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Drop an Author, Adopt a Blogger

BeggingLast 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.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

54 Comments

  1. Nora Roberts
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 04:35:15

    ~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.~

    Where do I send my contact information?

    Seriously, I agree with you right down the line. What a ridiculous and self-defeating attitude this guy has. For myself, I’m happy to be bought in hardcover, paperback, e-book form–and have any of those passed to your Aunt Sally so she can read them, too.

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  2. Sarah McCarty
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 05:28:02

    I knew I was going to love this post from the instant I read the heading and I spewed coffee on my screen. *still wiping that up* But uh, yeah. I think I’ll just take care of my own responsibilities and my own career thank you very much. Unless- *trying to peer over Jane’s shoulder into the house* How nice is that room and how lavish are those parites? Do you have a steady supply of chocolate available? Inquiring minds want to know. ;-)

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  3. jaq
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 06:34:18

    LOL!

    I understand the concern (fear?) that moves authors to air these sentiments. It’s hella competitive out there, and you’re only as good as you last book, or, more to the point, your last sales numbers.

    Regardless, I agree with every point you’ve made.

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  4. Zeek
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 07:15:48

    I’d buy more HB’s if I wouldn’t feel like I’m being burned by the bad books. Nothing ticks me off more than buying a HB and having the book stink. It just happened to many times for me to risk it anymore.

    Trade size is fast becoming the same issue with me …

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  5. Tara Marie
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 07:22:33

    My first laugh of the day–thank you :D

    Can I get in on the $2.50 per visitor?? Not that I have the hits you do, but hey, it’ll help pay for books, food, clothes for the child and maybe a roof for the house.

    So if we take the logic that we should only buy hardcovers and adopt new and midlist authors a step further then what is their responsibility to us the reader/adopter?

    If I bought every book I read last year in hardcover based on $20 per book I’d have spent close to $4,000, honestly I think I may need at least a part time job to support this adoption program. Who’ll pay my child care, car, wardrobe expenses?

    And, what happens if the relationship doesn’t work out? Do I get some sort of reimbursement if I’m dissatisfied with the adoptee’s work?

    This logic annoys the hell out of me.

    Authors write, readers read. I’m thankful there are people creative enough to support my book habit, shouldn’t they be thankful someone out there is reading what their writing?

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  6. Tara Marie
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 07:36:10

    nuts, that should be “they’re” not “their”. I really need to proofread before hitting submit :D

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  7. Teddy Pig
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 07:45:28

    If we adopt you Jane does that mean we have to write the blog posts too or just provide spell checking.

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  8. Ann(ie)
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 08:11:07

    Wow, that’s incredibly presumptuous.

    That’s as good as saying, “My books aren’t selling to expectations. Help me or I’ll never publish again!”

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  9. Jane A.
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 08:15:16

    Is the cat pleading for his own kickback? Nicely done, maybe I’ll just support him! LOL

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  10. Alison Kent
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 08:30:06

    [quote comment="23401"]If I bought every book I read last year in hardcover based on $20 per book I’d have spent close to $4,000, [/quote]

    You mean people spend less? *g*

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  11. Angelle
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 08:35:38

    I rarely if ever buy hardback. To me it’s all about how much do I like your books?

    For example, I really like Nalini Singh as a person. She’s a sweet gal. But that wouldn’t make me buy her books if I didn’t enjoy them. I like them a lot, and that’s why I buy her stuff new.

    Artists owed their patrons something — entertainment or dedication, etc. So if readers adopt you (like patrons) what do you owe them?

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  12. Shiloh Walker
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 08:40:52

    oh geez.

    Paperbacks don’t do anything to support the author, huh? I’ll make note of that next time I cash my check. Which, BTW, doesn’t list a single hardcover.

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  13. Nora Roberts
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 08:41:16

    I don’t know what I spend on books every year, because mostly I just steal them from my husband’s bookstore. But even stealing, there are plenty of paperbacks in my stash. I like to read hardcovers. I like the feel of the paper, the solid weight of them–and they look good on the shelf. I like to read paperbacks. They fit in my bag or suitcase easily, and also look good on the shelf.

    Added to this, a lot of the books/authors I want to read/try aren’t publilshed in hardcover to begin with. Or if they were, I might want to try them out in paperback.

    Writing the book is the writer’s choice. Deciding on where to buy it and in what format is the reader’s.

