home from it, rather than pouring back into keeping the store itself afloat, and they’re likely to look at you funny. Take-home pay? What’s that?
Nor is it confined to the literary industries, for that matter. I’m a licensed massage therapist; a full-time health care professional in an industry that’s supposedly ‘hot’. I’m fortunate enough to work for one of the most high-paying clinics in my city. And my take-home pay averages less than $30K. We’ve lost four therapists this year, who loved their work deeply but simply couldn’t feed themselves and their kids on it anymore. I get away with staying because my husband and brother are both in IT, and my kids and I live with both of them. If there’s *any* industry where people get paid, IT would be it — but even with those jobs, we have to share expenses between two families in order to survive.
The situation for writers sucks, and should be changed; but it’s not unique by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, it’s only one facet of the fact that we live in an extremely aggressive capitalist economy that’s long since left the real free market behind and gone sociopathic. Productivity has been rising steadily since the 1970s; real wages have remained flat or actually declined. The companies swallow up the money and then pour it into buying politicians who will strip-mine the social safety net in order to give those same companies big tax rebates, and real human beings are keeping less and less of the income from what we produce in *every* industry.
This isn’t primarily about the distinction between e-books and paper, or any one bookstore business model; it’s about something much more fundamental: the extreme discrepancy between how much of the income produced by making and selling anything goes to the individuals who do the work, vs how much goes to the corporate owners who used to take a cut and now take almost everything. It’s probably going to take massive political awakening and change to affect, since almost all the politicians are wholly-owned subsidiaries of companies which can afford to spend their money on massive campaign contributions since they’re not spending it on labor. Noticed those studies by Princeton and Northwestern which say we’ve effectively become a plutocratic oligarchy? The individual human vote still matters, but only if you can find a candidate whom they haven’t bought already, and that’s not yet impossible, but it’s increasingly difficult. I won’t get into specific ones because that isn’t the point of this comment; I’ll only say *look at where the money is coming from*. Every politician will give their first loyalty to their biggest sources of campaign contributions so make sure you know who those are.
Writers can help with this process by educating people about what’s going on, and encouraging them not to take the status quo for granted nor to get caught up in the interparty wars that have been encouraged in order to keep us fighting each other instead of noticing who’s really causing our pain. Modern mainstream journalism is owned by five or six companies with their own fixed agendae; we need people who know how to use words to pick up the slack and tell people what the news won’t. That doesn’t mean every fiction writer needs to become a journalist instead, but it does mean that people who blog anyway could stand to look at the bigger picture some of the time.
There’s an old labor movement joke (from when we still had a labor movement that hadn’t been systematically crushed): a worker, a union representative, and a boss sat around a table. On the table was a plate containing a dozen cookies. Before either of the others could move, the boss picked up the plate and scooped eleven of the cookies into his pocket.
Then he winked at the worker. “Better watch out for that union man,” he told him. “I think he’s got his eye on YOUR cookie.”
Kristen, the independent used bookstore owners don’t have their eye on your cookie. The corporations — ranging from the big chains (used or new) to the publishers to Amazon to those altogether outside the literary world have taken eleven of the cookies, and left us all to squabble over the relative sizes of our respective crumbs from the remaining one.
Maybe it’s time, instead, to go see what’s in the companies’ pocket.
#21 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 11, 2016 - 6:52 pm
I completely agree, but the thing is the used bookstores and the bookstores and the pundits keep feeding artists the same Soma…”exposure.” It is okay to do what we do because well…you get exposure. THAT was my beef with the used bookstore. It isn’t okay. How is all that “exposure” you are giving us helping if in the same article you bashed the last remaining places writers get paid? As if “exposure” magically feeds me.
None of this is okay. I don’t know what we are going to do about it but you are right. Business has gone sociopathic.
Without the arts, where would Apple, Microsoft, Google, AT&T and all the other giants be? People pay hundreds for devices, thousands for computers, we pay for high-speed Internet. Why? So we can watch MOVIES. Listen to MUSIC. Read STORIES. Without artists? These companies wouldn’t be worth billions. But when the artist says something about being paid? We get fed that line about “exposure.” Well, obscurity is your greatest enemy.
Okay, but that doesn’t mean it is our ONLY one. It’s like the wolf telling us our REAL problem is the grizzly….while the wolf is then gnawing off our leg.
Our only chance is a social media platform and a caring, vested and educated consumer with a conscience. Because if we are waiting for the big corporations to treat us justly? That isn’t going to happen. They don’t just DO that on their own.
#22 by pocketnaomi on January 12, 2016 - 12:27 am
Of course you don’t just wait for the corporations to treat you well. We *all* have to fight to make the corporations treat people well. All I’m saying is that, if you let them turn one industry against another, or one political ideology against another, or one race or class or gender against another, so that *anyone* is saying, “I’m going to use this tactic which will let me get mine, because that’s what really matters to me; everyone else is their own problem,” then neither you nor anyone else will succeed. It’s going to have to be done together or not at all. As you say, business — pretty much ALL business — has gone sociopathic, and it needs to be reined back in Real Damn Hard, if not simply overthrown altogether.
What are we going to do about it? A lot of different things, all more or less contemporaneously, really. We’re going to work within specific industries, on things like killing the myth that writers should be willing to work for “exposure” or that massage therapists should only be paid for hands-on hours and not for time spent doing charting or clinic chores or the other full third of their workday that right now we make zero for doing. We’re going to keep bringing up the plutocracy/wealth inequality/corporate dominance issues in every public forum where they can be discussed, until the mainstream media is forced either to participate or be treated as irrelevant and stop making money. We’re going to build community organizations to allow us to buy and trade directly with each other instead of buying from the companies, so we keep our REAL wealth (the goods and services and creative inventions that we make or grow or do) among human hands, rather than letting it pass through corporate hands so they can take their huge cut. We’re going to clamor for true single-payer health care, like every civilized country out there, so that the insurance industry stops determining who lives and dies, and how well. We might try to push for the Universal Basic Income that Finland’s just voted to implement; I’ve heard worse ideas.
We’re going to make a revolution. Hopefully not a violent one, although I wish I thought that was less likely than I really do. But a political and economic revolution against the sociopathic businesses and business owners who have taken over our economy, our government and our world.
The thing about revolution is that it rarely comes from violence, even when the new government has to be defended with violence. It comes from people saying no. Revolutions happen the moment enough people turn from their former rulers and say, “I won’t listen to you anymore.” Nobody can be a leader if there isn’t anyone willing to follow them.
So we make a revolution against the plutocrats by saying No. We won’t do what you want anymore. We won’t buy from you any more than we can help. We won’t sell our work to you, any more than we can help. We won’t work for you, if there’s another way to survive (the Tiny House movement is getting off the ground so fast in part because a lot of people like the idea of having a house which is so inexpensive that it *doesn’t* tie them to a corporate job 40 hours a week, and gives them the opportunity to walk away). We won’t let our every interaction with each other exist through one of you companies or another… we’re going to turn away, and interact with each other directly, leaving you out in the cold.
From a writer’s perspective, there are ways to make this work. I know a crowdfunded author, who make a respectable living by posting her work for everyone to read… but only after *somebody* has paid her for it. She posts titles, very general topics, and character groups (if the piece is set within an existing universe of her characters), so people know what they’re considering buying. Then, if they want to read the rest, they either have to pay for it, or hope somebody else does.
It’s not the only way to make the general principle of turning away from corporate ownership and rejecting their rule over us… but it’s one. And so long as each of us use what we can to avoid handing over the real wealth in our hands for the fools’ gold in which they pretend to pay us. Whether that’s the fool’s gold of “exposure” or the fool’s gold of accounting is hardly material. They’re all just as fake.
#23 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 12, 2016 - 10:25 am
Yes and I agree. But I never said boycott the used bookstore. I only said make sure to buy new. I feel the USED bookstore was the one fueling that digital and Amazon is bad. And if they keep kneecapping how we are paid, they are gutting us making a living. We had a saying in sales. Say it once, say it twice, say it three times, say it four times, say it five times and they will believe.
Why my post was so ANGRY was the out and out LIES in that post. Digital sales are NOT falling. Amazon is NOT the best, but it is far from EVIL. What good is that used bookstore doing promoting paper and a used bookstore if it is promoting lies to the general public? If writers don’t get paid, where is that used bookstore going to get future books FROM?
I reiterate. Indie bookstores are all but gone. Borders is gone. B&N is almost extinct. The article was promoting ideas to the public that cut ALL our throats. If the Washington Post and the New York Times and these major news outlets keep repeating over and over and over that digital books are dying and Amazon is bad? They are KILLING authors. Even traditionally published ones. Traditionally published authors now make most of their money off e-books.
#24 by charlaynedenney on December 29, 2015 - 6:22 pm
Gawds I love that rant. I’ve spent all of today working on publicity plans, trying to get more of an audience for my books. Lots of research and thinking, which is exhausting.
I get tired of hearing “can’t you just give me a copy of your book?” OMG, what? You want me to give you something? How about you come paint my house because it needs done and I LOVE paint! Or mow the lawn, the hot winter has made the grass grow and I owe the regular guys money because they won’t come out without being paid (really? They charge for that stuff???).
I work hard for that book. I did all the research, did all the typing. Did all the imagination work to create the world, make sure all of it meshes with everything else. I did rewrites. I found an editor. I pay a guy in Thailand to do my layout (and he is fantastic, but he wants paid). I pay for the images on my covers and, because I cannot afford to pay someone to do it, I’ve learned to do them myself. It takes a YEAR to get everything done on each book, mostly because I’m doing this stuff on my own and I have a physical thing that makes me have to rest occasionally. But I do it ALL. And I pay for the stuff.
And you want me to give you the book because you don’t want to pay for it??
No. Just no.
*Note: I do give copies for charity fundraisers because 1) I’m a nice person, 2) I believe in the cause, and 3) because I can take it off my taxes, which is like getting paid for it.
Thanks for that rant, sweetie, I totally agree.
#25 by tracikenworth on December 29, 2015 - 6:23 pm
You said it best!!
#26 by Aimie Runyan on December 29, 2015 - 6:50 pm
You preach the truth, Kristen! Well done.
#27 by seventysevenacres on December 29, 2015 - 6:59 pm
Perhaps there should be a system similar to the public lending rights that authors get paid for with library books… resale rights? Although I can already people bemoaning the admin involved… and the bite into the profit margin. Just a thought.
#28 by kjsanders14 on December 29, 2015 - 7:01 pm
You tell them, Sister. I’ve been working on my first novel for almost a year. I don’t plan to give it away when it’s finished. And I’ll avoid used bookstores from now on. I mostly shop at Amazon anyway.
#29 by kdrose1 on December 29, 2015 - 7:03 pm
I believe in everything you say here. I agree about all the “exposure” crap. I also believe in used book stores because I believe in getting books out to anyone and everyone. Like when I was poor, libraries and used book stores introduced me to writers I later bought on my own. But still, I agree with everything you say. And I do not believe in writers giving their life away for free. Harlan Ellison is also my god of writers. Do you hear that? Harlan Ellison is my GOD OF WRITERS!
So, Kristen, you are a talented writer and every time you speak a kitten does die from the sheer stupidity of having recite again to everyone “Why didn’t you just listen to Kristen the first time?!”
And OMG, Kristen. You are a supreme writer of all that is genius and I don’t want to be JUST LIKE YOU because I have my own words to spew forth but I *have* even started sprinting JUST LIKE you, which is weird because I HATE SPRINTING! 😉
#30 by elenanewton on December 29, 2015 - 7:16 pm
Reblogged this on xxxperimentblog and commented:
I hope it’s okay to reblog this!
#31 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 29, 2015 - 8:52 pm
#32 by annaerishkigal on December 29, 2015 - 7:17 pm
I’m glad you’re commenting about the 5-ton pink elephant. I’m sick of free. First it was one book. Then it was one book plus a free ‘reader magnet.’ Then it was one book each series, plus a free reader magnet for each of those series. Sheesh! I’ve got 8 books published and am only making money from TWO of them until I can get more product out! That’s insane. I don’t mind one free, or one plus a magnet. But at some point we’ve got to feed our kids 😦
#33 by foguth on December 29, 2015 - 7:19 pm
I wish used book stores only sold books which were out of print and/or copyright, which is why I buy from them. Unfortunately, most consumers do not consider anything other than the deal they are getting.
#34 by lynnkelleyauthor on December 29, 2015 - 7:29 pm
You rock, Kristen! I agree with all you’ve said here. And I LOVE your humor. Humorous rants, love it!
#35 by Heather Heyford on December 29, 2015 - 7:47 pm
As usual you have said what so many others are afraid to say. Next I wish you would talk about the plusses and minuses of marketing our print and/or digital books to libraries. I see both sides of that coin.
#36 by TT Thomas on December 29, 2015 - 7:51 pm
Holy Mother of Godzilla!!! Have I ever responded to your blog? I don’t think so. I read it, good(even great) stuff, blah, blah, blah. But 5 minutes ago, I was doubled over with gut pains and my head was throbbing thanks to the woodpecker who lives there–in other words, worst God-dam flu I’ve had in 20 years. I read, I tossed ALL the Christmas cookies, I feel better! Why? Kristen’s gut-wreching, head exploding passion. Thanks for protecting writers against the enemy, which is too often the writer her/himself!! Love the video, too. You just, dunno, rock with the big boulders! That didn’t sound right but I’m feveris, and ya know what I mean. Will reblog on my Toughlovetrain blog, my website, my FB, and my Twit. Ever hear of Medium? Put this there!!!
#37 by Tom Threadgill on December 29, 2015 - 8:07 pm
Hmmm… I’ve read this post twice and am still not clear on how you feel about used bookstores. 🙂 Seriously, I agree 100% with your comments. It’s hard enough to make any money in this business as is. I’d love to see ALL bookstores make a comeback, but mostly I’d love to see all authors get paid for their work, not just the famous ones!
#38 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 29, 2015 - 8:50 pm
Hey, I LOVE used bookstores. I go to them for out of print books ALL the time. I even buy books to give away to people (if I find a stack say of a favorite for sale) BUT with the instructions, BUY THIS NEW IF YOU LIKE IT BECAUSE THAT IS HOW THE AUTHOR MAKES A LIVING.
#39 by Leisl Leighton on December 29, 2015 - 8:19 pm
I love the rant, Kristen. Great way to finish 2015. People should pay for our work. I couldn’t agree more. The only time I’ve ever bought second hand books is when a book I’ve bought has fallen apart and it is now out of print and I manage to track down a copy of it so the series it’s a part of isn’t broken. Otherwise, I ALWAYS buy new books, even before I was a writer. Keep standing up for all us ‘little guys’. I’ve shared your article (and not the other one) on twitter and FB and hope others will too.
#40 by Sue Coletta on December 29, 2015 - 8:41 pm
100% agree with you AND the video. Especially the part about amateurs ruining it for professional writers. It’s hard to compete with free as it is, but to have a used bookstore profit off our blood, sweat, and tears is ridiculous! What’s in it for us? Exposure, yeah right. I also agree with you about Huffington. Sure, it looks great on a resume, but the comments are down-right rude. No thank you. I can grief all on my own without busting my chops for the Huffington Post. Now you’ve got me all fired up. Anyway…loved this post.
#41 by Claudette Melanson - Author of Dark Fantasy on December 29, 2015 - 9:01 pm
Reblogged this on Claudette Melanson, Author of Dark Fantasy and commented:
#42 by Daphne Shadows on December 29, 2015 - 9:02 pm
I agree with everything you said. You make total sense. I only have one issue. And its a non sarcastic, non angry issue. It’s kind a, ‘desperate measures’ issue.
