Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Sticker Shock, Part One

The mantra going around last week amongst author blogs was “buy new”. At least one author says to readers

Don’t gripe about how they aren’t publishing anything you like if you aren’t buying new books because you gave up your right to vote on what’s being published.

Another author said

The “swap readers” appeared, in fact, baffled when I explained that their “free” enjoyment of the book is hurting the authors’ livelihoods and skewing the publishers’ impressions of what people enjoy reading.

When I was recording my purchases the month, I was a bit shocked at how much I was spending. What really breaks the book budget are the hardcovers and the trade paperbacks. This month I bought two hardcovers: PJ Tracy’s Snow Blind and Stephenie Meyer’s New Moon. I bought three trade paperbacks (albeit in ebook format): Karin Tabke’s Good Girl Gone Bad, HelenKay Dimon’s Viva Las Bad Boys, Sylvia Day’s Ask for It and the rest were mass market.

Maybe three or four years ago, I don’t have more than a handful of purchases from the hardcover and trade format. Nowadays at least half of the purchases seem to be in the trade/hardcover category. Those books run from $12.00 to $25.00 depending on whether you can get a discount.

The symbiotic relationship between the author and reader is this: authors want to write and readers want to read. Those two desires dovetail well. From that point, the self interest of each party divurges. When an author is pleading for new book sales it is not because she is hoping for royalty from that book (which amounts to less than $.50 for mass markets), but it is because if she doesn’t sell through her print run or make a good showing, she isn’t going to get another contract. When an author says “buy new”, she is trying to convey the following:

I just cringe when people I know tell me they’re looking forward to getting my newest book at the library. I always ask that they buy new. “It’s not the 36-cents a copy I get,” I tell them. “It’s the fact that if I want to keep writing, my publisher has to have decent sales in order to allow me to keep publishing.”

A reader, on the other hand, wants to get as many books for as little as she can. Otherwise, how can the voracious reader afford her reading habit? With mass market book prices going up to $8.00 and more and more books being released in hardcover and trade, the reader has only a few choices.

  • They can read less.
  • They can buy more used.
  • They can utilize trading services like Paperbackswap
  • They can share books more amongst themselves
  • They can try to use their libraries

All of the above means less books sold overall which leads to publishers believing that the market for certain authors, genres, and time periods are not selling or which leads to price increases. It’s a bit ironic when I read authors saying how they understand what the publishers are doing, after all publishers are just trying to make a profit but it is really the publishers that are doing them a bad turn. Increasing book prices mean decreasing sales, particularly in economic times like this when it costs $6.00 to drive to a bookstore.

Readers do the best that they can to support the authors that they like. I don’t know one avid reader who hasn’t bought a new book in the last month. I am of like mind with Vanessa Jaye who believes that if you write a good book, you will sell. Nicole agrees. I buy approximately 10 books a month. Some are ebooks, some are mass market, some are trades and one may be a hardcover. Nearly everyone of them is a new book but I also buy 5 or so used books a month as well. Then there is the one or two hardcovers I check out from my library. Maybe that’s why it grates so much to read the “please buy me new” plea. Because I’ll buy you new if you are writing something that interests me. And if you wrote two or three books that I found to be keepers, I’ll buy you new in hardcover, damn the cost. But authors can’t expect readers to buy new for authors they are taking a chance on. Our money is worth something.

I, as a reader, send a plea to publishers: LOWER YOUR PRICES and I’ll buy more and I’ll buy new. Maybe instead of posting that 8th straight year of record profits, you could lower your prices and allow the reader to support more authors. Just a thought. It’s one way for authors not to blame readers for the decline of their line, their series, their books. I know as a reader who buys new that my efforts rarely generate any results. After all, I loved Joan Wolf’s Medieval series and bought those books new in HARDCOVER and that line is dead.

Next week: the numbers behind the decline.

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. Tara Marie
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 08:40:46

    I missed all of this last week, and I’m rather relieved, as a voracious reader I have two problems with buying everything new…

    1. I simply can’t afford it. I buy 10-20 new books a month and usually those are new releases that I “must” have. I order just about everything through a local UBS/Indie bookseller, but if I see something I was planning on buying new already on the used shelf, I’m saving my pennies and buying it used, especially if it’s a new to me author or a trade paperback.

    2. Not everything is available new, older books have to be searched out and often can only be found used. Often the only way to find an author’s backlist is to buy them used, should we pass on these books because we missed them when they were new?

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  2. Karen Scott
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 09:21:04

    OMG, talk about two great minds Jane! I literally just posted about this, lol!

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  3. Karen Scott
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 09:29:14

    My post had less to do with price though, purely because as an English reader, I know that if I want romance books other than Mills and Boon, I have to pay the price because God knows, the only remotely interesting romance author my library carries is Nora Roberts, and many USB’s don’t even have romance sections.

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  4. Jane
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 09:30:06

    I see your post is loads more coherent than mine which I edited late last night. Le sigh. I like buying new because I am a fan of instant gratification but I am not sure where my responsibility as a reader ends. I think it ends with me buying the books I like and not buying the books I don’t like. In the end, all authors have people who dislike their books and vice versa and so some poor reader or set of readers is going to be “responsible” for that author’s demise? Hard to swallow.