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  14. Bev(BB)
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 08:47:53

    Yeah, and I’m right back to wondering when writing became a career that is supposed to support all published authors. Cause I missed that major development and want in, too. :D

    And here I was so proud of myself for sitting on my hands over the RtB “adopt an author” post the other day. Oye. It’s not so much that the idea annoys me in and of itself. In a certain way, I’ve followed various author’s careers. Meaning, I’ve discovered them when they were just starting out and tracked their progress over time and even been proud if not a little dismayed when they’ve moved on to bigger and better things. (Dismayed because I didn’t always go with them. Deal with it.)

    I just can’t see that translated into “adopting” them in terms of HAVING to buy every single one of their books . . . uh-uh, ain’t gonna happen.

    Of course I very well could buy every one of their books but if I did it, it would be because I liked the dang books, people. Get a grip on reality here. ;p

    And it certainly wouldn’t be in hardback either. Oye.

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  15. Alison Kent
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 08:51:23

    [quote comment="23412"]I’m right back to wondering when writing became a career that is supposed to support all published authors.[/quote]

    Why shouldn’t it?

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  16. Tara Marie
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 08:59:09

    [quote comment="23408"][quote comment="23401"]If I bought every book I read last year in hardcover based on $20 per book I’d have spent close to $4,000, [/quote]

    You mean people spend less? *g*[/quote]

    Heck, Allison, that’s just the books I read, if I include what I added to my TBR pile but haven’t read yet, we can probably double it. :D

    But then I’d definitely need a job to support all these adoptees because I’d need a bigger house to keep all the hardcovers.

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  17. Jaci Burton
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 09:07:35

    Do you live in Florida? I like Florida. Actually, I’ll come stay with you if there’s an ocean nearby. Oklahoma is dusty, ya know. ;-)

    This all smacks of begging to me. And it’s about the work. I write the story. That’s where my responsibility ends and that’s all I can do–write the best story I can, but it’s the story that should appeal to the reader, not the author. The reader’s responsibility is choosing which book(s) he or she likes to read. The reader is not responsible for the author’s livelihood.

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  18. Bev(BB)
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 09:26:52

    [quote comment="23413"][quote comment="23412"]I’m right back to wondering when writing became a career that is supposed to support all published authors.[/quote]

    Why shouldn’t it?[/quote]

    Practicalities. Are you saying that writing alone supports every single published author? That’s what I’m talking about. It would be great if it did but I somehow doubt that’s the reality for the majority of writers.

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  19. raine
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 10:50:17

    Mr. Sanderson believes that only hardback sales can support an author…

    Does that make those of us who’re not pubbed in hardcover s.o.l.?
    How about if I just add a sentence at the end of the blurb on each book saying, “C’mon, folks, I need a new roof–pony up.”

    (Love the cat, by the way, lol). :-D

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  20. Ann Wesley Hardin
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 11:14:59

    I agree it’s the book. Nuthin’ but book. For that reason I’ve kept my online presence subdued. As a reader/movie viewer/whatever, I hate knowing too much about the folks behind the curtain. I want the magic, baybee.

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  21. bam
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 11:40:14

    Every paycheck, I will set aside 10% of my income and send it to various authors.

    Oh, me! me!

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  22. Janine
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 12:08:29

    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.

    You nailed it here, Jane. And one of the problems with that is that the more we base our buying on relationships with authors rather than relationships with their books, the more the author’s responsiblity becomes to be the readers’ buddy rather than to produce a great book.

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  23. Jayne
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 12:30:58

    The bit about the author and her family living in a room at your house kind of made me think of the Capital One credit card ads.

    Spouse – “Honey, do we really have to live in this woman’s house?”

    Kids – “Yeah, Mom, it’s crowded in here!”

    Author – “Shut up. It’s free and let’s me have time to write! My muse, my muse…”

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  24. Robin
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 13:07:21

    the more we base our buying on relationships with authors rather than relationships with their books, the more the author’s responsiblity becomes to be the readers’ buddy rather than to produce a great book.