I’m a writer, right? That means I have to read books, right? But I don’t have any money. I’ve not grown up in a good situation and am just becoming aware of that and my options. Stress has shut my body systems down to the point that it’s only just now been possible for me to get a job without putting myself in, end-up-in-the-hospital-breakdown-level. And I’m not being dramatic or poor is me. I’m just finally not selling myself short. This is the strangest comment I’ve ever written, by the way.
But what I’m trying to get around to saying here is, …….. if it weren’t for used books, I wouldn’t have been reading, at all. The difference between $8 and $4 meant the difference between either getting one used book and gas or food – or zero books and gas or food.
So when you write posts like this, I feel like a total jerk. I didn’t even know until I read a post by you a year or so ago that used bookstores didn’t give the author any money. So now that I have a job, I’m saving up and buying all my known author books new. I buy the ones I’m not so sure about used sometimes because I’m really picky and a lot of the time, I end up not liking them, and give them away.
Does any of this even make sense?
#43 by Marilynn Byerly on December 29, 2015 - 9:14 pm
I read 100 pages an hour without trying hard so I can go through a book a day, and my income can’t pay for my habit. I use my public library, mainly for ebooks. I also use ebook sites like bookbub.com and fussylibrarian.com for free first books in series and books on sale.
I thank the authors that I’m not buying by writing short reviews for a number of reader sites I belong to. I also leave reviews at B&N.com and Amazon. (Not that I buy from Amazon.)
If you don’t have an ebook reader or tablet, ask around. Lots of people got new tablets for Christmas, and they may gift you their old one as an ebook reader.
#44 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 29, 2015 - 9:35 pm
Daphne, there was a time I was DEAD BROKE. I bought used. There are other things that you can do to support authors (I.e. write AWESOME reviews). The point here is NOT to shame anyone because had it not been for used books? There was a time I would not have been able to read. BUT, because I understood HOW writers were PAID, when I did become more solvent I worked hard to buy NEW. I also work VERY hard to let readers KNOW this. “Hey, if you LOVE the writer’s work? SHOW HER! BUY A COPY! It is how she gets paid so she can write MORE!” I am simply here to challenge us to educate people so we aren’t all racing to the cheapest because if we keep doing that? NONE of us is going to be able to keep doing this writing thing.
What I would LOVE to see these used bookstores doing is SUPPORTING WRITERS. Really supporting them. Hold book events to promote NEW books. Books THEY won’t make an initial profit off of. Help US with our marketing. HELP us promote. HELP us with our grassroots platform building. If you REALLY support writers like you SAY you do. Because without WRITERS? They have no business.
#45 by kford2007 on December 29, 2015 - 9:14 pm
Kristen, I usually agree with you on just about everything, but there is one thing that I didn’t see in your post that I think is relevant. Those used books in bookstores were originally bought new, which means the author was paid the royalty on it once. As an author, I don’t expect to keep being paid on regurgitated merchandise, and quite frankly, I’d be thrilled to see my used book, with it’s dog-eared pages and worn cover in a used bookstore. I do not agree with piracy, but as you said, that’s a whole different post altogether. Doctors can’t resell a surgical procedure. Car salesmen do not get commissions on cars they sell that are then sold somewhere down the line to a second or third buyer. When we pick up used cd’s or dvds from a second-hand store or a thrift shop, the artist/movie house isn’t getting royalty payments or compensation, but they did at one point in time. Also, people who are selling used books are getting nowhere the price they paid for them. I can go to the local library’s bookstore and pick up certain paperbacks if I so wanted, 10 for $1. 10 cents a piece. That bookstore isn’t making anything off of that sale, but it is putting an affordable book that someone at one time paid full price for in the hands of someone who otherwise wouldn’t be able to read the books. It’s for these reasons I love used bookstores, library bookstores, thrift shops and yard sales. I’ve found many books to complete a set I had started, and I love finding the treasures that fit my pocketbook.
#46 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 29, 2015 - 9:30 pm
But this is why the post is so LONG. I do LOVE used bookstores. They serve a purpose. I buy from them. BUT writers should be EDUCATING readers how WE ARE PAID. What irritated me about the article is this attitude that somehow they are supporting the arts whereas the big bad digital and corporate Amazon isn’t.
What bothered me about the article is the juxtaposition near Amazon and digital as if “they” are the enemy and somehow the used bookstores are doing us favors Yes, they are good for readers. There were times I was grateful for really cheap books when I was broke. But I was also really happy I KNEW HOW writers were paid so that when I DID get back on my feet? I could go BUY NEW from those writers.
This article is simply to challenge writers to value their work and educate readers HOW they are paid. There WAS a time, I honestly thought I was being a really AWESOME fan simply by buying ALL of an author’s books. I had NO idea that writer was not being paid by me buying from Half Price. Yes, I was THAT blonde.
And while we might love finding a treasure that fits in our pocket, we also have to ask…how would I like other writers supporting me? If we can’t count on each other? People who know the industry and know how tough this business is and who KNOW we are not all millionaires with three-book deals? Who can we count on?
If bookstores say they really LOVE writers? Let them pony up in ways that actually matter.
And while a doctor can’t resell a surgical procedure, that doctor isn’t only going to do one procedure in a lifetime. Most used bookstores are not carrying indie authors. This means they are carrying mostly traditional. According to BEA stats, as of 2007 only 1 out of 10 traditionally published authors ever saw a second book in print. It is not uncommon for an author to only have a handful of titles in a lifetime. This is not the case with a surgeon. A car salesman has a new batch of cars to sell every month. That writer is ONLY making money of THAT work. Period. Yes, I get that the used bookstore is NOT stealing, but this “exposure”? Yeah. I will buy a book for a fellow author instead.
#47 by D Weaver on December 29, 2015 - 10:13 pm
Being upset about the article making ebooks the enemy is one thing, but it seems you are trying to have ebook benefits on paper sales. Doesn’t work that way. If you get into the traditional world of print, you get the benefits and the (many) problems that go along with those sales. Don’t like it? Then stay in the digital publishing world.
And very ironic you are using a wikipedia commons photo for this post – how much did you pay the photographer to use that photo, I wonder?
#48 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 29, 2015 - 10:23 pm
No. I am trying to get writers to educate readers how they get paid so they can continue to write books. I use the commons because they are free and fair use and this is a very old image from a zoo with no royalty or even photographer attached so I couldn’t have paid if I wanted to. I load plenty of my images into WANA Commons for others to do the same.
And frankly, the whole used books doesn’t even impact me financially since most don’t even accept indies and self-pubs.
We are WRITERS. We, of all people, should appreciate the sheer brutality of this business. How unappreciated it can be. If we won’t support each other and promote venues that pay writers who will? If we can’t challenge bookstores to REALLY support us? Who will?
Bookstores can keep saying they support books…but until they support writers in meaningful ways? To me that is just lip service. And it is IN their interest to back us and help us. In a world where discoverability IS a nightmare they actually could help.
#49 by D Weaver on December 29, 2015 - 10:46 pm
So fine – encourage writers to educate readers, but you are upset and want used bookstores to “pony up” the money to writers? These are different issues.
And I use wikipedia common photos on my websites too, but arguing that because an image is old and there is no way to pay a royalty on it makes it ok not to support photographers still sounds like you are hamstringing your own used book argument to me. I buy used books because they are old and I pay less (since there is no way to pay for a royalty), and you want me to feel bad about this while you are using free photos from a volunteer photographer? Why not stick with buying new photos from a photographer if you feel so strongly about supporting struggling artists?
#50 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 29, 2015 - 11:07 pm
No, I never said pony up money. I said pony up support. What I am saying is that bookstores need writers or there isn’t much point to a bookstore. Support books in authentic ways by supporting writers. I also was simply challenging WRITERS to instruct readers to please BUY places they get paid.
And I disagree that A + B = C.
I do stuff for free all the time. That is the POINT. People reblog this every day. Share my blogs far and wide for FREE. I don’t expect payment. We artists do a lot for free. It goes with it. What I am saying is that we’ve done enough and if others support and love what we do? They need to give back. It’s only just to ask this.
If I am a photographer and I have a bunch of stuff on Flickr Commons, that is a great way to get known. It happens. That photographer VOLUNTARILY put to there for me to USE. We have photographers on Flickr Commons who have contributed to WANA commons who we later hired for covers and all kinds of artwork.
I never said we don’t ever do ANY work for free. I said writers and artists are doing a lot of work for free. Too much for free. So much for free that what is happening is consumers are expecting everything for free. And that if we don’t value what we do, we are going to be hard-pressed to get anyone else to.
We live in an era of very inexpensive technology. Great you have these wonderful profit margins. Great for you. How about supporting writers who produce the books? Invite them in to promote their NEW BOOKS? Maybe you won’t make money off it immediately. But bookstores are in a unique position to help us (artists/writers) make a dent in the Internet. It is HARD making that dent. Publishers aren’t helping writers promote. Amazon is some giant algorithm machine. Is it so hair brained to ASK a BOOKSTORE to support authors? They make money off them.
#51 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 29, 2015 - 11:16 pm
I guess I am simply tired. I am tired of writers being the last and the least. People “say” they support them. Agents, editors, publishers, bookstores, all the folks who DO get paid by the way. Meanwhile? The writer’s workload increases. Discoverability gets tougher and tougher and tougher. Then articles like this champion businesses that DO NOT help us…but that could, that REALLY COULD if they wanted to. And because people don’t understand HOW writers are paid, they think this is good for us when really?
Not so much.
#52 by D Weaver on December 29, 2015 - 11:39 pm
Maybe I am confused because my local bookstore (locally owned, not a chain) does do these things – they hold booksignings, they sell new books, etc. And they have a used book section that happens to be where I bought my last several (used) books. So I’m not understanding the anger directed at selling used books. They have a time and a place, and I agree with you that used bookstores should support authors for mutual benefit – but this isn’t what I understood from your original blog post. You seemed to be vilifying the entire used book sales industry which is just a function of traditional publishing. There are far better ways for indie authors to make money than by going the traditional publishing route, and I thought your anger was misplaced. That’s all. Carry on.
#53 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 29, 2015 - 11:43 pm
No it was the article that ticked me off and you’d probably have to go read it. I love small bookstores, indie bookstores and I love USED bookstores. It’s part of why the damn post was so long. Was trying to be CLEAR that I love the bookstore while also holding the industry and writers accountable for this mutual SLOG we share. I feel if you make a profit off writers and we don’t make any MONETARY profit? HELP US OUT! That isn’t a lot to ask. And writers? Promote places that PAY YOU. We are going to have to work together or we are doomed.
#54 by Rii the Wordsmith on December 29, 2015 - 10:08 pm
XD Ahah, I saw your comment on the Washington Post article, too. I find myself nodding to your words as I read – for me, the biggest motivation for writing (aside from, of course, the motivation almost all of us have that we have to before we explode from the stories inside) is that I think of my favorite writers, and how breathless I get when I get to meet them, and what their books have meant to me, and I want to be that for someone else.
So technically, I guess I’m not in it for the money. But. I’d still rather follow your advice and educate and encourage readers to buy new because I would still very much so LIKE to get paid. And even if it wasn’t important to me at all (I’m not in it for the money as my primary motivation; I am, however, motivated by being paid, so it is important to me to some degree) it’d be important to me to support fellow authors; I’m not stuck with a job I hate, but most the other writers I know aren’t supported by a husband, and they do have the dream of working by writing instead of whatever else they’re doing. I want them to achieve that dream, too. So yeah, I need to help them get sales if nothing else. Thanks for pointing out the man behind the curtain while I was distracted with the pyrotechnics.
#55 by Fiola Faelan on December 29, 2015 - 10:19 pm
Agree. AGREE! Thank you for putting it out there, and covering everything. Bravo!
#56 by Jinxie G on December 29, 2015 - 10:27 pm
Reblogged this on Jinxie's World and commented:
What she said…
#57 by Jinxie G on December 29, 2015 - 10:27 pm
THANK YOU for posting this!!! I had to reblog.
#58 by marymtf on December 29, 2015 - 10:35 pm
Thanks for that Harlan Ellison video clip. He’s not polite, he’s never polite, but he does make his point. If you sweat and strain to put a piece together and someone recognises its worth, it’s worth something more to you than a patronising pat on the back. I love Ellison’s work and I love his little rants. I remember his saying once that he would never let his work be edited; not by so much as one little comma. He’s one of the few writers who has control over his work. But that’s because he’s fought for it.
#59 by David Villalva on December 29, 2015 - 11:13 pm
Yo Dozer, you rock. I frickin’ loved this piece.
Keep destructing and speaking on behalf of fledglings like me who need to hear this more often.
#60 by Kelli Jae Baeli on December 29, 2015 - 11:16 pm
Bravo! My sentiments exactly.
#61 by Fran Heckrotte on December 29, 2015 - 11:59 pm
Yep, a long rant and rave, but no matter how much truth is in what’s being said, the world goes on. As an author, I want the best of all worlds. I want my books and ebooks to sell, and I want small used book stores to succeed. What little money I have I’d like to spread out as far as possible. Three used books for the price of one new book is economy and ecology smart. Amazon is an author’s best friend and worst enemy…well, next to ourselves.
#62 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2015 - 12:02 am
LOL. We are the WORST! If we can just get past OURSELVES! I want the small used bookstore to succeed, but let them learn the W.A.N.A. Way. Work WITH WRITERS. We help each other intend of one simply profiting off the other. “Exposure” is no longer enough. We need to dig in in meaningful ways.
#63 by doovinator on December 30, 2015 - 12:03 am
I haven’t bought new books in ages; the library has a used book sale every year and I’m afraid I’ve piled on enough to last me for twenty years or so; I’ve CONSCIOUSLY stayed away from the book sale for four or five years and every time I THINK about buying a book the ones in my attic plead with me–please, PLEASE read me! We’ve been SO good, for SO long–but I have to own up to my infidelities; I occasionally check books out from the library, usually to practice my Spanish–
As for writing, I’ve been giving my own memoirs a rest while I edit my mother’s, which is something of a paid gig–she sends me a check with each installment–and at 85 she has a lot more experience and a lot more perspective than me!
#64 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2015 - 12:37 am
Make sure to write AWESOME reviews 😀 !
#65 by elenanewton on December 30, 2015 - 12:09 am
You are one of my favorite writers, Kristen, but with all due respect I don’t think you’ve thought things through here – perhaps because your head keeps exploding. (Some of my books might help you with that :), but don’t take this as a suggestion as they are for very “specialized” tastes.)
In the first place, as you know, selling used books is not illegal. It is also not, in my opinion, exploitative or wrong in any real way. I think the proper analogy of a printed book is to a piece of furniture, which is first created in the mind, then in a physical form. If you sell a chair, the buyer does not buy a right to reproduce it (if it is patented), but does buy the right to let anyone sit in it, or to resell it at will. A physical book is the same way. But only one person gets to have it at a time.
Secondly, while I don’t think of bookstores as an arcane relic of bygone days, or a center of culture, they do stimulate demand for books as a whole by being a physical, observable presence, and they cater to a somewhat different market than the “buy-it-new” consumer so widespread in America. I am skeptical about the claims of profit margin in that article, but in any event, what is actually sold at a used book store is an experience far different from what you’d get at an online distributor such as Amazon.
I also disagree with your benevolent view of Amazon’s placing “used” books in competition with the books we sell on their site (although I do not challenge their right to do it). And I think Amazon promotes two things that are far more deadly to an indie writers’ eventual ability to make a living than used books could ever be: an effective price range of $2.99 – $9.99, and a commodity treatment of writing that forces prices ever downward, from the KDP per page pricing (advertised as “free” right beside our price for the book!) to its constant promotion of lower pricing. Amazon promotes more distribution of free books than are ever sold through used book stores, and unlike a used book store selling a tattered printed book, Amazon’s sales never reduce the supply side of the supply/demand equation.
