Feb 21, 2009

re selling of books hullabuloo

I've recently seen a discussion on the web about reselling books. Some people seem to think this is a wrong practice. I disagree. I hear griping about used book sales and arcs being sold and it leads me to believe that people don't know as much about the business as they think. There are a lot of layers here and it's been going on for a long long time.

lets look at a few things.

I'd like to start by saying that if your book sales in regard to the numbers your publisher is actually selling are going top be hurt by a small number of used sales, you are not selling enough books to even really worry about this. Books being sold second hand are not what's keeping you off the New York Times best seller list. If there were only 5000 copies printed you are most likely not making a living solely based on your writing. And if there are enough being printed warranting a big enough advance to live on, then the small number in used sales won't hurt you anyway. The large numbers need to be truly successful are not hurt by used books, arcs being sold or books being loaned. What you really want is more readers. Readers will translate to sales eventually.

I don't hear people complaining about libraries. (and you shouldn't) But one book sold to a library could mean up to one hundred readers who didn't buy your book. Why does this not bother people when a book being read and sold does. One sale, maybe two or three readers.

Books being sold on Amazon got bought. Even being sold in the secondary Amazon market as new meant that someone bought it. A lot of them with the intention of reselling it on Amazon. It's still a sale. Some of these place actually order from the publisher and are book stores. They just happen to be selling on Amazon to do business.

Buying used books is as old as the publishing business. When the first books were printed with in weeks people sold them a second time.

Buying used books is a great way to find new readers. People will take a chance on a new author when the book is only 3 bucks. New reader digs author, starts buying books new. Percentage wise the amount of new readers generated by used book purchases is better than the number of new readers brought in by book trailers or blogs.

If you are an author you need to think about how screwy the publishing industry is. A lot of things don't make sense in any other business are done here because eventually they do generate sales and are good for business. Returns actually are good for business because stores will take a chance and order and display 50 copies of a book, no returns they may order one or two. 50 is better. Plus by selling returned books to the remainder market they can at least break even on a book instead of losing money. So maybe an author doesn't make money on the sale, at least the publisher may still be publishing you. With out that return sale money you could show a lose.
Sending an author on tour cost money and sales generated will not exceed touring costs. But by building a readership you build future sales.

If you want a safe financial future becoming an author isn't the path to take. It's an artistic journey, you write because you need to write. If you are successful, God Bless. If you still work a full time job, but once a year some one publishes your work and there is any kind of an audience enjoying it, be thankful. If you want to make a lot of money, build houses, design computer games, dance at a men's club or bus tables. Most authors don't make a living with just the writing. It's a cold hard fact. if you are only in it for the money, you are in for a disappointment. If it's a calling, and you NEED to write, and you'll do it even if only five people read your book? Then you are someone I admire, you are following your heart.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't try to sell more books and market yourself. It's crazy not to.

What I'm saying I guess is stop obsessing over things you can't and won't change. Write the next book, do some more promotion, persevere!

Concentrate on getting readers, not buyers. Eventually the work will pay off.


MysterLynch said...

I totally agree. Excellent commentary.

Tim Maleeny said...

Well said, brother.

Nik Morton said...

Valid points. After all, even though I'm a writer, my pocket tells me to buy second hand at times. In the ideal world, I'd always buy new - if the book was available. Often, it is only available second hand. As for your point about libraries, in the UK, the EU and the antipodes, writers do get a cut from the number of borrowings (Public Lending Right) which seems fair; I also learn how many books of mine have been borrowed, which is nice too.
Nik Morton (aka Ross Morton)
[Author of Pain Wears No Mask, The Prague Manuscript, Last Chance Saloon etc]

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