    With so many authors blogging these days, this phenomenon concerns me on several levels. I worry about authors writing to what they perceive to be reader expectations and I worry about readers feeling guilted into supporting writers instead of books — because both of these things, IMO, do not bode well for the *books*, and I’m in this for the books, not the authors, per se. Sure authors and publishers have to make money for those books to keep coming — and I will take on what I see as my responsibility to help that happen — but I don’t think that necessitates the blurring of the line between author and book. Not only do I NOT want to feel guilted into doing something for an *author*, but (and this if oten more the case), I don’t like feeling that I have to get over some jerky thing an author said or did online to start or keep buying his or her books.

    I’m right back to wondering when writing became a career that is supposed to support all published authors.

    Why shouldn’t it?

    I don’t know any market that supports all artists at any point in time, but beyond that is the question of on what basis authors should be supported. Should it be because they write great books or because they want to write professionally and make a living at it? IMO, when it becomes about anything beyond the books, we’ve moved into a dangerous place. And I think we could all slide into that place with the best of intentions and a significant lack of awareness that we’re doing so.

    In my senior year of college, my 60+ year old Shakespeare professor was engaged to a 20-something year old student in the class. No matter how great of a teacher he was (and he had his moments), the breaching of that line I personally think should not be breached while one person is a student (TOTAL imbalance of power), had an impact on my view of that prof, subtle or small as it may have been. For better or worse, the connections we have online between authors and readers do change things, IMO. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing (or a good thing, for that matter), but it’s made me more conscious of having to keep that line between book and author clearly delineated.

    As for Sanderson’s logic, can anyone explain why he argues for hardbacks over paperbacks financially, especially after he argues that the publisher is making so little off them compared to their production costs and price tag? I didn’t get that at all.

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  25. Jane
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 13:15:45

    I don’t think Sanderson quite has all his figures right. What he focuses on is that the writer gets a higher percentage (12% or more) off the retail price of a hardcover which is dramatically higher than what you get for a paperback (6-8% of the retail price). Assuming you have a print run of 3,000 hardcover books, that’s an earnings of approximately 11,245.50 (assuming a $24.99 retail price and 100% sell through, no return). In order to make the same money for the AUTHOR, a paperback has to sell 17,593 copies.

    From the publisher standpoint, the art, proofing, etc. is all the same for a mass market and a hardcover. The difference in costs would be printing the hardcover binding, the slipcover and the increased shipping costs. I am not sure what those would be, but maybe some author could chime in.

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  26. Nora Roberts
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 13:48:00

    It seems very often when some author behaves badly (or stupidly), it tends to trickle over on the rest of us when mostly the majority of authors probably don’t agree with the abb(s). Sometimes I’ll read an author’s comment or blog and shake my head, wince, even goggle. And sometimes as with Sanderson’s blog I’m just outright mortified.

    He’s got a right to his opinion, and I have a right to disagree. First by saying that paperbacks are called mass market for a reason–because more people buy paperbacks than buy hardcover. Yes, it takes two or three paperback sales to equal a hardcover sale. But by and large an author who’s published hard/soft will have a much larger paperback print run than hardover print run.

    Second, it’s just unprofessional, and imo tacky, to go around asking readers to consider your income when they buy a book. A writer’s income isn’t the reader’s responsibility. Period.

    I do want to add, however, that while there certainly are authors who make odd demands, expect this kind of consideration–if that’s the word–from readers, there are readers who make odd demands and expect strange considerations from authors. Boy, have I got stories there.

    That might make an interesting column one day, too.

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  27. Jane
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 13:50:19

    Well, *cough*, you are free to avail yourself of DearAuthor if you want to espouse some opinion.

    And Teddy Pig, if you pay me a monthly fee, I promise to allow you to blog and spell check for me. I’m that kind of nice.

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  28. Jaci Burton
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 13:52:12

    That might make an interesting column one day, too

    Nora, you need a blog. ;-)

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  29. Sybil
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 14:04:23

    Dude… stop trying to give away my closet!

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  30. Karen Scott
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 14:46:24

    And here I was so proud of myself for sitting on my hands over the RtB “adopt an author" post the other day. Oye.

    You and me both Bev, you and me both.

    Jane, that was funny as hell.

    Just goes to prove, there’s a fucktard born every minute.

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  31. Nora Roberts
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 15:07:48

    ~Nora, you need a blog. ~

    Oh no, that’s the last thing I need. LOL.

    But it’s interesting to comment on other people’s now and again.

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  32. Bev’s Books » Blog Archive » Books & Readers & Authors
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 19:43:15

    [...] comment was made on Dear Author today that resonated with me a lot. I decided to vent about it here because I’m probably going to go [...]