Finally, I disagree with the need to educate anybody about how authors get paid – unless it is the authors themselves. Instead, we should look for ways to promote our work so people want to buy them. For themselves, and not to support us.
#66 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2015 - 12:35 am
This post was about authors directing people (potential buyers) to USED bookstores. I know it is not illegal for that book to be resold. But, as AUTHORS we know how HARD this business is. Why are we promoting venues where authors are not paid a royalty? We promote used bookstores and then complain we cannot make a living wage. Explain how this makes sense.
As far as used bookstores? Sure it isn’t illegal what they do. But how wise is it not to cultivate the future crops of writers? And why WOULDN’T we educate people how we are PAID? Why not tell readers if Amazon is ripping you off. “Hey, if you really want to SUPPORT me? Buy from Kobo! Have my Mother Ship download it into your brain! I get WAY better royalties.” Why is it so gauche for US to want to make a living wage?
And unlike the chair? We are not a mass manufacturer. We are artisans. But you know? I am not the all-knowing-of-all-things. This IS a blog and at the end of the day? An opinion. I love bookstores but I think if they really love books? Help writers. I think writers deserve to be paid and I think too many regular people have watched too many movies and think we are either starving hippies writing bad haiku or we all have a three-book deal and are rich. If WE do not educate readers how to support us, Hollywood will and then we are screwed.
#67 by cocohipwood on December 30, 2015 - 12:17 am
Good Lord! You’re in a tissy! And rightfully so. Your linear thought process drew me to:
1. Places I wasn’t expecting.
2. One of those happens to be a bar.
3. Upon agreement, pass me the vermouth! I need another martini!
XOXOXOXO! Love ya girlie! Also…. digital is hypoallergenic! Like a labradoodle!
#68 by elenanewton on December 30, 2015 - 12:43 am
I love that you’re still responding as late as it is! Admire the passion, and always enjoy the style and humor. But I think it is a mistake for writers to want consumers to try to support us rather than focus on a way to make them want and need to pay us.
And I’m right there with you on the need to be paid.
Most of my furniture was made by artisans, one thing at a time, by the way. They got well paid and hit the road.
#69 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2015 - 12:56 am
KInd of the same thing. I get what you mean. I don’t want “donations.” But I also recall before I became a writer I had NO idea how authors got paid and so I thought I was being an AWESOME fan by buying books at Half Price Bookstore. I was SO DEVOTED. Then…I joined my first writing group and learned how the profession worked and I was MORTIFIED that I really wasn’t supporting my favorite authors. I ended up re-buying a lot of books. I WANTED my money to go to THEM 😉 …the artisan.
#70 by elenanewton on December 30, 2015 - 1:04 am
#71 by gretchenwing on December 30, 2015 - 12:35 am
You are quite convincing, gotta say.
#72 by Cat Dubie on December 30, 2015 - 1:28 am
I agree with you, Kristen, writers deserve to be paid for their work. And I abhor the idea that used bookstores are loudly bragging about their profits.
But I want comment about the books I inherited from my father. A wonderful library of books, most in hardcover, a hundred or so paperbacks, fiction and nonfiction. I love books. It seems like a stab to the heart that I am forced to downsize from four large bookcases to one.
I tried in vain to donate my books to a library, schools, institutions, charities, the few used bookstores that were left. No one wanted them. How could I throw them away? It just wasn’t in me, yet something had to give.
So my kids volunteered to take them to a book drop. And off they went. Along with my heart. But if only one person takes one of those books, reads it and loves it as I did, I feel justified. It would be the same if these books were in a used bookstore and someone bought them, and received joy out of them, or learning, or peace.
I know the writers who toiled over these books are shortchanged. And this saddens me. But it saddens me more to think of throwing out a book.
I have an elderly friend who loves to read but cannot afford to buy new books. Her eyes lit up when I gave her twenty or so paperback mysteries. She will read them and pass them on to her friends, and if this enriches their lives, I am happy.
Sorry to make this so long. And I don’t want you to think I’m on the side of used bookstores, or profiteers. I am just on the side of books.
Love your blog, love how you help writers.
#73 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2015 - 1:37 am
Oh BAH! That is a beautiful story and I love hearing these. Your story isn’t the sort of stuff that is hacking me off. You know I really don’t even mind the used bookstores making RECORD PROFITS! But HELP WRITERS. I buy used books. Sometimes books are out of print. Sometimes we are just dead damned broke (and then a glowing review is GREAT). But what I am challenging everyone to do is to value the writer (writers included).
And truth is, where the money really is is that latest George R.R. Martin hardback that someone ate through in two days and resold and the used bookstore is reselling for $15 and then acting like they are doing writers in general a favor. Trust me. George R.R. Martin will sell books 😉 .
#74 by Naty Severson on December 30, 2015 - 1:36 am
I hardly ever comment on blogs, but I want to say thanks for this one. I learned a lot! It never occurred to me that writers didn’t receive royalties from used book sales, and that’s due the the simple fact that I never thought about it before I read this. (Now imagine a new lightbulb inside a thought bubble floating over my head as I make a thinking face.)
I learned just as much reading through your responses to the more critical comments. I appreciate that you’ve taken the time to respond and create a bit of a dialogue here. It’s given me something to think about. My 12 year old son LOVES reading and he gets uber excited about all bookstores. I will have to think twice about where we take him. He’s also just nerdy enough to want to know how writers get paid, so I will share this with him. He’s great for a one-liner, so I’ll let you know if he says anything funny. He will appreciate your sense of humor…as do I.
#75 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2015 - 1:43 am
You are welcome and I owe you pages! The Mucinex from my bronchitis had me on this rant *hangs head*. I HAD to get this OUT! I have your pages up on my laptop 😀
#76 by Naty Severson on December 30, 2015 - 2:46 am
It’s apparent you missed the drug warning on the peel-back label of your Mucinex bottle. There’s one specifically for writers that reads: WARNING. This drug may cause an urgent need for ranting. Particular caution should be used when operating blogs with high levels of readership.
#77 by Phil Giunta on December 30, 2015 - 1:49 am
It was a fantastic rant that I agreed with 100% just like I fully agree with Harlan Ellison’s rant (and he IS my favorite golden age speculative fiction writer. I was fortunate to meet him once, which is a whole other story). In fact, I recommend the documentary film from which that clip was taken, “Dreams with Sharp Teeth.” It inspires me every time I watch it and it includes Robin Williams and Neil Gaiman!
Although, in this specific clip, Harlan wasn’t referring to used bookstores. He was justifiably angry that wealthy Warner Bros. wanted to republish his Babylon 5 interview without paying him. I’d feel the same and would probably express it with as much profanity-laden vitriol.
More to the point, since it was Kristen and I who discussed used bookstores on Facebook yesterday, and that seemed to spark this blog post, I thought I’d qualify the statement I made comparing cars to books because I think it was taken in the wrong spirit. It was not meant to devalue books. As an author pursuing a writing career, that is the last thing I would ever do.
As Harlan Ellison also said, “if you want your music, BUY your music. If you want my books, BUY my books”. As an author, certainly I want readers to buy my books. Of course, that isn’t the only reason I write. I also do it because I love it. I live to write. It’s my art, it’s my life’s blood. I’m sure many of us here feel the same.
My only point in comparing the book to the car was that the book, while a work of painstaking art and intellectual property, is often looked upon as a product when it hits the marketplace. I don’t agree with that. To me, art transcends the crude label of “product”, but right or wrong, books have a price and are bought and sold. Nothing revelatory in that statement. In fact, I’ve read more than one blog article by veteran authors who made it quite clear in their advice to newbies that writers should separate the craft (or art) from the business.
Once a reader purchases my book, and I have their money, I as the author have no control over what they do with that book later–and we all know that there is no benefit to worrying about something we cannot control.
If that reader decides to sell or give my book to a used bookstore and that bookstore resells it, I certainly can’t expect a percentage of that sale back to me. Right or wrong, that’s just the way it is. If I purchase a car and decide to privately resell it 10 years later, I certainly wouldn’t send a percentage back to the manufacturer. They were paid 10 years ago. I had the first reader’s money when he or she bought my book new. Yes, a book is intellectual property, and I expect to be paid if someone wants my book, but I have no recourse when that second reader buys it. So…I don’t worry about it.
Kristen made an excellent point on my Facebook post that a car manufacturer produces multiple new models each year by the thousands, whereas writers do not mass produce. Absolutely right, but I was focusing more on the consumer side of the relationship.
On that note, I definitely agree that we need to educate the readers on how to support authors. I do it all the time, but I honestly don’t have enough faith in humanity to think that many readers are going to buy the digital version of a book they just purchased in a used bookstore. It would be fabulous if they did!
In the end, I can’t bring myself to point the finger of blame at the used bookstores, because of all the out-of-print treasures I have found over the years. Besides, those thousands of used books have to go somewhere…right? 🙂
#78 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2015 - 2:06 am
Actually I am THAT reader, LOL. Used bookstores cater to paper. If we (writers) explain to our fans HOW to support us, we might be surprised. I have MANY digital books I will never read simply because I bought a USED paper copy and bought the DIGITAL so the writer would be paid 😉 …but all because others educated me.
#79 by ellaapollodorus on December 30, 2015 - 10:32 am
I have a mass of digital books I bought to support writers I met on social media, and I doubt I ever have time to read them all. Plus I have digital copies of my favorite books by “big” authors as well, just in case I ever feel nostalgic.
#80 by dysfunctionalwomansdigest on December 30, 2015 - 2:33 am
Kristen–Thanks for the eye-opening and informative diatribe! I am so glad that I did not buy those books at Goodwill today…! I want to be paid for my blog, if possible…I haven’t a clue on how to proceed; I write because I feel like I purge my soul each time I put neurons to notebook! Thanks for the enlightenment—DWD
#81 by dysfunctionalwomansdigest on December 30, 2015 - 2:47 am
P.S. Loved the reference from GOT!
#82 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2015 - 7:59 am
You know what, Hon? Buy them. It is fine! BUT, if you LIKE them? FIND something from the author and buy it so she is PAID. That is really ALL this rant is about. I do that crap all the time. I find a used book…BUT because I understand HOW we are paid? I then make a point to go BACK and find a digital copy to support other writers. But just seeing YOUR response and others as well makes my point that people don’t understand how authors are making their livings and they honestly BELIEVE they are helping. WE are responsible for guiding them in the ways they can help us even better.
#83 by emilyardenauthor on December 30, 2015 - 2:52 am
Reblogged this on Emily Arden, author.
#84 by Stephen Arnott on December 30, 2015 - 3:08 am
When I was a teenager I used to buy new science fiction books by the stack (they were literally piled in my arms), but as time went on, the price of new books went up and up and up, and it got to the point where I couldn’t afford them any more. So I switched to second-hand stores (aside from regular second-hand book stores, pretty much every shopping street in the UK has a charity shop with a second-hand book section in it). I very rarely bought a new book.
If felt bad about it though, because it’s self evident that the second-hand book trade shafts the writer. My personal consolation was knowing that the author in question wasn’t going to lose a sale on account of my second-hand purchase, because there was no way I was going to buy the over-priced ‘new’ book. It was second-hand or nothing.
Then Amazon and ebooks came along and suddenly there were a lot of (what I considered to be) reasonably-priced books on the market. I was back to buying new. Happy days.
And then they weren’t, because the publishers took control of the pricing and bumped up the ebook price to match the print price, or in some ludicrous cases, made them even higher.
To give you an example, my daughter recently asked me to buy her a set of popular fantasy literature. Always the optimist, I crossed my fingers and went to Amazon to look for a reasonably-priced ebook edition and found that both sets, ebook and print, were going for £25. Extremely irritated by this, I went to eBay and found the same set second-hand going for £4.99 (with £5 P&P). And that was a sale.
Back to square two.
If the ebook version had been the same money or even £15 or £20, I might have gone for it, but to have them the same price should insult anyone’s intelligence.
PS. ‘The Doctrine of First Sale’ might work for furniture, but should not apply to books. Just because someone has decreed something lawful doesn’t mean it’s right, and, in many cases, a second-hand book sale will rob the author. The problem is that the second-hand book culture is so ingrained that it would be very difficult to stop to it. The ‘Doctrine’ is a piece of paper that can be flapped under people’s noses when anyone complains and lets the regulators sweep the issue under the carpet.
#85 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2015 - 8:08 am
Yes, this is why traditional publishers “protecting” e-book prices has irritated me. That is a WHOLE other blog. All I can say is that if we as writers will educate readers HOW we are paid, then they might actually be able to HELP us when it comes to how our books are priced. Even if they can’t? If the readers DO cave and buy a secondhand set of books they at least know that they ARE helping by also hopping on Amazon and downloading a couple of digital titles so the writer makes some money. A lot of this is simply educating people.
And THANK YOU. I get the Doctrine of First Sale thrown at me and I “KNOW” it is “legal.” Doesn’t mean it is just. And maybe it is just for regular people but for writers to do to other writers? We know how god awful hard it is to write a book, fight the world and get that book to market. Most used bookstores don’t take indie books and though I don’t have the current stats I know that in 2007, only 1 out of 10 traditional authors EVER saw a second book in print.
This means that most traditional authors aren’t publishing 20, 30 or 40 books. Those are outliers. The regular author may only create a couple of titles in a lifetime. If we find it used? Okay. If you LOVE it? If it is still in print? Just buy it. That’s all. Reward that other author.
#86 by Kate Sparkes on January 2, 2016 - 6:47 am
Big publishers’ ebook prices make me so angry that I often refuse to buy ebook OR paper if they’re similarly priced (mostly because I know those massive extra profits from the ebook aren’t going to the author, but to the publishers who are complaining about how ebooks are destroying them). Guess their approach backfires if people do that…
I love the approach of buying second-hand if you need to, but then making sure the author gets rewarded if you love the book (either by buying new or leaving a great review).
#87 by timamarialacoba on December 30, 2015 - 3:19 am
Kristen, I just had to re-blog this. You expressed exactly what I believe.
#88 by Nancy J Nicholson on December 30, 2015 - 3:58 am
I live in a world where walking into a bookstore is not an option. I watch my friends pass around what most probably are pirated copies of both books and movies. They know my feelings. They’re steeling. I don’t want any part of it. I wish there were recourse in my location to stop this practice.
I talk until I’m blue the same points you outlined. As authors and artists we can’t bemoan in one breath and not stand for the truth.
Let’s take a stand! In my world the issue is pirated sites making digital easy. I look forward to that blog post as well.
#89 by John Hoggard on December 30, 2015 - 5:49 am
ruddy hell, you wrote a novella in blog form!
I bought my first Terry Pratchett, my first David Gemmell and my first Neil Gaiman books in 2nd hand book shops (hell, I used to work in one when at uni), now my shelves are packed with paid for books (and audiobooks) and my Kindle is loaded with various versions of much of their work.
I’m surprised you didn’t also say we should stop lending books to friends and family and make them go buy their own copies instead..
Some people just won’t buy new books, the same as they won’t buy music (they’ll listen to the radio or pick up cheap CDs at flea-markets) – are they stealing from the artist? Don’t know – since they never buy anything new – they’re not a lost sale – because they’re a sale you were never going to have…
It’s emotive stuff, but I think bookstores (2nd hand or otherwise) the same as libraries, only hook those people (and therefore potential sales or lending fees) who want to read, there’s a huge number of people who don’t read, or don’t want to read, or who only buy 2nd hand, or who only borrow from friends – they’re not lost sales – they were sales you could never have because if you take away their ability to get ‘stuff’ to read, they don’t suddenly go out and buy new stuff, they just stop reading (or turn to the Internet and quickly find that there’s whole libraries of stuff (mostly illegal) available for free – and once they’ve gone there – you’re never getting them back.
