A Money Question

pennywise.jpgI like to think that I support my favorite authors, as well as my local bookstores.  I’m constantly recommending authors and books in practically every other conversation that I have.  I recommend to friends that they go here or there, buy this historical book or that novel . . .but in all honesty I should admit that I’m a very frugal man.  (translation=cheap bastard)

I like to pimp the fact that Abebooks is an excellent resource for obtaining out of print books or inexpensive used copies.  I’ve also extolled the virtues of the FirstLookBook program from Harper Collins, both here and elsewhere, that lets lucky readers obtain free galley copies of soon-to-be-released novels for review.

However I wonder if I’m being entirely fair to the authors by letting out all of my cheap/free-book secrets.  Take, for example, my latest acquisition from QPB, one of the book clubs that I belong to.  I recently obtained a spanking new copy of Dan Simmons’ The Terror for $13.00.  It’s a large paperback version-hardcover sized, really–and, granted, I could’ve gotten a “used” hardcover copy for under $10 on Abebooks–but still it’s much cheaper than the usual hardcover price. 

I also have managed to recently acquire the first six novels of The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, in three hardbound editions, for $18.50.  They should have run me a great deal more. 

I make no secret of the fact that I also visit numerous local bookstores looking for used copies of novels, etc–often paying at little as 50 cents each for like-new paperbacks.  (I’m just not paying full price for Star Trek paperbacks.)  Granted, given the number of books I consume I could never afford to buy them all at list price, but still I’m faced with this quandry: is buying used or discounted books unfair to the author or is it just being Pennywise?


2 thoughts on “A Money Question

  1. It’s a complicated question. Indulge me for a moment.

    First, there is not an author who wouldn’t encourage you to buy twelve copies of his or her book. In hardcover. In the end, those sales are the sweetest. Usually the author gets 10-15% of the harcover price credited directly against the advance.


    BOOK CLUBS (like QPB, or InsightOut, or BOMC) pay fees to the publisher (also credited against the author advances) for the books they sell. In essence, this is guaranteed income for the author, and we are thrilled when our publishers make these deals. Selling 1,000 books at one time — even at a marginally lower percentage — is much nicer than watching the sales plod along.

    DISCOUNTED BOOKS (e.g. remainder shelves, etc.) are fine. In those cases, it’s the bookstores or publishers that are taking the hit, not the authors. To the best of my knowledge, writers are still paid a percentage of the printed cover price ffor those sales, even if you bought it for $5.99.

    LIBRARIES are also valuable sales resources for authors, because they buy their books from the publishers and authors get their take of the sale. Sure, in an ideal world we’re not thrilled that random people are checking out and reading our books for free, but a sale *is* involved in the process.

    Which leads us to: BORROWED and USED BOOKS. No, the author doesn’t see a red cent of this money. However, he or she *did* once see a red cent, so there is no reason for the end user to feel guilty. And I have never heard an author object to this: taking a chance on a free (or virtually free) book is a great way to build word of mouth and potential future sales.

    So, to answer your question: you are doing nothing wrong. Just keep reading.

    Oh, one last thing: you know what we universally hate more than anything? The fact that, for most of us, a high percentage of the print run will end up being pulped because it wasn’t sold. I’d rather give those books out randomly on street corners.

  2. The fact that, for most of us, a high percentage of the print run will end up being pulped because it wasn’t sold. I’d rather give those books out randomly on street corners.

    Oh, God, do I agree with that. I had a friend who worked at a book distribution place and showed me the piles of books that they had to rip the covers off of before destroying them. It was like watching that Burgess Merideth episode of the Twilight Zone where he breaks his glasses . . .I wanted to cry.

    Good comments, too. Thanks for that.

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