  33. Charity
    Feb 19, 2007 @ 21:24:09

    See now, I’m a blogger, a lowly one at that, but I really want to be a writer, I have one husband and two kids, plus one annoying cat (but the kids totally love him) you think you could adopt me and my family? I swear, when party time came, I would make the rest of the family hide out in that extra bedroom we would be calling home, and I’ll come out and entertain the guests. I may even be funny AND insightful. For a free room, I can be anything. I may even start to write better blog posts.

    Just think! Living in your spare bedroom, I could start to get that novel I’ve started and stopped on a million times done, and then, after I’ve written 12 of them and get a readership built, I may make it to HC and with your help (pimping my HC), I could make enough money to support my whole entire family and move out of your spare room! BUT, I must make it to HC, because goodness knows, I’d never make enough with my TP to support us. What a GREAT idea!

    No, you say? Damn! Then I guess I’ll just have to keep on keepin’ on, and beg you to let me in on the pay for access to this blog loop. It could work. We could charge $3. I’ll take the .50 since I’m no where near as funny… What? Still no?

    And who the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks is Brandon Sanderson anyway? He’s actually written enough books to be in HC? Hmmmmmmmm

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  34. Brandon Sanderson
    Feb 20, 2007 @ 03:43:21

    First off, I’d like to say thanks for reading, and thanks for commenting, on my essay. It wasn’t intended to be all that important of a post, just something that rambled out of my brain at 2:00am one morning. (And, checking my watch, I realize it is that time again. Hum. Perhaps I’d better read this post over a few extra times, just to be careful. . . .)

    Just a few responses. I would like to point out, as I said several times in the article, I’m very, VERY happy when people buy any of my works in any format–hardback, paperback, ebook. I’m happily giving away my latest book for free on-line, before it’s even published.

    I Love it when people read my books. I’m grateful to them when they spend time on my work, whether they borrow it or buy it. The only point of the essay was to say “Hey, look! Two paperbacks now cost about the same as a hardback.” It was something of a silly connection, I admit, but that’s kind of what I use my blog for–silly ideas and thoughts that pop into my head, mixed with things I find important or interesting.

    Perhaps I have too many friends who are webcomic artists. I’ve always been fascinated by their ability to survive via a modern version of the patronage system. Many make their incomes via tips jars and sales of books containing content that is completely free on their sites. Novels are, of course, a very different medium, but I’m still very interested in the ways that our business will be changed by computers.

    I admit that I, always, have been one who leaned toward reading authors and not books. I’m in fantasy, and am a fan of the long series. I think that may color the way I view things, as I tend to grow attached to an author more than any particular novel.

    Also, I would like to point out to Nora that I do consider my blog to be a completely different forum from my novels, or even an essay in a trade magazine. My blog is maintained for those who are fans of Brandon Sanderson the author, and who are interested enough in my day-to-day life to stop in and read about what I thought about lots of random topics. These are the people who email me and ask–and I have gotten this question: “How much more do you make off of a hardback than you do off of a paperback? Is it worth buying one?” That email was a springboard for this essay.

    Putting something like this essay in the front of a book would be terribly unprofessional, and would be something I’d never consider. Posting it on my blog for readers who are curious about such things, however, is a different matter in my humble opinion. However, I am relatively new at all of this, for certain. Perhaps it’s simply the ignorance of youth, and after a decade more in the business, I’ll be mortified.

    Also, please note that my blog is aimed at fantasy readers specifically. We depend a lot more on the hardback model than other, mass market driven genres might. We have a much smaller–yet quite devoted–fanbase who tend to buy a lot of hardbacks–and who like to collect. I started buying exclusively hardbacks way back when I was sixteen. That is why a relatively new and unknown author such as myself has hardback releases. I’d like to say it’s because I’m awesome, but it’s simply because EVERYBODY Tor publishes gets a hardback release. It’s the way the company works.

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  35. December Quinn
    Feb 20, 2007 @ 05:37:41

    Well I think he’s absolutely right. I’m going to start posting pictures of my children wearing rags on my blog, and demanding that people go buy my books so I can afford to buy them medicine and food.

    You don’t want to be responsible for the DEATHS of these BEAUTIFUL LITTLE GIRLS, do you?