Do car manufacturers complain that there’s all these people out there who can’t drive getting lifts from friends, or catching the bus when actually they should go out, learn to drive and buy their own car? (Maybe they do complain, I don’t know).
i guess I’m lucky that I love my day job (University Lecturer) and I love to write – perhaps if I earn anything more than the price of a night out from my writing in any one year I’ll change my mind…
#90 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2015 - 8:19 am
Nooooo 😛 You missed my point. Other than my blog was too long. It was. I do not MIND a second hand bookstore. I MIND that writers (of all people) promote them WITHOUT educating people how they are PAID. Regular readers WON’T KNOW unless we tell them. And the authors you listed are prolific and very large names.
I recall when I used to shop at Half Price Books in the 90s as a “reader” and I watched movies “about writers” and heard phrases like “million dollar advance.” I LITERALLY had no clue that IF I didn’t go buy those authors NEW? They didn’t make money. Worse still? They might not get a new contract because they failed to sell out their print run. Neil Gaiman is one thing. But what about some unknown author you might have REALLY LOVED? What if that author never gets another contract because that bookstore was selling slush? And, since people didn’t KNOW how our business worked? They never went online and took it a step further?
And yes, people will get things from garage sales and second hand and yes I am a jerk because I am saying that we are NOW in a BUSINESS. WE now have to take a side and let people know what that money savings actually costs US.
And car manufacturers complain about all kinds of things all the time. It is why they have these things called LOBBYISTS. Car manufacturers understand if they don’t make money? They wither and DIE. Writers would be wise to learn.
#91 by Linda Adams on December 30, 2015 - 6:52 am
Free does have a cost–just not what you might expect. When you submit to non-paying magazines, you are telling yourself you’re not good enough to complete at the professional level.
For years, I told myself it was because the pro-rate magazines didn’t do my genre or that I was writing for charity. I had an eye opening experience when I realized that I was telling myself I wasn’t a good writer with all those non-paying subs. I broke out of that thinking and started only submitting to pro-rate magazines, which forced me to work on some skill areas that free wouldn’t have required. Since then, I’ve gotten personal comments on every story from pro magazines.
Submit to pro paying only. It really changes your attitude and your writing.
#92 by Suzanne Lucero (@S_Lucero) on December 30, 2015 - 8:18 am
Kristen, deep in the recesses of my mind I was aware that writers didn’t get paid from sales in used book stores, but that was as far as my thinking process went. What could I do about it? I loved the book I got for 50¢ because to me it had more value than the soda I could have gotten instead. (This was years ago, mind)
Now you have answered that niggling question for me. If you can’t afford to buy the book new, go ahead and by it used; but now that ebooks are so readily available, buy a digital copy when you can. Works for me. 🙂
#93 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2015 - 8:22 am
And if you REALLY CAN’T afford it still? Go leave an AMAZING review! Well, do that anyway. But there are other things readers can do to support writers. I DO believe readers LOVE writers, but it is @$$hat articles like these that mislead people to believing they ARE supporting writers.
#94 by paulapederson on December 30, 2015 - 9:38 am
I bought Rise of the Machines as an e-book because my indie book will probably be published in Seattle in about 3 months. RiseotM was so good, I bought the hard copy, underlined it and also took notes. I’m 82—a “winter writer” who has written a GOOD book.
I already get written off for being old. My book club, filled with literate readers, chooses books by how many copies are in the local library. That way nobody has to buy the book. I feel almost apologetic that I’ll ask them to PAY for my book. Maybe they’ll let me give a talk on what you write.
I’ve followed some of your advice—WordPress blog over to Facebook, LinkedIn and just joined goodreads. Twitter’s too manic. Can’t take on everything— frail husband, large family. When I tell them i’m writing a book they say, “That’s great Mom, what’s for dinner?”
Thanks for what you do. Paula
#95 by elenanewton on December 30, 2015 - 9:50 am
Get them all to ask the library to carry your book! That way, they won’t have to pay, and your book will gain in prestige.
#96 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2015 - 10:04 am
I SOOOO APRECIATE THAT, btw. What we do is NOT easy and frankly, others could help us a hell of a lot more.
#97 by Nya Rawlyns on December 30, 2015 - 9:40 am
Reblogged this on Love's Last Refuge and commented:
Let’s make this our mantra for 2016: WE ARE DONE WITH FREE!
#98 by Ken Hughes on December 30, 2015 - 9:41 am
I don’t get it, Kristen. Did you miss the part that it doesn’t matter what books get paid for as long as they’re in PAPER? 😉
#99 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2015 - 10:03 am
DIGITAL. We MAKE MORE!
#100 by lonestarjake88 on December 30, 2015 - 10:10 am
Hey Kristen, I know you and I disagree on the Star Wars Prequels, but you are spot on in this article! Thank you so much for sharing this with us!
#101 by elenanewton on December 30, 2015 - 10:18 am
Looks like you’ve hit a real nerve here, Kristen, and it was wonderfully done. There’s so much to appreciate about what you’ve said, from a high-energy, funny and passionate post, to 18 solid hours of back and forth (and still going).
I think writers need to decide whether we are primarily going to be “artists” who survive on the largesse of “patrons” large or small, or “businesses” who learn how to make a profit or perish. Of course both aspects are involved, but I come down on the “business” side of affairs. The kind of writing I do lends itself to that, perhaps.
If we are “artistes,” then all this concern about being “supported” and wanting to educate others how to do that makes sense. Then we are asking people to act out of our interests rather than their own.
If we are “businesses,” on the other hand, then the desire to be “supported” is unseemly. We should focus instead on making a profit, and this involves primarily controlling the content and presentation of our “wares” to the consuming public. It’s what we do as business people that matters most. We can lobby, or we can talk about the way people should frame their purchases to maximize our support – that’s a consistent, if disgusting, way to do business in a crony capitalist society. But we should not be confused that it is “our” job to make people pay us for the work we do.
Used book stores are “secondary” markets. For the most part, the auto dealers don’t worry about used car lots, other than to try to get a piece of the action, and I suggest we should be the same. Secondary markets are inevitable – is there a way to profit from them? Well, yes, if you put a coupon, offer code, or advertisement in the back of your book.
I don’t know about pointing out and encouraging other people to seek out used bookstores. Does anyone really do that? The article writer was just making a buck or doing a job, but the question will ultimately be whether people want what the store offers. I’m glad to hear the store is around, myself. If people gather to read, there’s a better chance they’ll eventually find my books. They might actually discuss it with other people in the bookstore.
#102 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2015 - 10:39 am
EXCELLENT POINT. That is always the tug…artist versus capitalist.
#103 by Laura on December 30, 2015 - 10:37 am
I do love used bookstores, but the only time I buy used is when I can’t find a new or digital copy. I hate it when a book goes out of print. 😦
I need to send this post to my nephew…
#104 by Dena Alspach (@dena33) on December 30, 2015 - 11:02 am
Hells to the YEAH. Not many people really think about where and how they spend. I think that where you decide to put your money is like voting. You get to VOTE. You get to support specific people and/or businesses by standing up and waving your cash. I work with indie authors every single day and my mission is to teach readers why buying directly from authors is a powerful vote for the writers they love.
#105 by veldabrotherton on December 30, 2015 - 11:59 am
Rant on, Kristen. I completely agree. The only used books I buy are from writers who have passed on to the great library in the sky. And those who claim to read only paper books because of the smell or the feel or whatever, need to make sure they care enough about the author to buy new books. I prefer reading on my Kindle and buying digital books for my own consumption. Thanks for saying what needed to be said about this “stupid” attitude.
#106 by Collette Cameron on December 30, 2015 - 12:20 pm
I wish you could see me grinning and bouncing in my chair! Bravo!
I too love used bookstores, but only to find books I cannot locate anywhere else.
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to be part of a book signing with several other authors at a bookstore that about 3/4 used books and the rest new books and writing related products.
In the 3 1/2 hours I was there, I sold 2 books to other authors in a local writing group. Most of my sales do come from digital books, and while I’m not rich, I made enough in royalties in 2015 to stop teaching permanently and write full time.
I’m amazed, and more than a little ticked, how authors are portrayed as greedy because we expect to be paid for our hard work.
#107 by Sarah Brentyn on December 30, 2015 - 12:31 pm
I love used book stores. Also, there are many people who can’t afford new books and/or don’t have digital readers. I wish there was some way used book stores could exist for us nerds AND compensate the writer. That said, I buy as many new as I can.
There is a big difference between wanting to be a full-time paid writer of best-selling books and wanting to be paid to write. Some people just want their books read. Different people have different dreams. But I wholeheartedly agree with you about “exposure”. Writers should be paid. Period. It’s BS that we work for free. We do it. All the time, as you say, in many different ways. But it really is BS.
#108 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2015 - 2:47 pm
Make sure you write great reviews. If we can’t support writers with cash? There are other ways that are almost as awesome.
#109 by nancysegovia on December 30, 2015 - 1:05 pm
Absolutely one of your best blogs so far, and I loved Harlan. He didn’t mince any words did he?
Smiles and Happy New Year, Nancy
#110 by nancysegovia on December 30, 2015 - 1:06 pm
Reblogged this on Nancy Segovia and commented:
Be a professional – Get paid for your writing – Everyone else gets paid for their work, why not writers?
#111 by Renée Schafer Horton on December 30, 2015 - 1:18 pm
Excellent blog. I feel like we might be related. :-).
#112 by allisonbrennan on December 30, 2015 - 2:47 pm
Love you Kristen, but I don’t have a big problem with used book stores. Physical books have a finite life, meaning they can be read a limited number of times before they fall apart. The first buyer buys the actual physical book; it can not be copied (legally) or reproduced. It can be given away, it can be sold, it can be burned. But a physical book can only be read by one person at a time, while a digital book can be duplicated and illegally pirated a million times. Digital ebook piracy damages authors far more than used book stores. And they use all the same excuses — that they want to “try out” an author before they buy a book, that they don’t want to pay as much for a copy, etc., etc. I get a dozen google alerts a day with pirated copies of my books, of which I do not get paid, or alerts of people “looking” for a free digital copy. I send everything to my publisher, but as a friend told me, it’s like whack-a-mole. Get rid of one, two more pop up.
I do have a problem with Amazon selling used copies of books alongside new physical copies because often the used copies are cheaper and the seller is making money on the shipping (selling the book for 1 cent, and charging $3.99 for shipping, which at $4 is still cheaper than a $7.99 mass market.) To me, THAT is a HUGE problem because the new book is in direct competition with the used book and can’t really compete.
In the US, authors do NOT get paid every time a book gets checked out of the library, but I have no problem with libraries. They pay a premium for a physical book and that book has a shelf life of anywhere from 10-50 reads, depending on the format and the care given by the library and the readers. The book is bought, the author is paid royalties on the sale, and readers can legally borrow the book — they can’t keep or reproduce it.
Anyway, I agree with some of what you say — and yes, writers SHOULD get paid — but I think ebook piracy is far more detrimental to writers than used bookstores.
#113 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2015 - 4:01 pm
Well the ebook piracy is a whole other blog. But I guess what bugs me is this idea that just because there is a bookstore around writers are somehow benefitting. That isn’t necessarily the case. We have to explain to readers how to help us best and tell them that YES, feel free to go to that used bookstore. BUT, if you LOVE the book? PLEASE BUY SOMETHING NEW or we won’t be able to afford to keep writing.
BUT, I will say that pirates use the exact same argument. That people “discover” new writers and then they go PAY for copies. And they claim that since there is nothing PHYSICAL that nothing was actually LOST. And pirates actually enhance an author’s algorithms. I guess when I see that word “exposure” it is my trigger word 😛
#114 by Kate Sparkes on January 2, 2016 - 7:00 am
Some authors make that argument, too, and encourage piracy for those reasons.
Piracy will never NOT piss me off, discovery be damned. -_-
#115 by Scarlet Darkwood on December 30, 2015 - 4:33 pm
Try telling this to authors who say offering a first book in their series for free sells their other books. Authors claim they have no problem giving away their books for free, in hopes that someone will buy their other books.
Some publishers believe that free gets their authors in front of lots of people. Unfortunately, I don’t see authors stopping free anytime soon.
#116 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 30, 2015 - 4:37 pm
I don’t mind free if there is a strategy involved to SELL other things. But yeah. The free thing is getting old.
#117 by Scarlet Darkwood on December 30, 2015 - 4:44 pm
Won’t debate you there! I agree when will free end? I see indie and hybrid authors doing this much more.
#118 by Icy Sedgwick on December 30, 2015 - 6:01 pm
It’s funny, I was just having this conversation with a musician friend of mine, and we can’t understand where this “you can’t be paid for art, and if you want to be paid then you’re not making art, you’re a capitalist schmo” nonsense came from. Even wandering bards got food and lodgings in return for their skills. Don’t get me wrong, I love used book stores but nine times out of ten I’m going looking for academic books that are £70 USED on Amazon, or stuff that’s out of print. If it’s available for my Kindle, then I’ll buy it for my Kindle!!
#119 by Laura on December 31, 2015 - 12:02 am
I sent this post to my brother, mainly so he could see the Ellison video. He said he’d seen it before, years ago, on the blog of someone in his photography group. That person sent Ellison a check to pay for his use of the video in the blog post.
#120 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 31, 2015 - 12:32 am
LOL! I will totally do that! I like that idea 😀 . Thanks.
#121 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 31, 2015 - 12:35 am
You by chance have any idea how much he paid him? What is three minutes of him on video worth you think? I found a mailing address.
#122 by Laura on December 31, 2015 - 8:47 am
I’ll ask. 🙂
#123 by Laura on December 31, 2015 - 9:27 am
It was $25. He sent me the link to the blog post: http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2010/02/we-hear-from-harlan.html
#124 by kdrose1 on December 31, 2015 - 12:33 pm
I bet he loved that. Or knowing him, at least thought it fitting. LOL
#125 by Laura on January 1, 2016 - 2:12 pm
If you follow the link, you can see his response. The post includes the letter Ellison sent the blogger in thanks.
#126 by kdrose1 on January 1, 2016 - 2:14 pm
I see it! I knew it! I love that guy!
#127 by Ali Winters on December 31, 2015 - 12:27 am
Fantastic article. I couldn’t have said it better. The number of people that expect writers to work for free and do so much more for free is astounding. It’s the attitude of thinking that we should spend money for them to grant us the honor of reading our words.
#128 by Kate Sparkes on January 2, 2016 - 7:04 am
YES. “I demand a well-crafted book that you spent at least six months writing and editing. I demand that you have it professionally edited and proof-read and pay for gorgeous cover art so that I can’t tell the difference between it and something from a big publisher… What do you mean I have to PAY for it? I’m doing you a favour by reading your little book!”
#129 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 2, 2016 - 10:15 am
#130 by Simon on December 31, 2015 - 2:20 am
Hi Kristen, I get totaly what you’re saying. If you’re going to write a book to seel it needs to be treated like a business, as such there needs to be a business like attitude towards it. The problem is that many people seem to want stuff for free or cheap and even when I buy a book I think that they’re under priced.
But there was a greta deal of common sense in what you said – I hope you’re not hated at all for this. If you are then simply thay cannot take their broccoli lol.
I hope you had a good Christmas and look forward to keeping up with you in the new year. 🙂
#131 by Sanam Naseer on December 31, 2015 - 8:33 am
Definitely want to dress up like you! One word – agreed! Whatever you said. Hand on heart. Bravo!
#132 by noextrawords on December 31, 2015 - 10:50 am
Your point is interesting to ponder, but if you think used bookstore owners are living large off the profits, you’re crazy. Little used bookstore just opened up in my town, and when I go in there the proprietor (it’s always her, she doesn’t have staff,) is knitting hats to sell on Etsy so she can keep the lights on in the only bookstore that exists in this town. As a librarian it used to drive me nuts when writers would talk about libraries being evil because they cut into writer profits….try writing in a world without libraries or without a literary culture, see how many buyers you have then, with no one making sure the younger generation grows up reading books.
