Last month, I read an amazing blog entry by epic fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson who has two books out from Tor, Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn) and Elantris. I had to wait a whole month before I could blog about it because it took that long before I could find the top of my head when it blew off. Mr. Sanderson makes the case (and not a very good one) that readers should buy hardcovers. The current blog post has been revised but the gist is there. Mr. Sanderson believes that only hardback sales can support an author and that
the eight dollar paperback is a free promotion given away by the publisher to maybe entice you to pay for the product that actually makes us a living.
Buying one hardcover instead of two paperbacks, according to Sanderson, is truly supporting the author.It’s perfectly acceptable in the writing world to make pleas for money.
If I, the reader, don’t buy new at exactly the right time, the author might not be able to write for a living and give up their day job. They may not be able to put food on the table, clothe their children, afford that Kia (even though its a buy 1, get 1 free). If readers truly care, authors say, readers will buy new, buy hardcover, buy 2, adopt an author.
I thought I would make my own plea. I like blogging and think that I could provide much more content, better content (maybe I would even spell check occassionally), funnier content (maybe I would hire Bam to ghost write for me) if I didn’t have to do my day job. Perhaps if each visitor would pay me $5.00 per month for access, this dream could happen. Think of it, it’s less than the cost of a paperback. In fact, if the visitors would just give me $2.50 per month, I think I could survive. Then two other bloggers could be supported. Three bloggers for the price of one paperback. It seems so much more humanitarian to support three people instead of just one.
I’ll even set up a spoiler line (1-900-SPOILME, of course), so that you readers can hear all about the book that you gave up buying to support me. It’s more than Sanderson has offered.
But then, when I was out shopping today at Barnes and Noble, I noticed all the biblio-related tchochkes that were made in China. All those poor Chinese kids who worked for pennies to make these! I need to start buying all my tchochkes new and stop going to auctions and garage sales. In fact, all used tchochkes sales should be outlawed. When my neighborhood decides to have another garage sale, I will picket them.
Seriously, though, authors do need our support. Maybe instead of buying hardcover, I’ll buy a paperback and send the difference directly to the author. Heck, maybe I’ll not even buy the book and just send the author the cash. In reviewing my budget, perhaps I should start diverting my tithe money. Every paycheck, I will set aside 10% of my income and send it to various authors.
Perhaps the patronage system of old needs to be brought back. I’ll take an author into my home. I have a spare bedroom. She and her family can stay there and during parties and luncheons, I’ll trot the author out to be displayed. She can quote favorite passages and try her best to be entertaining to my neighbors.
The problem with the patronage system and the whole idea of adopting an author, buying hardcover, buying new, is that it conflicts with the very idea that the reader is to form relationships with the book and not the author. Criticism is considered wholly inappropriate when it is personal so shouldn’t favoritism also be considered inappropriate when personal? Shouldn’t the relationship with the author be on a book by book basis? Whether I buy hardcover, paperback, used or check it out from the library should depend solely on the book. Once I’ve developed that “relationship” with the author, following her every instruction as to what book to buy and when and where, isn’t it completely normal that I, as the reader, have the right to expect things from that author? I have supported her, adopted her, defended her righteous honor from one end of the internet to the other, for years. Doesn’t she owe me something? Doesn’t she owe me to charge less for the book, write the book about x character in y sort of way? Don’t I have the right to visit her home, get advanced peeks at her books? Doesn’t she owe me regular emails? Aren’t we BFF?
You really can’t have it both ways. Either its about the work or its about the person. I’ll accept cash, money order, or major credit card, including Diner’s Club.