    Personally, I don’t like hardcovers. They’re too hard to read one-handed, which makes it difficult for me to cuddle said children, or husband, or stir food in pots, or snack, while reading them. They’re heavy. They take up a lot of room in my bookcase (where paperbacks rest in rows on top of each other. I can’t fit paperbacks vertically on top of hardcovers.)

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  36. Alison Kent
    Feb 20, 2007 @ 05:40:52

    My format of choice is hardcover. I love them beyond belief and am never one to wait for a mm version if it’s a book I want.

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  37. Nora Roberts
    Feb 20, 2007 @ 06:45:04

    Brandon, I expect the scale’s a bit different in Fantasy where mostly all books received hc treatment–and it may be that the dynamics between Fantasy authors and readers are different, too.

    But it feels to me that whenever an author asks readers to buy a certain format or to buy a certain way, he’s asking the reader to make a personal investment in his personal life. And that’s treading a shaky line.

    It also strikes me that I might have been a little too hard on you as you’re relatively young and relatively new.

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  38. Jane
    Feb 20, 2007 @ 08:05:58

    Mr. Sanderson, the point I was trying to make isn’t necessarily the chutzpah that goes with the seemingly constant attempt of authors, not just you, to direct the book buying behavior of readers. I’ve read posts that readers should buy new and not at the used bookstore. Recently, the posts are couched in terms like, buy one author new. Or buy just one book new. It can save our careers.

    I have also seen authors, or their emissaries, post about when readers should buy them. Suzanne Brockmann used to ask people on her message board to wait until the release date. JR Ward’s Yahoo Group bans all notices of early sightings of the book and asks all readers to buy on the official release date and not before.

    If the author does make the bestseller list, the readers then say things like “WE DID IT.” Readers start making a personal investment into the author. I think that is a bad thing.

    The authors who I read and with whom I have sent an email and mabye even received one in return are not forming a relationship with me. There are comments on the Romancing the Blog forum yesterday which speak to the fact that authors should only be listening to themselves and their editors, not the readers.

    I think that is absolutely true. I don’t want to influence an author to write one way or another. The author should write from their heart, gut or whatever. But when the author begins to make personal pleas, like yours, expectations naturally develop. I have seen readers just furious when a mass market author goes hardcover. I have seen readers say that they feel betrayed by authors or taken advantage of when it is nothing more than an author trying to do her job of writing.

    But I can’t help but feel for these fan girls /boys who do what the author wants and begins to expect relationships to form with the author.

    Further, we have seen many a comment about how it is wholly impermissable to make comments about an author personally. That personal attacks are uncouth. But these pleas for money are personal. How do you separate that – the pleas for personal gain but the disdain for personal attacks?

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  39. Brandon Sanderson
    Feb 20, 2007 @ 11:33:29

    Jane,

    That’s a very well-reasoned assessment–you’ve obviously thought this through, and I honestly find your points about the author/reader relationship fascinating. You have almost a ‘Heisenberg approach’ to this all: Leave the authors alone as much as possible, lest you influence them for the worse.

    From my side, I still find it a little surreal to–after about ten years (and thirteen unpublished books) trying to break in–suddenly be in the middle of debates like this. I’ve found there seems to be a lot of pessimism among publishers. They talk about how people don’t buy or read books anymore, and about how readership is shrinking every year. I’m not convinced it’s true, but it does foster a bit of paranoia in a lot of us authors. I think, if I look at it critically, my essay plays into this.

    (Though, on a side note, something you said reminded me of a story you may find interesting. Last year, I did a booksigning on the Saturday before the ‘official’ book release of Mistborn. Tor approved it, and everything went very, very well. We sold around 250 books, which is very good for someone as new as I am. When my agent heard about this, however, he disapproved. “You shouldn’t have signed at a pre-release like that," he said. “It ruins your chances of getting on the bestseller lists." It felt kind of weird to have something so successful be turned on its head.)

    Anyway, I do find myself respectfully disagreeing somewhat with your opinions regarding author/writer relationships. I like interacting with my readers, and I enjoy hearing what they enjoy about my work, and what they think I need to change. This can be daunting sometimes. My first book was a stand-alone novel which was published in a genre which thrives upon trilogies and extended series. I was commended by critics for writing a single volume epic. Yet, from the emails I get, readers are very, very hopeful that I will do a sequel. Many of them plead for me to write more with those characters.