What really bothers me is when used bookstores sell advance reader copies….not sure how or why they think they can do that. We certainly would never use them as library copies.
Anyway, interesting blog, you definitely have a new follower.
#133 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 31, 2015 - 11:21 am
No I don’t think they are “raking in the dough.” But check out today’s post and you might see more of what I am talking about regarding the support of writers.
#134 by noextrawords on December 31, 2015 - 12:04 pm
Really interesting. I knew most of that structure, how a writer was paid, but not all of it. And your statement that the slush pile has been transferred to readers in this age of self publishing is spot on. But these times aren’t tough on just writers…they are tough on libraries, tough on small publishers and yes, tough on indie bookstores. We need each other, probably more now than ever.
#135 by conniecockrell on December 31, 2015 - 11:08 am
I saw that article in Passive Voice. Good points, ones I didn’t think all the way through. Keep up the good work.
#136 by wendyandcharles on December 31, 2015 - 1:13 pm
Reblogged this on Siefken Publications and commented:
This writer has said what many of us have fought for,through and learned along the way of becoming a writer. here is the first part.
#137 by N.E. Montgomery on December 31, 2015 - 1:40 pm
Loved this so much. I’ve spent a large part of my adult life broke, and, like another commenter, read ridiculously fast, so I’ve haunted my local second hand bookstore for years. I figured out about fifteen years ago that writers weren’t getting anything from my buying their book used, but there wasn’t yet another way to reward them, like leaving reviews.
Now with ebooks, I’m slowly (still often broke) replacing my paper copies with digital – better for the author, and for my arthritic hands.
My very favorite is when I find that the author got their rights back and is repubbing the books themselves – then I know they’re making a decent royalty!
Yes, I want the paper copies to go to someone who will read and enjoy them – and hopefully go on to buy more of that writers work. But, heavens, yes, I want the writer to make money. Where else is the motivation/ability to write more going to come from? I certainly didn’t read any attempt to shame used bookstore patrons in what you wrote – much more of a “be aware” and needed perspective corrective to an irrational bias in the original.
I see the agenda behind the original article along the lines of “buying books anywhere that isn’t Amazon is good” – ADS strikes again, sigh. And, yeah, it makes me both sad and mad to see other authors jumping on that bandwagon.
There’s room in the ecosystem for used bookstores, for libraries, for niche independent bookstores, *and* for Amazon. Why does it have to be either/or? I know which will help me make an actual living….
I’ll keep replacing my used copies with digital – you keep up the good fight. 😀
#138 by ecw0647 on December 31, 2015 - 2:13 pm
Rather than go after the used book market (and by inference libraries since the same problem exists there) you would be better to promote the elimination of paper books entirely and having all publishing move to digital where they cannot be loaned or resold, etc. Price them fairly low with a substantial royalty to the author and bring all out-of-print books back into print as digital works so then each sale will result in a royalty to the author or his/her estate and nothing would ever go out-of-print.
#139 by Karen Burns (@WorkingGIrl) on December 31, 2015 - 2:52 pm
Watched the video. I liked it. I liked it a lot.
#140 by kdrose1 on December 31, 2015 - 3:04 pm
Hey FYI in case you didn’t know, this blog entry got shared on The Passive Voice. Way to go!
#141 by Rochelle on December 31, 2015 - 4:04 pm
My dear, you hit the nail on the head. I’ve been a reader since childhood, wrote “anonymously” online for many years, but now I’m working on my first novel for publication as an indie author. I will need that paycheck. I will need funds, that go along with my current business to move from part-time writer to full-time writer. Used bookstores are wonderful places, but I agree like you, that writers need to be paid. I purchase titles all the time digitally and I like knowing that I’m helping someone else live their dream, while I gain a little downtime in my crazy world.
Wonderful and insightful article. Oh, by the way, I LOVED the video clip. Have a lovely New Year!
#142 by Heather on December 31, 2015 - 11:06 pm
I’m late to this post, but I wanted to comment. I think as a writer, you make very interesting points. I want to be paid for my work, and it’s important to know where we get paid.
But I’m an avid reader. And I know you said readers should stop reading, but I’m also an obsessive new book buyer, and, *gasp* a book purger. I know it’s hard to believe, how can we ever part with our books? But I can, I do, and I only keep books I want to reread. I feel that books were meant to be read, not just sit in collections on shelves.
So, in light of your used bookstore arguments. What am I to do with my books? I lend them out, I donate them to libraries, sell them at garage sales and occasionally sell them to used book stores. But, it must be said, most of my books were purchased new. I won’t be a hoarder, I have no room to create a library, and it’s why I switched to digital. So, what is the solution?
#143 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 31, 2015 - 11:23 pm
Buy books new, but only the books that MATTER. We have to earn the sale ;). Write REVIEWS. Reviews are INCREDIBLY helpful to authors.
#144 by Diane D. on January 3, 2016 - 6:07 pm
Point 1: You didn’t answer her question (the same question I planned to post): What should a reader to do with newish books that they don’t want to (or can’t, for lack of space) keep to re-read?
You seem to say that used book stores should be mainly for books that have gone out of print, but if once-read books aren’t put into a secondary market, there won’t be any “next generation” of used-&-OoP, because they’ll have been destroyed! (Should we ship them back to the authors, to be resold “by hand”? Ridiculous!)
There’s no current way used-booksellers could realistically give royalties to every author whose book they resell, especially library sales where prices usually top out at about $2. The idea of their hosting signings, etc., is pleasing, but what percentage of authors would actually be given those opportunities?
2nd point: I’m a big re-reader, so (unlike Heather) I have tons of books in paper, including some both as MMPB, and HC or TPB (especially omnibuses). Now I’m also gradually acquiring my favorites in digital, *BUT* I have nightmares that someday Amazon is going to make so many enemies, and skew their profit model so far, that they crash and burn, costing me all my Kindle investment and losing all my beloved (and TBR!) e-content, derezzed into the metaphorical ether or locked behind encryption!
So, point 2b: While there’s no way I can afford to buy as much as I read at anywhere near full price, I’m NOT going to stop buying from used bookstores. I’m more likely to buy *something* at or near a reasonable retail price from an author who has already given me entertainment value, such as a free online story and/or books I’ve read from the library or used book store.
(I’ve been posting more reviews lately, but middle-of-the-road reads I often just give a star-rating, saving the bother of formulating an actual review for when I either love or hate a story, or have a particular criticism or question I feel is worth sharing.)
Point 3: I, too, devoutly hope that the big publishers will soon realize that they’re doing nothing but antagonizing would-be buyers when they price e-books as high as not just paperbacks, but *trade* paperbacks, even though there are no physical materials and handling to justify it.
#145 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 3, 2016 - 6:37 pm
Point One: Donate and resell them. I have no problem with used books at all. I am only saying that if you find a book/author you love, be aware and try to buy something new (a digital or a paper title) so the author is making money to keep writing more books).
I think used bookstores could get creative. I am actually really good at creative business models but unfortunately there really is no reason for the current stores to change. As the article mentioned, the profit margin is high with used books.
BUT, if a bookstore wanted to get creative it would have to go through smaller publishers and indie publishers because traditional large houses likely won’t bite.
Kristen’s MADE UP EXAMPLE:
But say a reader buys a used copy of Fifi Fluffernutter’s mystery by Runaway Press. Now, Runaway Press is a small traditional press who is listening to Kristen Lamb and they work WITH bookstores and have developed the LAMBAPP…or LAPP, so you can LAPP up all the books you want.
When the clerk rings up Fifi’s book, an icon pops up and the clerk says:
Wait, it says here that Fifi’s newest mystery “My Husband’s Mistress’s Body” is available for $2.99 in any format you like. Would you like to go ahead and get that as well to go with “I Think That Deadbeat is Cheating With That Skank?” This IS Book TWO. Your purchase supports the writer and the book store *cute face* In fact, we can help you download our app. You will get all kinds of discounts and new digital books from our authors to go with your paper purchases! 😀
But the thing is, it will take changing the old way of doing business. The only way to get them to change the way they do business is to educate consumers.
By using an app like this the bookstore gets advertising, the customer gets more books at a discounted price and the publishers can offer a commission to the bookstores for selling new books. EVERYONE WINS.
But, unless people like me are willing to be unpopular and speak up and tip some sacred cows? There is no incentive to do business differently.
Point Two: Life is risky. Even in paper there is risk. I have moved and lost entire BOXES. If you can’t afford to buy books, then offer reviews or maybe tweet or post on your social media regarding something you love an author has written. It helps us sell books. Or, feel fee to e-mail us and send a donation. Tips are appreciated.
Point 3: The e-book pricing is ridiculous. But this is why I am trying to educate consumers in ways they can support writers they love. The notion of whether or not the big publishers “support writers” is moot. They are a business and whether we writers like it or not, we are replaceable. It isn’t good or bad or evil. It’s business.
I hope I properly answered your questions or I am REALLY dense :D. Thanks for the thoughtful response!
#146 by thewriteedge on January 1, 2016 - 2:20 am
Proof once again of why Kristen is awesome. :>
#147 by Nadine Feldman (@Nadine_Feldman) on January 1, 2016 - 9:58 am
Thank you for this powerful and necessary post…and great video, too!!!
Years ago, when I wrote and self-published my first book, I couldn’t believe the number of people who wanted me to give it to them…people who could well afford to buy a copy.
I feel resistance from some of my writer friends when I want to talk about how to make more money. It’s as though we’re somehow sullying our art if we want to earn a living making it. As an indie author, I invest in my work…editors, cover designers, marketing, writing conferences and books, etc. And that doesn’t include the time I spend writing and revising! I’m not going to apologize for wanting to be profitable.
Whenever I see an artist of any type — writer, visual artist, musician, etc. — who’s working hard and doing good work, I make it a point to buy from them. I know not everyone can afford to do that, but if I like the work, I write a good review and mention them on Facebook or in my blog…which costs nothing.
#148 by Elise M. Stone on January 1, 2016 - 11:57 am
What really blew me away was walking into the local indie mystery book store and seeing used copies of a book shelved right next to new copies. You’d think if anyone would understand the used versus new problem, it would be an indie books store.
#149 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 1, 2016 - 12:26 pm
But this is what bothers me. Bookstores are sacred cows. They benefit from associating with us (writers), but then when we ask for help? *crickets* It reminds me of politicians. They ALL want to be associated with soldiers. They all want the photo op with the kid coming home from Afghanistan. They will wave a flag and say they support troops because THEY BENEFIT FROM THAT ASSOCIATION. It gets votes. But then, when the soldier needs help? That same politician who used soldiers to get votes cuts VA funding to sport other financially beneficial projects.
#150 by ecw0647 on January 1, 2016 - 8:24 pm
You must subscribe to the myth of the indie store being there to support authors. Not true. They are in business to make money and with the markup on used books being often 400% they make more money on used books than new ones. You’ll also find that indie bookstores are chain wanna-bes. Their primary interest is in building traffic into the store and the way to do that is by supporting name-authors. Their revenue comes from readers, not authors. Hence the discounts, sales, and promotions of the heavy-weights. Local authors are usually just a pain for them because, unless the author has a lot of relatives, they are unknowns. It’s a tragic reality.
#151 by Anya Kelleye on January 1, 2016 - 2:05 pm
Love this! Being a part of the writing world for several years as a cover artist, I have heard lots of writers complaining not making any money and it does boil down to not respecting themselves enough to get paid for what they do. As a soon to be published author myself, this is good to think on as I start my foray into the wonderful world of writing for profit. Thank you for this thought provoking post, Kristen!
#152 by Robert on January 1, 2016 - 2:55 pm
In the Elvis Presley movie “Loving You”, the town bully presses Elvis to sing for his girl. After the requisite musical number, Elvis confronts the guy to pay up in kind (car repair or something) since he doesn’t sing for free. Key fight scene. There was a homage to the scene in the 1988 movie “Heartbreak Hotel.”
Some things never change.
#153 by waterrose on January 1, 2016 - 9:34 pm
Well I am stalking your blog now and you may see me over and over in your comments. I had no clue, or perhaps just never gave it a thought who got the money from used book sales. After reading your post I am dumbfounded as to why writers would be cheering for the Huffington article. I think that educating consumers is the key. I have read all my life, voraciously, and never knew the pay structure for authors. All one really hears as a reader is that the writer got an “advance” of thousands of dollars. I think most readers probably don’t know the truth and I think most would care that writers were paid fairly. Perhaps there needs to be a marketing campaign, including as many writers as possible to begin educating readers. Instead of dropping my books off at the used bookstore, or sending them to goodwill, I just sent several boxes of paperback books to a women’s prison. Now I will link this on my Facebook page…since my blog isn’t ready to post this back to.
#154 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 2, 2016 - 1:03 am
Stalk away! I ❤ stalkers 😀
#155 by Stephan J Harper on January 2, 2016 - 5:08 am
Please…don’t get me started. Harlan Ellison is RIGHT. And you know why? Because the amateurs are ruining everything about this business. There was a MAJOR online (& international) To-Do when I dared to refute, with a point-by-point counter-argument, the deliberate takedown of my first MultiTouch Fiction novel “Venice Under Glass” by a professional reviewer (yeah, google my name and see the shit I went through); the commenters were angry that I dared speak, so covetous they were of any mention whatsoever. And these were ‘writers’ (sent over from that notorious cesspool of cyber-bullying, http://www.absolutewrite.com) who weren’t interested in WHAT I was saying, preferring to call be drunk or deranged and having a meltdown after I presented well-reasoned, considered responses to all-comers. A well-reasoned, considered response can still be debated; but engaging substantively…well, apparently that was too much to ask for the so-called writer with their little vampire-in-space TRILOGY, first volume free, doncha know, 99 cents for the latest installment…for crissakes, you got me started! And yes, MultiTouch Fiction IS a brand new genre (see my WordPress site).
#156 by Kate Sparkes on January 2, 2016 - 7:46 am
Man. The number of commenters on Passive Voice who COMPLETELY missed your point and think you’re saying used bookstores are bad is mind-blowing. The point I took from this is that we AS WRITERS should support the business models that support writers over those that don’t give a damn whether we make money or starve. Every business is out to make money for itself, and that’s perfectly fine. Used bookstores do it by selling used or remaindered books, because that’s how they make money. Amazon does it by selling new and used books, many of which authors get paid for. That’s how they make money. I know which it makes sense for me to promote and celebrate the successes of.
I have no problem with used bookstores. They’re great for readers, and I have no problem with anyone shopping there. But damned if I’m going to share an ADS-laden celebrating them as though they’re better for “literary culture” than Amazon is.
Don’t crap in the hand that pays your mortgage.
#157 by Kate Sparkes on January 2, 2016 - 7:47 am
*ADS-laden article. I should NOT be editing today.
#158 by lucypaigeauthor on January 2, 2016 - 7:53 pm
Thanks for the rant, its a great article 🙂
I am fairly new in the world of self publishing and have felt a lot of pressure to put my books on Amazon and Smashwords for free.
I know a lot of writers say that it helps to put the first in the series on free, but why should we have to that?
The lowest price I have is 99c and that is as low as I want to go. Am I losing readership by doing this????
I don’t expect others, even friends with businesses to work for me for free, so why is it expected of writers?
It is definitely food for thought as I continue down the self pub path.
I am about to read Rise of the machines 🙂 and hope to do a few of your workshops in the near future. My life right now is all about connecting with my readers and other writers so we can support each other.
#159 by Simone Chalkley on January 3, 2016 - 7:51 am
I totally respect your stance on wanting to be paid for your work. It really is a no-brainer. I think the problem lies with buying things from Amazon. I, for one have been boycotting them for a long time, simply because they don’t pay enough corporate tax. Even though they changed their ways a little in 2015 by paying ‘some’ tax, they are still not paying enough. This is happening worldwide as far as I can see from my little bit of research this morning before commenting on here!