    Part of me longs for those days when I was unpublished. Days when I could simply write a book and feel beholden to nobody. However, I don’t know if that’s realistic–or if it is bad to look at it the other way. The truth is that this is a business as much as it is an art, and having the president of the company remind you that stand-alones don’t sell as well as series–or having thirteen year old fans plead for you to continue the story of their favorite characters–is just something to which I feel I have to respond.

    Perhaps I fall a little bit too far on the side of a craftsman, as opposed to an artist. I’m not opposed to making the things people enjoy as opposed to those they don’t think I do poorly. I feel beholden to those for whom I write. I feel like an artist who is being fed, clothed, and supported by a wealthy benefactor–though that benefactor now is a community. I don’t want to exist independent of them or their desires.

    That’s partially just a function science fiction genre. I’ve mentioned the small, yet devoted, fanbase which we have. Statistics I’ve read place our sales somewhere around 6% of all fiction books sold. Those who buy those books, however, go to a lot of conventions, and feel very close to their authors. They write fanfiction, hang out on message boards, and very much like to feel part of the process. This is also a genre with a history of activism on the part of fans and readers. Just look at what happens when their favorite sci-fi TV series gets canceled. . . .

    Anyway, I apologize for going on so long. I am, I’m afraid, rather long winded. Comes from being a fantasy writer, I suppose. It isn’t my intention to turn your blog into my platform–I just noticed you making some very astute comments, and wanted to see if I could offer anything in the way of an intelligent defense of what I wrote. I apologize, also, if I offended anyone who prefers paperbacks, or who depends on them as a business model. That wasn’t my intention. Take is as more of a “Hey, what do you think about this?" as opposed to an attempt to overthrow the system.

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  40. Robin
    Feb 20, 2007 @ 12:00:26

    So I still don’t agree with Sanderson, but damn I found his response here refreshingly polite and respectful!! I’d be interested to know if the Fantasy culture is more author oriented or if it’s like Romance where there is a personalization of the author that some readers respond to and others resist.

    While in the overwhelming majority of casess I won’t let an author’s jerky online behavior deter me from buying one of their books (especially authors I haven’t tried yet), I WILL sometimes pick up a book of a new-to-me author when s/he impresses me online. I know that seems inconsistent, but I see it as just another kind of recommendation, and if I dislike that book, I may not be inclined to read anything more by that author.

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  41. Jane
    Feb 20, 2007 @ 12:12:12

    Mr Sanderson – I find your comments very interesting and as Robin noted, you are being so polite! Your cordiality is certainly winning points with readers here.

    First, your plea is no different than several others including a nicely worded but saying the same thing post by Sylvia Day at Romancing the Blog who suggested that readers should consider adopting an author and buying all those books new. My blog post, and I think the reaction of many online readers, is one of weary. We’ve heard it again and again and again.

    Readers’ buying habits, though, are generally opposite of what a new writer needs. For the average romance reader, hardcover purchases are earned and those stingy dollars are awarded to authors who have earned that right in the reader’s mind because as you posited in your essay, buying a hardcover means forgoing at least one other book, if not two other books.

    As for the decreased purchase of books, I believe that to be true. There are so many other forms of entertainment these days and decreased amounts of time. My SIL has several boys and their family is gone virtually every night. Before she had children, she read quite often. Now she’s lucky to read one book a week. Increased family involvement and alternative forms of entertainment are creating a dwindling reading population or at least, a lowering of books sold (which is why I think ebooks can help to provide capsulated reading times, but that’s another letter, another day).

    Let me address, lastly, the most interesting part of your comment (at least to me) and that is the idea of the author being supported by the wealthy benefactor being the larger reading community. I do find that fascinating concept. But in the system of patronage, don’t you the writer owe something to the reader beyond just the writing? In the old days of benefactors, there appeared to be obligations that the benefactee would have to endure in order to keep the patronage.

    Plus, I’ve often seen authors very dismissive of their readers. Famously, LKH and Anne Rice, but less famously I’ve seen similar comments by smaller named and larger named authors. An author (whose name I can’t recall at the moment) mocked a few of her less than articulate readers on Romancing the Blog a few weeks ago. I am sure authors, like Ms. Roberts alluded to, have a ton of stories about crazy fans and their crazy requests. But sometimes, if the patronage system is encouraged, those responses have to be expected.

    I like, BevBB, believe that there is a line between author and reader and it obviously is a different line for each reader, but to cross it means that there is some permissible criticism of the author as a person.

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  42. Janine
    Feb 20, 2007 @ 14:58:41

    I worry about authors writing to what they perceive to be reader expectations and I worry about readers feeling guilted into supporting writers instead of books — because both of these things, IMO, do not bode well for the *books*, and I’m in this for the books, not the authors, per se. Sure authors and publishers have to make money for those books to keep coming — and I will take on what I see as my responsibility to help that happen — but I don’t think that necessitates the blurring of the line between author and book. Not only do I NOT want to feel guilted into doing something for an *author*, but (and this if oten more the case), I don’t like feeling that I have to get over some jerky thing an author said or did online to start or keep buying his or her books.

    I agree, but I’m not sure what’s to be done about it. I have to admit, too, that I enjoy reading authors’ comments on message boards and blogs, just not as much as I enjoy reading a terrific book. If I had to choose between great books and great conversations with authors, I would choose the great books every time. Conversations with authors are enjoyable in large part because I love the books to begin with. If the books all sucked, I wouldn’t read their authors’ blogs, either.

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  43. Janine
    Feb 20, 2007 @ 15:14:13

    [quote comment="23428"] I do want to add, however, that while there certainly are authors who make odd demands, expect this kind of consideration–if that’s the word–from readers, there are readers who make odd demands and expect strange considerations from authors. Boy, have I got stories there.

    That might make an interesting column one day, too.[/quote]

    When I see readers talking about things they categorically dislike in books (and I’ve been guilty of doing so myself) I worry that they are steering the authors away from interesting choices they could make in their writing. Authors have to know when to tune readers out, I think. It probably isn’t easy.

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  44. Ann Wesley Hardin
    Feb 20, 2007 @ 15:22:14

    The way I see it, if you support my book, you support me.

    I think a way around this dilemma is for everyone to be about the book. If a reader finds a winner, tell everyone–like you already do on blogs etc. Like I still do, though not publicly on the ‘net (because I don’t want to leave any of my friends out). Even though I’d love all my readers to love all my books, if they love one and tell their friends about it, the rest will follow.

    So I guess I’m sayin’, imho, keep doing what you’re doing. It’s wonderful how word gets spread around here. I’ve discovered lots of new authors through the reader blogs!

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  45. Brandon Sanderson
    Feb 21, 2007 @ 04:13:31

    Jane,

    I find myself backed somewhat into a corner! In my last comments, I suggested that as a writer I want to do what the readers wish of me. And yet, you–as a reader–suggest that what YOU want is to stay out of the process and not influence me. And so, we enter an infinite loop. Perhaps there’s a science fiction story in that somewhere…. :)

    On a more serious note, I do find that the more I discuss this topic, the more I think that you have a point. The last thing readers need is to be beleaguered by sob stories from authors. I wasn’t intending to sob (I’m actually quite humbled by how well my own books have been doing, all things considered, and am quite easily able to make a full-time living as an author right now. Believe it or not, most of the reason I wrote this essay had to do with seeing the sales numbers of some authors I respect, and wishing they were better supported by the community.)

    However, I don’t realistically think I can approach a subject like this one in the way I once did, when I was unpublished. The simple truth is now that I make my money from this profession, I’ve lost my ability to speak about something like this with any sort of assumption of objectivity. And so, all I end up doing–despite intention–is make readers feel bad about the books they ARE purchasing.

    In short, well argued. Bravo.

    You wrote: “I do find that fascinating concept. But in the system of patronage, don’t you the writer owe something to the reader beyond just the writing? In the old days of benefactors, there appeared to be obligations that the benefactee would have to endure in order to keep the patronage.”

    I think, indeed, there are things which the author owes to his or her readers. The system is much less formal than the classical example we’ve been using, but I do think that the readers have a right to certain courtesies. For instance, I think that we authors should finish the series that we start, and should do our best to meet deadlines so that readers don’t have to wait too long between installments of a trilogy or series. More importantly, I think we should treat readers with respect–as you are, essentially, our employers.

    There are authors who decide they do not want to have much of a public image, and I think this should be respected. However, if an author decides to become a public figure–such as by, say, publishing essays on their blogs–then I believe they should be ready to accept criticism. To post on the internet, where things are much less formal, is to invite discussion, comments, and the sharing of ideas.