I do buy new books too, just so you know 🙂
#160 by ecw0647 on January 3, 2016 - 8:18 pm
@Simone. This is kind of a bizarre statement. Why should any person or corporation pay more tax than is required by law? I’m sure you don’t, nor does any corporation I know of. Why should Amazon be any different? Your complaint should be with the legislature or Congress not a company or person simply availing themselves of tax breaks. If you refer to the issue of Amazon not collecting state sales tax, that’s another legislative issue. State laws (at least in Illinois and most states I am familiar with) do not require corporations to collect state sales tax if they do not have a facility in their state. The law DOES require that you, as an individual, pay state sales tax on purchases you make online, but it’s never enforced, hence the requirement that companies collect it for you and remit to the state. Note that most state legislatures have now closed that loophole and are collecting that state sales tax for you.
#161 by Simone Chalkley on January 3, 2016 - 8:38 pm
I am in the UK and even though the law changed recently(ish) in May 2015 Amazon UK only paid around £11.4 million in tax on £5 billion profits. I don’t think it is bizarre to boycott a company when they don’t pay their fair share of corporation tax and nor do quite a few thousand or maybe even a million UK residents. It might be different in the US and in different states, but they are still taking the p*ss over here!
#162 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 3, 2016 - 8:53 pm
That’s fine. There are other on-line retailers you can use to buy new. Kobo, Apple, B&N, etc. Writers shouldn’t be punished for UK tax law.
#163 by ecw0647 on January 3, 2016 - 8:54 pm
But even in the UK, isn’t your ire misdirected? Why should anyone pay more than required? I’m sure Amazon pays every penny required by your government but not a penny more and why should they? The government sets the tax rates. Can you name any corporation that pays a “fair” share? I can’t in any country. They all get tax breaks.
#164 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 3, 2016 - 9:02 pm
What does that have to do with the price of eggs in Norway? If we keep buying used books writers don’t get a new contract and they have to go back to working retail. What does that have to do with tax law? Buy wherever you want. Hell, buy used from church sales, but when that writer goes back to teaching and the only books left are 50 Shades Knock Offs with typos. NO COMPLAINING.
Buy from the AUTHOR at a conference. Buy at a bookstore. Buy directly from an independent retailer. My ire is directed at writers who complain about not making any money and then who advertise thrift stores because that is just simply BAD business.
That would be like being a realtor sharing blogs about how AWESOME it is to do For Sale By Owner and how realtors are a bunch of bloodsucking leeches (when only a week ago I was complaining I wasn’t making any commissions from selling HOUSES).
#165 by Naomi on January 3, 2016 - 2:16 pm
I understand how you feel but as a person who only has a pension I rely on secondhand books. I search market stalls, charity shops. etc As ebooks and audio books become the norm people such as I will find it harder and harder to read authors I like. There are, of course, always thousand of copies of books by authors I don’t want. I do use the local library. Businesses selling secondhand books on-line through Amazon etc could easily include a authors premium but I don’t see how else it would work.
#166 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 3, 2016 - 2:27 pm
Well Hon as I said , READERS are excused. Writers who want to continue writing for a living are unwise to promote used bookstores without educating readers how they are paid. It’s just unsound business 😊. And leaving a review can generate sales for writers you love so there IS that 😀.
#167 by Belle on January 3, 2016 - 8:07 pm
I had an online used bookstore for several years that I used to fund
Book shipments to active military and VA hospitals through a non-profit umbrella group operationpaperback.org. Then I got very sick and discovered the majority of my customers were dropshippers from Amazon. – who had unreasonable expectations and were shits making money off my labor (I sold on half.com where the small seller is invisible) Once I blocked the worst of them, I was apparently blacklisted, so I closed my store and began donating my books that were taking up a room of space and were weatherproofing walls.
At the same.time, I began requesting ebooks through my free library loan system. I always try to let authors know I do this on Twitter. I don’t Facebook – too sexist in my opinion. I just wanted you to know that I appreciate your craft (I minored. In Book Publishing in College) and want All artist to get their fair share.
Happy and prosperous 2016
#168 by Harold Rhenisch on January 3, 2016 - 9:02 pm
One thing about used bookstores is that they allow writers to access books forgotten by all library systems, including university library systems, especially books written in languages other than English. Is it compensation for not getting paid? No, not at all. But it’s vitally important, because public libraries are largely bestseller and popular culture distribution centres, and university libraries are largely distributors of current academic fashions. They both, however, claim to be centres of cultural memory. They are and they are not. They are certainly not without huge, gaping holes. Used bookstores fill some of those holes. They are precious, for that alone. I believe this is an issue separate from the non-payment problem. Without traditions, without memory, writers are scarcely conscious. I believe it is that disconnect from memory that has lead to many of the problems you accurately describe. Best, Harold
#169 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 3, 2016 - 9:14 pm
Believe me, I KNOW they are important. And trust me, they get PLENTY of my money. But we also need to make consumers aware to please take it the next step. If that writer is STILL writing? AND you love his or her work? Please support that writer because exposure is useless unless eventually someone puts up cold hard CASH.
#170 by Steven Hutson on January 4, 2016 - 1:20 am
I suppose I have a different perspective here. Used bookstores are great places for readers to discover new authors. Which is very good for authors.
#171 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 4, 2016 - 4:29 am
No, never said it wasn’t a great place to discover writers. I said. discovery without an eventual SALE is useless. Discovery alone doesn’t do writers any good.
#172 by Grant on January 4, 2016 - 1:48 pm
Do you know which books I send to a used bookstore? The ones I don’t like. If I really love a book I’m going to hold on to it. As such, I actually very rarely buy books used (other than textbooks, because who wants to buy a book that costs over $100?) because if someone else didn’t like it enough to keep it, why would I want to buy it?
If I happen to buy a used book and I enjoy it, then odds are that I will buy some of their new stuff when it comes out. If I don’t enjoy it, then the author is out a single sale. I recognize single sales will add up, but I’m back to the point that this only happens if the book isn’t that good.
It’s all supply and demand. Frankly if a book is good enough then the demand will be high and sales will be high and there will be very few books left for the used book stores.
#173 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 4, 2016 - 2:04 pm
Not always the case. People move. People like me transition from paper to digital. I donate and sell books all the time. As I said, no problem at all with discovery. But discovery with no sale means nothing. And the same folks who bitch to me that NY is just publishing crap are the same ones who act like I asked for a kidney when I suggest buying new.
#174 by Grant on January 4, 2016 - 2:19 pm
So how is discovery through a library different than discovery through a used bookstore? In both cases there was one original purchase of a book, and then it’s done. Granted in certain places they have programs where libraries will pay additional royalties, but in either case you’re looking at multiple people reading a book that was only paid for once.
If someone only ever buys used books I could support your point, but if I choose not to buy more books by the author it’s either because I really didn’t care for the book or I can’t possibly afford it.
I really believe that if someone enjoys an author’s work, they will be supporting it. If not immediately, then in the future with other works by the author.
#175 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 4, 2016 - 2:45 pm
That’s fine. That is all I am saying. I only mentioned libraries because I was explaining how authors are PAID.
Used is fine. All I am saying is if you LIKE the author and want more, buy new or that author may not be able to continue writing. And that could be something as simple as a digital download of the next in the series. But if NO ONE ever buys new? Well, someone has to or go check out pictures of Cuba 🙂 .
And the post was to chastise writers for promoting posts that vilify our two greatest revenue streams. If we post articles claiming Amazon and digital are the Great Satan, friends and family are going to assume that they should steer clear and go buy a used paper copy to “support” us.
#176 by EvaR on January 18, 2016 - 4:43 pm
You mean you’ve never been cleaning and realized you accidentally somehow ended up with like 4 copies of a book you really like because you couldn’t remember if you left it at your ex’s or if you loaned it out or left it in a box or something and wanted to read it again?
#177 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 18, 2016 - 4:53 pm
Oh hon I have multiple copies of everything! I need a 12 STEP PROGRAM. That was why the post wasn’t for readers. I was pissed off at writers promoting an article that was bashing the two best ways they got paid. The article as acting like writers got paid off purchases at used and that isn’t at all true. And yes, exposure and all that is great…BUT they just spent most of the article throwing those retailers under the bus. So then how does that exposure help a writer? It doesn’t. We will starve. If the article had NOT bashed Amazon and digital, no problems from me. But it keeps egging on this paper vs digital war and the major casualty is the author.
And then WRITERS of all people were promoting it. I was all WTH??? NO! STOP! What are you DOING?
#178 by Stephanie Scott (@StephScottYA) on January 4, 2016 - 1:51 pm
Great article. I had similar thoughts to that article when I saw it posted online; but I was only on twitter scant amounts over the holidays to give myself a break. The Wil Wheaton challenge to HuffPo was GOLDEN. I loved that he used his platform to call them out. My long-time favorite Entertainment Weekly started doing that and the quality of their site has plummeted. I still read the hardcopy because those are paid writers. When you field content from unpaid writers, you get what you pay for. That is not a dis to a beginning writer trying to score “exposure” but that it is doing no favor to that writer to post a sloppy, barely edited piece on a major entertainment site. All it makes me do is avoid their online content.
#179 by Patricia, Room With Books on January 4, 2016 - 8:17 pm
Reblogged this on Room With Books and commented:
This is the most incredible, albeit occassionally *loud*, post on the truth about supporting yourself as a writer that I have ever seen. Writers and readers, please take a read, and keep an open mind when you do. It might do everybody some good!
#180 by aurorajeanalexander on January 4, 2016 - 9:16 pm
Reblogged this on Writer's Treasure Chest and commented:
I think this is an important article for many authors. Kristen Lamb is talking about paying the writer right. I’m sure spreading word about this is quite a good thing to do.
#181 by Balzac Junior on January 5, 2016 - 10:53 am
Obscurity, unimaginativeness, and poor writing skills are far more dangerous to writers than used bookstores. And nothing will ever stop the torrent of writers that exist. Nothing. Not lack of money, not ill health, not war, only (briefly) a planet wide catastrophe. As the quote says, most novels ( and books in general I think) don’t live as long a the average cat.
Be happy you got paid the first time, like toys, furniture, houses, dvds, etc. You want to make more money? Write another book, and make it better next time.
#182 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 5, 2016 - 12:46 pm
No argument here on the writing but those plague writers who are yet to be published more often than not. “Be happy you got paid the first time.” Ok. But try not promoting articles that BASH your greatest sources of revenue. That is bad business. With bookstores going away and paper becoming rarer? That is a good way to not even get paid the first time.
#183 by CathyClamp on January 6, 2016 - 7:59 am
I normally love your posts and, in fact, Shared the follow-up to this post as one that could have come out of my own keyboard. But there are some small nagging things wrong with this one that made me respond. First, please, PLEASE don’t perpetuate the term “traditional publisher”. It’s an annoying derogatory term to many. The preferred term is “trade” publisher. I won’t get on a soapbox about the term, but the implication to “traditional” is old, stodgy, and out of touch. None of that is true–at least as far as the people involved. Have the courtesy to honor the people and simply use NY publishers or trade publishers, when comparing to self publishers or subsidy publishers.
Now, first, please know I’m a hybrid author. I work with big small and self to make a living. I’ll have to first disagree with you about digital prices for trade pubs. The concept that a book should somehow ignore the work put in just because it’s in digital form really irks me. No, there’s no paper, ink, storage or delivery costs. But there are still editors, copy editors, proofreaders, artists, receptionists, and accounting folks that would really like to get their paycheck on time, plus payroll taxes, equipment to lease or buy, rooms to meet and work in, etc.
Self-published authors don’t have to worry about those costs as part of every book copy sold. Subsidy publishers get that money up front from the authors (check out a place that keeps popping up on my Facebook feed called Bookfuel dot com to drop your jaw–monthly payments FROM the author of $99 for a mere 2 years and you too can be a published author!) Used stores aren’t the problem. Libraries aren’t the problem. The real problem that I see is that there are less readers. I hate that it’s a fact, but it’s true.
I can count on two hands the people where I live that read for pleasure. More people are moving to video or gaming or simply reading posts on Facebook or Twitter as their SOLE means of reading. But, loyal readers (like me) still spend a ton of money and yes, I do buy new when I can. I have a lot of friends who are authors and I try to support them (which means I unfortunately can’t leave reviews in several places…a different rant for a different day) I also appreciate your follow-up post that explains the process of paying the author, but it neglects one important fact: Bookstores aren’t required under their contracts with trade publishers to even REPORT how many books have been sold of an author for 4-12 months. Even in this digital age where every point of sale register ring is known to the store by the next morning, B&N, Amazon and others before them don’t have to pay the publisher until it’s half a year later.
That includes electronic copies for some unknown reason. The fact that trade publishers (or at least good ones) up-front an advance to the author is something of a gift when they have no clue how much money they’re going to get in the next year. I agree the system needs fixing, but it’s not used stores’ fault, nor libraries. I get institutional (library) sales on all my books. The big problem is that libraries require hardback copies, even if the book is a mass market original. Electronic is helping, thankfully, for those libraries that participate in the technology. Not all, and especially rural libraries, can afford to, though.
Sorry for posting my own tome, but I needed to add my voice. Ultimately, I love used stores because the owners are champions of promotion. They LOVE books. Ask a small used store owner if they’ll hand out promo stuff of new books and they’ll almost always say yes. Ask if they’ll consign a local author at full price, and they’ll often say yes. They’ll host signings and talk up an author’s books. They’re good stewards and I love them to pieces. In communities that big box stores have determined aren’t worth their time to open a store (there isn’t a single bookstore within 50 miles of my home) they fill an important niche and often sell new alongside of used. Love them and awesome librarians both!
#184 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 6, 2016 - 9:01 am
First of all, I broke up your text so people can more easily read your comment and thank you and—OOPS—will adjust to “trade” publisher accordingly. And I get why NY needs to price e-books higher but why is it my problem that they are not doing good business?
Here’s my beef. Every other industry that wants to make money makes sacrifices. They reduce overhead. They streamline. They find other sources of revenue. Other income streams.
First of all, a few years ago when they found out authors could actually make MONEY with their backlists self-publishing them, they went in and greedily grabbed up all the rights and then sat on them.
Many of these authors had no interest in being self-pubs. These publishers could have outsourced that work to OKC for little to no cost and created digital only lines and POD and had a totally different revenue stream for them AND their authors. They didn’t. Why? Because they are PROTECTING Barnes & Noble…not the author. Protecting PAPER. If those lines were successful it wouldn’t fit their narrative that people want paper and love browsing bookstores instead of on-line.
Why are TRADE publishers in the digital age still insisting on doing business in NYC where real estate is the HIGHEST IN THE WORLD? This isn’t 1980. People can hop on a plane. They can meet on Skype. They can use my virtual classrooms if they liked to have a meeting. Why is it the author’s problem that NYC doesn’t reduce costs and overhead like every other business that desires to remain competitive?
Why are AUTHORS footing the bill for NYC rent and Manhattan office space? And if authors don’t mind doing that then fine, but then when that cost is offloaded to a reader and they don’t want to pay that don’t complain.
And I don’t have any problem with used bookstores and this is what is consistently being missed. I have a problem with authors being bad business people. Do not share links that bash digital books and on-line retailers and insinuate ANYTHING in paper is beneficial because I worked sales and I can tell you it is VERY easy to confuse customers. We tend to hear only half the sentence.
What will then happen is your book will come out and the regular people in your following…what will they remember? Amazon BAD. Digital BAD. Used GOOD. So unless you happen to follow up and ASK for a sale and let them know you are not paid that way? Sharing that stuff could shoot you in the foot. That is all.