    A writer such as myself can’t, therefore, complain when someone notices an opinionated blog post he has made, then makes their own opinionated blog post in response. Books are, generally, faceless–and criticism of books should rightly focus on the book and not the author. However, essays and blog posts are personal. By making them–as has been noted in comments–an author exposes himself or herself up to personal criticism. I think that it’s only fair to expect this, and be willing to accept it and not take personal attacks. . .well, too personally. If that makes any sense.

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  46. Jane
    Feb 21, 2007 @ 10:22:04

    Mr. Sanderson, I am sorry if you felt I was being too aggressive in my arguments. I sincerely wanted to engage in a discussion about this idea of the reader community as the benefactor. In no way was I hoping for a concession or a “brava” or anything. I just wanted to explored the idea by providing my thoughts with the hope that you or any other author would be interested in responding. My mind can always be changed with a persuasive argument.

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  47. Dear Author.Com | Should Authors Reach Out and Touch a Reader?
    Feb 27, 2007 @ 12:01:43

    [...] Drop an Author, Adopt a Blogger2% of Amazon Business Referred by BlogsShould Authors Shut Up and Write?Blogland Is Alive with the Sound of ReadersSticker Shock, Part Two [...]

  48. The Good, The Bad and The Unread » Blog Archive » Things that make you go WTF
    Mar 23, 2007 @ 11:36:51

    [...] blog. I went back to Kristiej’s oh so nifty author ‘touch’. I went back to Jane, who instead of reacting as I would have, took the whine-a-rita and turned it into another contest. [...]

  49. More Nominations... « Me and my books
    Mar 29, 2007 @ 15:22:13

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  50. creditreader
    Jul 23, 2007 @ 22:07:50

    - Whether I buy hardcover, paperback, used or check it out from the library should depend solely on the book. -

    actually, according to Sanderson, all libraries should be banned since they are stealing authors’ money…
    honestly, I’m not an expert in the publishing business, but if paperbacks hurt authors that much, why don’t they simply refuse to publish their books in paperback?
    for instance, musicians lose hell a lot of money when their CDs are illegally copied, but they can’t help it. book authors can do that!

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  51. Brandon Sanderson
    Jul 25, 2007 @ 16:24:00

    (sigh)

    I never said anything of the sort, friend. I said this:

    1) I like it when people read my books, no matter how they get it. If I were worried about libraries, I wouldn’t have given away one of my upcoming books on my website free for download.

    2) I like it when people buy hardbacks. People have written me emails asking why hardbacks cost so much. I wrote this article as a response. I told them to buy paperbacks if they like them–that’s fine! But, the reason in my business we publish hardbacks is because they’re what make the money.

    3) Paperbacks make money for people in my sub-set of the business, but hardbacks are what drive the market. (My market being thick fantasy novels.) We have a smaller readership than a lot of other genres, and many authors are supported solely from their hardback sales, with paperback sales mostly being a form of promotion for the next hardback.

    Word of mouth is very important, and we love it when people check out our books from the library. I have no complaint with that. I apologize if my article is confusing in this regard.

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  52. Read for Pleasure
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 06:38:35

    Used books versus new: 16% of 3% of…

    Amazon.com first started selling used books in 2002. It was a huge success. By 2004, 67% of used books sales were online–a higher percentage than any other product category. (Only 12.7% of new books sales were online.)

    The Author’s Guild urged its members to de-link Amazon in protest…

  53. eliZZZa
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 02:51:55

    Hi Jane, I didn´t know your blog before, just stumbled upon. You should have seen me reading with open mouth in disbelief >;o) Does that guy mean it??? Haha, when I reached the third paragraph from bottom, I started ROFLing – when I read some of the comments, I realized, it´s not a guy (well, you see, English is not my native language) – well, if I knew immediately, I had no doubt that this would be fine female sarkasm >;o)
    Had a great laugh!
    Thanks and greetings from Austria
    eliZZZa

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  54. eliZZZa
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 03:08:56

    Laughing tears, I indeed missed my point:
    I live surrounded by paperbacks – up to the ceiling (which is 5m high) on 100 m2. Would a fairy change my paperbacks into hardcovers, I´d have to rent a new apartment, double the size. That would cost me, let´s say double investment on hardcovers plus double rent – MY cat and me we would probably end up in a shelter within a few months… >;o))

    ReplyReply

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