I love used bookstores. Spend way too much money there. But I can’t eat Exposure Sandwiches.
#185 by Eric on January 6, 2016 - 9:17 am
Couple of comments: “Traditional” or “legacy” is far more descriptive than “NY” or “trade” since those appellations ignore university presses and many large publishers who thrive outside NY and who represent a substantial part of the market for printed books.
Libraries don’t “require” hardcovers. Every library I’ve patronized, including university and college libraries, often purchase trade paperbacks, mass market paperbacks, audiobooks, etc., and now ebooks. I regret that most university libraries remove the dust jackets which eliminates a significant marketing opportunity not to mention dismisses the work of cover artists and designers.
The number of people reading for pleasure has increased dramatically since the 1940’s. See http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/the-next-time-someone-says-the-internet-killed-reading-books-show-them-this-chart/255572/. Not to mention that lots of people read for information which can be quite pleasurable. It’s not just novels that can be fun to read.
Writers should know the difference between “less” and “fewer.”
Librarians, in my experience, remain the best promoters of authors even though libraries only rarely pay MSRP for books.
People who want to support authors should purchase ebooks. More of the revenue from ebooks goes to authors, and they can’t be given away or resold encouraging more purchases that result in royalties.
#186 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 6, 2016 - 10:01 am
I think what BURNED me about that article was the bashing of digital. IF they were “Here the reader can discover an author and then maybe get a new digital copy or a new paperback” NO bitch from me. But they tossed our greatest revenue streams under the bus and insinuated writers benefited financially from used.
I think I will go with “legacy” LOL. Thanks 😀 .
#187 by CathyClamp on January 6, 2016 - 12:04 pm
@Kristen: Sorry for the lack of line breaks. I’ve commented on some blogs that the moment you hit “return” it posts the comment instead of breaking the text. Thank you for fixing it! 😀
@eric: I do know the difference between “less” and “fewer”. I was writing at 5:30 in the morning on an iPad and missed it. Oops.
But how are university presses NOT “trade”? They sell books to the public for a profit. It’s a business, albeit a part of their business instead of the primary. I stand firm on “trade” for myself. I consider “legacy” even more insulting, personally. But… Not worth snarking about.
You’ll note I said Librarians rock. I believe they do.
Back @Kristen: I don’t have an answer of why the companies remain in NYC. You raise good points. But the office space is only one part of the equation. I was appalled at the low salary many of the editorial staff makes for the time spent and duties required. I don’t begrudge people earning a living off my work along with me. It’s the primary reason why I haven’t gone off on my own totally.
I have nothing but love for those who choose to self-pub. I don’t choose that path because the publishing side mean I can’t write as much as I would like.
Yes, authors should be paid. I get paid a decent salary from my books, even though I still have to work a day job to pay the month-to-month bills because of the timing of checks. It would be nice to get a monthly check instead of semi-annual. Absolutely. Or even in the alternative, I would love to get enough of an advance up front that I could dole out a good salary to myself over a year. The trick is that I have to write a good enough book to interest enough readers to buy enough books to justify the expense. That’s on me. I have to be good enough. All of us authors like to think we are. We like to believe that it’s just a matter of someone else doing something else and everything would be fixed. But there are authors making a living. A fair number of them. So I have to take it upon myself to write better, stronger, more interesting, in order to get the word of mouth to sell more books. Only then, when I have a book everyone wants, can I have room to argue about the rest of the institutions in the mix.
But again, that’s just me. Results will vary. 😀
#188 by Eric on January 6, 2016 - 4:57 pm
Hi Cathy: I didn’t mean to be snarky. Less and fewer is one of my pet peeves along with misuse of I and me. Too much Latin and Greek.
By definition “trade” books are “a book published by a commercial publisher and intended for general readership.” University presses have never been considered trade books in the publishing world and almost all lose money and have tiny print runs, sometimes less than 500.
The words “traditional” and “legacy” have no intrinsic pejorative meaning and I certainly don’t intend them as such. If you ascribe a negative meaning to the word I suspect it’s a personal thing rather than general, but to each his own.
#189 by CathyClamp on January 6, 2016 - 5:27 pm
I could get behind “commercial publisher” instead of traditional or legacy. There’s actually a very good description here: http://sydney.edu.au/research_support/performance/herdc/commercial_publisher.shtml
The definition, as they use it, specifically includes university presses, but excludes:
1) companies that are hired only to print or distribute a book, but bear no responsibility for the editing process or take no risk in choosing to publish; or
2) companies that publish books but sub-contract printing and/or distribution thus having no responsibility for the entire publishing process.
#190 by Catherine on January 6, 2016 - 3:56 pm
I appreciate your rants. Half of the problem is most writers do not understand the publishing process or economics. Supply and demand. If the used bookstores keep supplying the same title cheaper than new, no one will buy a new one. Writers only get paid for sales since that is all the publisher can track. I think the beauty/culture of used bookstores can also be found in many public libraries. And, as you pointed out, they track the usage of their books and authors benefit. Thanks!
#191 by Missy on January 6, 2016 - 4:11 pm
If actors get royalties for reruns, why don’t authors get at least a partial royalty for a used sale? Sounds like there needs to be a shake up in the industry.
#192 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 6, 2016 - 4:24 pm
Probably because paper wears out. I’ve never minded used books, but it WOULD be cool for a used book to add Fair Trade Fiction sections. Great! You saved a bunch and got five books for $5. Now support continuing work of the authors you love HERE. 😀
#193 by pocketnaomi on January 7, 2016 - 4:17 am
Now you have me envisioning a new model for a used-and-new bookstore. I think it solves most of the problems you rightly bring up. I have no idea whether it could survive economically, but it’d be fun to try. The rules of the place are as follows:
1) Used availability (otherwise known as browsing stock) consists of the following: books which are already in public domain. Books which are not currently in print. And books which are placed there by the author, out of that stock they’re trying to sell on their own, on a consignment basis.
2) For the consignment books, the fee varies based on how good the placement is. At highest, it hits a fixed maximum which still allows the author, pricing their books in line with what others in their field bring in, to earn a profit on each book that sells. (Pricing, as with most consignment arrangements, is at the discretion of the author.) At lowest, the consignment fee is zero… the bookstore reserves a section of their consignment-book space for new authors the store thinks are good, and features their books there for a while at no fee. If they sell, the author keeps the full price. The writers in that section do pay for the space, however — by doing a reading of their work at the store, sometime during the time their book is featured.
3) Any book which does not fall into the categories listed in #1 ARE NOT sold used at this store.
4) They are, however, available in print-on-demand form; especially the other books written by authors who have used (out of print) or feature books on the shelves.
5) There is a 5% rebate from any book purchase if you can prove you wrote a review of it on a relevant website, afterward. Same goes if anyreferences you as the person who recommended the book they’re buying.
Like I said, I have no idea whether the bookstore could survive, but it’d be fun to give it a shot. 🙂
#194 by Eric on January 7, 2016 - 9:48 am
@187 Interesting thought, but I have a couple of comments:
1. Thanks to Disney, the 1978 Copyright Law mandates that a books stays in copyright until 70 years after the death of the author and that can be renewed by the author’s estate. Practically, what that means is that the only books in this public Domain section will be Dickens and almost everything published before 1923. Unfortunately, not much of a market there and most is available for free online. (http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ15a.pdf – read the section on the effect of the law on books already in copyright.)
2. All new bookstores operate on a consignment basis for new books, i.e. you order the books from the publishers with the right to return what you don’t sell. Usually that number is as high as 70%. Consignment for individual authors can be a record-keeping nightmare and every bookstore I’ve talked to won’t even consider taking a book on consignment unless they get a 40% discount off the list price. Given an author the full price when his/her book sells will cost you a lot of time and money. You have to make money to stay in business. Some really nice bookstores will offer space for local authors to sell books on their own, but always want something for their time and efforts.
3. I remember sending students to buy books at a local bookstore. Unfortunately, the nice ladies that ran the bookstore refused to buy or order books they didn’t approve of (Abie Hoffman was one author). They lost customers quickly and now it’s a coffee shop. I applaud your zeal in wishing not to stock books that don’t meet your restrictive criteria, but the most likely result will be to piss off customers. Self-defeating; you have to stay in business to accomplish your goals.
4. Just because a book is out-of-print does not mean it is out-of-copyright and before you can print on demand (are you doing this locally with an Espresso Book Machine? – about $70,000 – $100,000) the book has to be in digital form and you have to have the rights to reprint it. Getting the rights can be a nightmare. We had to do it for a textbook at my college and it took two years and multiple letters and phone calls to get the rights to reprint 20 copies of one book that was out-of-print.
5. Do you rebate 5% for a really bad review? How about a mediocre one? Sounds like a receipe to make people mad.
#195 by pocketnaomi on January 7, 2016 - 10:48 am
Thanks; some of these I knew and had factored in already and some I didn’t. Either way, it’s an interesting thought experiment to figure out where the holes are in the system, because if it’s not possible to create a functioning author-friendly used bookstore then the model is broken altogether and we may want to put some political pressure into getting them differently regulated to force that to change. If it could be done, then it’s simply an individual choice of higher profits and shadier practices over lower-but-still-viable profits and healthy practices, and the efforts should turn toward economic pressure to get existing used bookstores to use more author-friendly models. Either way, we’re best off knowing.
1) Yes, I know that out of copyright books are likely to be from the 1800s or before. I admit I am prejudiced; many of my favorite books are from that period. I would definitely not try this in an area that didn’t have a super high culture-geek quotient; that is a lot of my target demographic. But within it, I think there is a potential market for reprinting the obscure fun stuff from way back, which hasn’t been done much because they aren’t considered “classics” and publishers don’t grasp that people can actually think old books are just plain entertainment, not necessarily Serious Literature. But those are probably only available in electronic editions at the moment (which is where I’m finding most of them), which means the printing machine again. At least there won’t be a rights problem with it for these, though there would be for funding the machine.
2) OK, so if we modify this slightly to a structure which follows the “space to sell on your own” rather than the “consignment for individual author” model, does it work then? Yes, the bookstore would be getting something for it — the fees for space previously discussed, for any author who wasn’t featured in the new authors section; and free readings to keep people coming through the doors, for those who were (only about one a month, which keeps most of it paid).
Maybe if the original system can’t work, it can end up functioning as a kind of Authors’ Market, along similar lines to a Farmers’ Market but in a smaller total space since books take up less room than farmstands. 😉
3) I’m expecting anything like this to lose money in the short term, and it could only be attempted by someone who had the startup capital to get through that period and show people why this actually was a place where they’d enjoy buying things. I do know basic economics, and I’m not trying to run a charity here. But that’s true about any business to some extent, and about any new concept in business in particular; this is no different. If I can’t find enough books which are interesting to the customers and fit my criteria, then I’ll fold. But I’m betting I can, and especially that, with the combination of modern authors who want to sell on their own through the Authors’ Market and lesser-known ancients who can be dug up and offered through the print-on-demand process, if it’s possible to finance the startup costs at all, it would be possible to make them back over time.
4) This is the part which is going to need tinkering, and I appreciate your information. If there is only one variety of printer which will produce a bound, feels-right-in-the-hand book, then that’s clearly what we’d need; but it would definitely make the startup costs considerably higher than expected. It’s also probably the place where small amounts of pressure to change regulations would make the biggest impact, however — what if writers could organize to demand that, if a book went out of print, rights reverted automatically to the author unless and until it were made available again by the publisher (with a minimum of 90 days’ notice if the publisher intended to pick it back up again, and a definition of what “in print” meant which involved meaningful numbers being made meaningfully available)? That would safeguard the publishers from losing the rights they paid for if they back-burnered a book and then found it got popular via a movie sale or something… or because word of mouth and print on demand had combined to let people know how good it was. But it would also let authors market their own work, by whatever method they chose, including by making physical copies, whenever the publisher wasn’t doing it themselves.
5) Yes, I’d rebate for a bad review. I know from experience as a reader and critic that the only reason such a high percentage of reviews are bad is that people who are contented don’t feel an urge to go out and write stuff; those who are angry have a lot more incentive to post. (This is true about reviews of any field; it’s why Yelp gets so many bad reviews for pretty much everything they list, in every category.) That means that if you get people posting the reviews via a different incentive, the percentage of happy ones goes up fast. Add to that the fact that *most* readers — especially the kind of bibliophile who’d be at home at an Authors’ Market — enjoy the majority of the books they read, because they enjoy reading books, and you get an arrangement where I won’t need to require that reviews be good in order to earn the rebate. If I simply give them an incentive to post reviews, any reviews, they are likely to post good ones the overwhelming majority of the time. I think it will be, overall, worth the existence of the relatively few negative ones to gain the steady flow of positive ones… for any given author, the net result may not be positive, but for the sum total of all the writers reviewed, it will be.
This is definitely a thought experiment for me, not something I could begin on my own without a lottery ticket — a bookstore is *always* a high-startup-cost type of business, and this would be a substantially higher one. I’m wondering whether, as an authors’ market, it could be partially crowdfunded; but even that won’t raise the bulk of the money for something like the printer. I still believe it could make money in the longer term if it could stay capitalized well enough to get there; especially if we can get the rights-reversion law I proposed. But that and the cost of the printer are the major sticking points; I see that now.
Thanks a lot for your input!
#196 by cluculzwriter on January 7, 2016 - 10:07 am
All I can say is “Thank YOU.” Oh, and Happy New Year.
#197 by akarags on January 7, 2016 - 10:08 am
I am South African – and what with the value of our currency in comparison to the US $ or the UK pound, especially when it comes to buying books printed in countries like America and England, buying such books in South Africa is not possible for the majority of South Africans. I was at a book shop today and was staggered at how expensive new books are. Which is why when I want a new book, I buy e books from amazon, or a South African site I use to buy e books, as they are generally cheaper than printed books. Occasionally I do go to the used book store, not as often as I used to – probably two times a year now, since I’ve had my kindle. Thank you though, for the interesting post. As a reader, I guess sometimes we take for granted all the books out there, and the amount of hard work it takes to write the books we enjoy reading.
#198 by The Ranting Monkey on January 8, 2016 - 8:45 pm
I’m curious. Your basic argument seems to be that writers should educate readers on how they are paid but it only seems to apply to used vs new sales and in a very vague manner. Should authors also tell readers that they make more from ebooks than from paperbacks? Or what about free promotions of ebooks, should authors tell their readers, “hey, I have a free ebook promotion but I don’t make anything from that, you should try one of my full price listings instead so I can eat”?
Your emphasis on telling readers vaguely how you get paid while keeping them in the dark of the specifics of how you get paid seems rather self serving, as though a crutch for a flimsy argument rather than something you really believe. Or did I miss something? Do you have a pricing sheet you include with every copy of your books explaining how much you get paid per publication type?
The more I think about it the more ridiculous this education argument seems. For instance, a discounted ebook earns the author less than a full price sale. Should authors make sure readers know this? What is the exact profit margin where you should stop badgering your fans for their buying choices?
You suggest that if authors don’t educate readers about how they are paid no money will come to writers and eventually writing will cease to exist. Used books stores have been around for a long time. So have libraries. And yard sales. And people who loan books to friends. From your logic, writers should be damn near extinct.
Maybe I’m just not greedy enough to understand your argument.
#199 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 9, 2016 - 10:28 am
Yeah all people who want to be paid for their work are greedy. I bet you feel really badgered when you walk into an Apple Store and have to ask the price for things. That they don’t just let you walk out of the store with whatever you want.
And that giant Mac computer earns them more than that tiny portable hard drive. And if you want Apple to continue making new and spiffy things that change the world then don’t buy all your Apple products used off Craig’s List. Because if EVERYONE buys Apple products used off Craig’s List and NO ONE buys the new iPhone 6? Guess what? Apple goes away. Go take an economics class. No, writing won’t cease to exist. There is plenty of unedited self-published crap out there from writers who don’t mind working for free.
Oh, and libraries PAY for books. This goes back to that whole educating the reader thing. Yes, they lend books. But upon so many times the book is loaned out the author’s contract can negotiate the library PAY for another copy.
And used bookstores have nearly gone extinct (um you didn’t catch that in the article…the part about them being BACK?). Bookstores have nearly gone extinct. So careful what you take for granted.
Remember Blockbuster video? People stopped SPENDING MONEY THERE. Are there any around?
#200 by The Ranting Monkey on January 9, 2016 - 2:25 pm
People stopped going to blockbuster, movies did not stop getting made nor did people stop enjoying movies in the comfort of their own homes. Your argument was people would stop producing material, not that the material wouldn’t be available in the same manner.
Your argument is all over the place. Libraries MAY have to pay again once a book is checked out a certain number of times but you don’t get paid the same as if everyone who reads it were to buy it new. Do you think authors should tell book borrowers to buy a copy of the book they just read and let them know how authors get paid? Should you not support libraries because it will lead to less authors?
The greedy line was a cheap shot and I do apologize. But I honestly don’t understand your insistence that authors have to tell people about how they are paid when it comes to used book stores but only when it comes to used book stores. You don’t hold the same view even with free new books.
You also operate under the illogical conclusion that someone buying a book in a used book store would have paid full price if only that book store didn’t exist. As used bookstores are coming BACK we’d have to assume that until they did new book sales had been through the ROOF.
What about the writers? Are there less writers now that the used stores are making a come BACK? Had the number of writers slumped before the number of used book stores slumped?
You make a lot of false arguments, some contrary to others you made.
I am all for writers making money. What I am opposed to is blanket statements and half truths presented to scare people. I have never heard of a single author who stopped writing because they found one of their books in a used book store. Perhaps you’ll be the first.
#201 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 9, 2016 - 2:41 pm
My arguments are not all over the place and the Blockbuster argument was simply if people stop putting their dollars in a place—>it vanishes. You are operating under the mistaken conclusion I have a problem with used bookstores. I don’t. The article the writers were promoting was bashing digital and on-line new sales while glorifying the used bookstore. As if simply existing in the paper realm makes it magically better for authors.
If AUTHORS share this article, they CONFUSE customers.
Do NOT promote articles that bash your two greatest revenue streams. That is bad business. That is confusing your customer.
And I agree, I am against blanket statements and half-truths presented to scare people. Why do you think I was so pissed off at that article? The Washington Post is claiming digital sales are declining. That is PATENTLY FALSE. They are encouraging paper sales to “support the arts” (even if it is used) because “Amazon is a big fat meanie” when Amazon actually PAYS artists.
“Oh, I am going to retire off all the money I made from that used bookstore” said no writer ever. I am not against the used bookstore. But this article bashes the two places that consumers might actually go purchase and make use of all that “EXPOSURE” they are glorifying.
Really, in the article they go on and on and on about exposure. So if on-line retailers are evil and digital is bad…what good is the exposure for the artist? If a used bookstore helps a writer get discovered. Awesome. But then you just trashed the ways they would buy and since most of the indies closed down and Borders is gone and B&N is hanging on by a thread?
And why are you attacking me? I insist over and over to support used bookstores, just to let your readers know that if they like what you do, follow up with a sale of something NEW. Why are you SO offended that I want to be paid for what I do? Why are you so offended that I would take my holiday to counter a borderline yellow journalism article claiming FALSELY that digital sales are declining? That this is propaganda BS. That actually digital sales are better than ever and actually BENEFIT writers.
#202 by The Ranting Monkey on January 9, 2016 - 2:42 pm
I’m not offended by anything you’ve said. I am sorry you take contrary opinion so personally. I will leave you to your safe space. All the best.
#203 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 9, 2016 - 5:49 pm
I don’t need a safe space and I am not offended. Glad you aren’t offended 🙂 . I do feel if I make an opinion and you question what I have said, I SHOULD be able to support what I have said. You DO make a valid point. IF I have a contention, I need to own it. I do. I did. That is all 😀 .
#204 by The Ranting Monkey on January 9, 2016 - 6:13 pm
Unquestionably, I could have been more diplomatic. Sorry about that.
Thanks for taking the time to discuss the topic. I still think you’re wrong on some things but that’s ok, different opinions are healthy, even if the way I approached it was not.
Sincerely, all the best to you and yours.
#205 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 9, 2016 - 7:11 pm
LOL. If I were friends with people who totally agreed with me what a boring place it would be 😛 . No, I don’t need an ideological echo chamber. And part of the reason I DO come back and counter any arguments made is I feel it is a responsibility. I loathe people who simply rant an opinion and then don’t back up what they believe. We can at the end of the day disagree.
3+5=8 but guess what? 4+4=8 too. One isn’t necessarily WRONG. And it is all good. I appreciate you coming back :D. I could be more diplomatic too but frankly after a week of people telling me I have no right to want to be paid? I lost diplomacy about 4 days ago 😛
#206 by kdrose1 on January 9, 2016 - 8:18 pm
3 + 5 = 22 in Base 3. 4 + 4 = 10 in Base 8. That’s right, there’s ALLLLLL kind of freaks out there. 😉
#207 by Laura on January 9, 2016 - 1:10 pm
I signed up for the comments to be emailed to me, and I’ve also seen a few rebuttals posted via Twitter… so #1, congratulations on having a post go so extremely viral and have such extreme feedback. There doesn’t seem to be much grey here, just a lot of black and white in the comments.
#2, WOW. It is amazing how many people completely missed the point of the post – or possibly scanned through it and decided to just pick on the one thing they saw (“used bookstores bad!”) and run with it, completely disregarding the context. SIGH.
But hey! Lots of exposure. Lol.
#208 by lynnkelleyauthor on January 10, 2016 - 2:46 am
I thought the same thing, that many people missed the point. It seems like they scanned through it, like you said. So Kristen has had to repeat herself over and over and over again.
#209 by Madilyn Quinn on January 10, 2016 - 6:40 pm
I feel ya, I get this, but I will never not love used book stores. If I like an author’s book I get used, I’m likely to check out their other stuff: new or digital. I have a one strike sort of policy. First time, I don’t want to spend any money, or very little, to test it out. And if it impresses, I’ll find other things by the author. They get their due if they pull me in and really, I don’t expect any less from my potential future readers.
#210 by M.R.R. on January 12, 2016 - 7:59 am
Hmm. You’ve got me thinking now.
I have found several good books used, and I’ve even reviewed a few online. But getting them digital would not only mean a sale for the author, but they would be great for trips where I can’t bring all my paper books. (I’ve had similar thoughts about buying my music online, because I get a lot of that on used CDs.)
On another note, my local used bookstore does sell some new books, and they won’t let you use store credit to buy them.
#211 by EvaR on January 18, 2016 - 4:12 pm
I’m fine with paying the writer, and writers get BOATLOADS of my money. But you? I’m never buying anything you write. Even if it turns out you wrote something that is the exact kind of book I would love to read. Because wow do you have a narrow minded attitude. Because not only is buying used very important to the fate of the planet, it’s the height of arrogance to assume that EVERYONE doesn’t deserve to get paid, or that x number of their hours to make $25 is worth less than your number of hours to make $25. We all have a limited amount of time. So, assuming that we aren’t racist or classcist or elitist, being angry at people for wanting to purchase one item in the format of their choosing in the place of their choosing with their $25 is kind of awful. So… if people want to buy your books used (and of course they don’t want or need a digital copy or they would have already purchased one) perhaps instead of going on a coulteresque rant, you could try finding some way to give those people the ability to pay you after reading a used book of yours? The person in question already paid the used book salesperson. They already have a copy, so it makes sense for them not to pay another distributor or publisher so you get your money, yes? So less whining about used bookstores, more posting a paypal/googlepay/bitcoin/whatever address, okay?
#212 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 18, 2016 - 4:41 pm
Um…I am confused. Everyone does deserve to get paid. That is the point of the article. Additionally, I have no problem with used books. I have a problem with used bookstores bashing the ways that authors make their living. Many authors make very little money, so instead of spending your time with the Washington Post throwing Amazon and digital under the bus, how about just talking about books?
What good is EXPOSURE doing writers if all the places left to buy a new book are “evil”? I have a problem with major news outlets spreading information that is patently FALSE (I,e, digital sales have slumped).
This blog was not directed at readers. It was directed at authors promoting an article that lambasted the two best ways they are paid. Authors are a business and if they want to stay IN business, then that is a dumb practice.
It was chastising writers that if they ARE going to promote a used bookstore (which I repeatedly said was FINE) to please make sure fans knew you don’t get paid that way and to try and get something of yours (the next book perhaps) new. And if you are going to promote a used bookstore, try not doing it through an article that just told your consumers that Amazon and digital are BAD.
And maybe I am narrow minded. My goal with this blog, with everything I do is to help writers be successful.
The biggest challenge most writers have is they do not think like business people. They give away time and books. They get taken advantage of. They promote any article with the word “bookstore” in it without thinking. And then, when they don’t sell out that print run because there weren’t enough new sales, and don’t get another contract? That used bookstore isn’t going to care that writer no longer has a career. That jerk who wrote the original article that ticked me off won’t care about the damage he has done. He won’t care about that writer. For all I know, maybe you won’t either. Most readers won’t so long as there are cheap books around. Another cog to replace the one we wore out.
But I will. I will care. That I can assure you.
And it saddens me that I have made you so angry. I never said don’t buy used or support used or read used. I said if used bookstores really cared about writers, they’d look for ways to help us drive new sales (and that would help readers, too).
I said if you really LOVE a writer and want that writer to continue being able to entertain you…please buy new. I apologize this offends you so much, but that is how capitalism works. I didn’t make the rules. But unfortunately I have to live by them and so do other writers. Enjoy your day.
#213 by EvaR on January 18, 2016 - 4:53 pm
Okay, but if the post is addressed to WRITERS telling them to give this message to their READERS….?
I don’t agree that digital is always bad, although I know amazon can be for a lot of authors.
My point was EVERYONE deserves to get paid, including used book store owners, and people who can’t afford to purchase as many new books as they would like to. I think it’s carrying over into a longer argument, so I’ll let it go. But… From reading over your other posts, I think you know that already, you’re just choosing a different set of actions based on these beliefs than I would. I guess I agree with the commenter upthread who made the union/cookie joke and made her point better than I did. Asking writers to be happy for exposure when they can’t pay their bills is ridiculous, devaluing their work because it seems glamorous so they think it’s easy is ridiculous. But… The whole thing is broken. Feels like going after used book stores is shooting at the least dangerous target in the ludicrous system that ends in writers not getting paid much of the money that gets taken from consumers.
#214 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 18, 2016 - 4:59 pm
Actually I was going after this glorifying the used bookstore and promoting a paper vs. digital WAR. Why does there have to be a war at all? Why can’t a used bookstore partner with publishers and when say YOU, buy MY book you swore you’d never buy 😛 used the computer pings and says, “Wait, Kristen has her next book in the series. I see you are buying the first one used. We can get you a special e-book price of $2.99 for the next book with our bookstore app.” Then the bookstore can get a royalty, the clerk can make a commission, YOU can get TWO books you swore you’d never buy 😛 and I can get the royalty off a NEW sale. EVERYONE wins.
#215 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 18, 2016 - 5:02 pm
And to an extent yes, it was writers educating fans because especially with articles like these fudging facts, the public gets VERY confused how writers are paid. Recently I was at a used bookstore (I buy WAY too much there too). A woman had an armload of relatively new hardbacks and we got chatting. As a writer I just happened to mention that the writers made no money off her purchase. The woman had NO idea (and the bookstore was probably not happy with me). But I just mentioned, “Hey, well if you find an author you LIKE, try to at least do a solid and buy something digital. It helps them continue writing more books.”
#216 by Joel Salomon on January 19, 2016 - 2:33 pm
I try to buy used because I cannot easily afford new books—and most publishers charge far too much for their ebooks to make that a reasonable way to make sure the author gets paid. It’s far more affordable to find the author’s web-site, look for their PayPal tip jar, and send a dollar or two (approximately the royalties for a new hardcover book) that way.
(Here by way of the Mad Genius Club blog.)
#217 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 19, 2016 - 2:44 pm
Yes, but I wish the dialogue would go more to getting the legacy publishers to lower the cost of the e-books. I think digital and used bookstores could actually be great partners. The used bookstore could help cure our discoverability problem and we could help them get more profit because no one is getting rich selling used books.
The technology is advanced enough now that if you bought a used book, the computer COULD ping that the author had a new one out for sale and the bookstore could offer it for $2.99 off an app. Then the writer gets a royalty for a new sale, the bookstore increases profit and the clerk might even make commission, and the reader gets an inexpensive read.
I love the idea of the PayPal tip jar! I might have to write a blog about that 😀 . THANK YOU!
#218 by Joel Salomon on January 19, 2016 - 3:04 pm
I sometimes wonder whether it’s only Baen that knows how to price ebooks: $10 initially, and then the price drops to match the cheapest dead-tree edition as they come out (trade paperback, then mass-market p/b).
Discoverability is always going to be a hassle. I usually buy used books through Amazon, and Amazon for its own purposes keeps track of whose books I buy and recommends others to me. Sounds like you’re suggesting brick-and-mortar stores do something similar—perhaps not tracking all purchases (though loyalty programs make that possible) but on-the-spot coupons for the authors’ next books. But that works best in stores that sell both new & used books.
By all means make sure that your books, electronic and dead-tree, have up-to-date links to your professional site and blog (and on Amazon you can even update the “Other books by this author” even in already-sold Kindle books).
In addition to, or (depending on your temprament) instead of, a tip jar, you might consider a Zazzle store or something similar, selling t-shirts or mugs or mousepads with your cover art (assuming you’ve licensed such use of it) or clever quotes from your books.
Sorry you got off to a bad start with MGC—most of what I’m suggesting comes from various blog posts there.
#219 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 19, 2016 - 3:30 pm
Yeah, me too. It’s a shame 😦 .
#220 by Becki Thompson on January 20, 2016 - 12:49 pm
Wow. Floored at the attitude. It’s like you never were a reader yourself.. Half the authors I buy “new” are because I bought used first. And no amount of “education” is going to change that. I have a good book budget but it has to be used wisely. I support a couple of my favorite indies stores by buying new, my local B&N new because I want them to stay, I buy B&N and Amazon online because it is crazy not to and those prices with the amount I buy for myself and gifts. So I looked to used bookstores to either widen my scope or get a good deal. And that is why they survive. “Educate” all you want – for some – like some of my coworkers not making great wages – used is the only way to own a book. And hey – I see designer stuff now and then at Goodwill . .and no one is getting a royalty there either. And no ebooks for me until my eyes require them. The readers in my family love holding the books in our hands. Have no issue with writers pushing the issue but obligating them too? making them feel “less” (and you did often sound a bit condescending) and trying to push used bookstores out of business? Just tilting at a windmill that is actually providing you with some water.
#221 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 20, 2016 - 4:16 pm
That was not what this was about. Sorry you got that. I buy used all the time. When I have a favorite author and I see a stack of their books used, often I buy them all at the used store and use them to loan out when people ask me about a good read. I just then make sure to say, “Hey if you like that author, try to get something of hers new because the used books aren’t paying her at this time and this is how she can afford to keep writing.” In the digital age and with piracy being able to read authors for free is getting easier and easier and easier. My gripe is that writers already do too much for free. They promote all kinds of venues for free and for “exposure.” This attitude is only getting worse and worse with the Internet. And when a writer then asks to be paid, we get pushback. I understand some people are on a budget. Others are not. People find funds for what they value and if they value the writers they like? They will need to buy new.
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