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  5. Jayne
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 09:34:55

    Karen, have ebooks changed your buying habits much? I used to haunt UBS here for friends of mine from Reading and Germany then ship huge boxes to them.

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  6. JulieLeto
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 09:40:26

    I blogged about this and posted at Vanessa Jaye’s blog as well. Most writers aren’t saying “Buy new all the time!” We’re saying, when you can–when you’ve found a fabulous author that you want to see continue (meaning, you’ve already tried out this author before–either new or used–and you know that you like them) then you should feel better about buying them new because you are sending a message to the publisher that this author is someone you appreciate.

    I’m not going to lie…I have a new book hitting bookstores this week and of COURSE, I’d love if everyone who was going to buy that book bought it new (and this week, when publishers look at velocity) but do I expect people to? Will I be angry if they don’t? NO! But hey, if you’re so inclined, I’ll be happy as a clam. (Why exactly are clams happy anyway?)

    I have nothing against used book sales. I know for a fact that as a category writer, especially, it’s the only way some people can get ahold of my backlist. I love libraries and donate to them whenever I can. I don’t check out books for myself, but that’s only because my library isn’t close by and well, I have this thing about owning books and not having to bring them back by any particular date. Almost every published writer I’ve ever discussed this topic with (and I’ve discussed it with many) do not want to discourage readers. But we also know that many readers do not realize that used book sales do not “count.” Many don’t know that the author doesn’t get a royalty (though as Jane said, that really doesn’t matter as much). The current wave of discussion was meant to be educational. To maybe start a dialogue and get more readers to consider their buying habits and make informed choices. Even if that choice is to continue to buy used.

    BTW, I know precisely how much I spend in books every year because I have to keep track of it for taxes. It’s a frightening amount. I rarely buy used unless the book is out of print, BUT I’m also incredibly selective about what I buy. I’m a very slow reader and I have to be more realistic about which books I’m actually going to finish. So I definitely understand readers being selective. Which means, of course, that as authors, we have to try hard to fulfill the promise of a great story between the pages. That’s always been a given. But just because I bust my butt to write the best book I possibly can doesn’t mean everyone will agree that a book is great. There’s always that taste and subjectivity thing.

    Sorry to ramble. Must get back to work on the next book…

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  7. Rosie
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 11:04:51

    Jane I just commented on this on Karen’s post. You pretty much captured my feelings dead on. I support the books and authors that have consistently delivered a good story to me by purchasing their books new. As a result of my years of only being able to afford used I now buy my favorites as soon as they release. Like others have already noted here, I too purchase 10 to 20 books a month.

    I guess I made an assumption that most avid readers were like this. Most of the time when I see a note or comment that someone has bought used or gone to the library it was about affording the hard cover or because the writer just hadn’t delivered the goods for that reader in recent books.

    This problem isn’t all about the readers. I think it is also about the publishers, promotion and the sheer number of books out there.

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  8. Karen Scott
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 11:24:09

    Karen, have ebooks changed your buying habits much?

    I spend over £2500 ($4500) on new books per year, and that’s just between Amazon, Waterstones, and Borders. I haven’t included my e-book purchases in that estimation.

    I love the instant grat that I get from e-books, but as I don’t have an e-book reader (somebody mentioned that e-book readers can’t be used in the UK yet?) I don’t purchase as many as I’d like to, and besides that, these days, I’m selective about where I get my e-books from.

    The minute I get an e-book reader, I know that my spending will increase again, because I’ll still be buying the same number of print.

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  9. JulieLeto
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 11:27:21

    Karen, the big “new” thing is downloading ebooks to the cell phone, or so I’ve heard. I’m thinking about getting a TREO just for this purpose. More and more of my books (my Blazes & my single titles) are now available by ebooks. I have a year to decide as that’s when my &^%#! contract with Sprint is up and I can make an informed decision. I predict that ebooks are going to get much easier to access in the next few years with this technology. Everyone doesn’t have a reader, but everyone does have a cell phone. (Okay, not EVERYONE.) The trick is to get a cell phone with a screen comfortable enough for reading books.

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  10. Karen Scott
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 12:03:36

    Julie, my cell phone is tiny, but I might look into downloading books onto it.

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  11. Jane
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 12:07:01

    This is kind of veering off topic, but I think shelf life is part of the reason that mid list authors can’t make it, particularly category romance writers. Category romance books are only available a short time and there is generally very little pre pub buzz. By the time people are talking about a category, that book is gone. Ebook format allows a book, like a category, to have longer life. I think it would be interesting to see whether authors are seeing increased sell throughs with their books being available in ebook format.

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  12. Jorrie Spencer
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 12:22:14

    Quite frankly, I just don’t see how avid readers can afford to buy all their books new. I can’t. I have a family to support (and btw, books to buy for them!) And I can’t bring myself to buy a bunch of books I won’t read—not that I don’t have unread books from years ago.

    Anyway, I’m not convinced people should cringe about the library. Library sales add up and if an author proves to be popular, I think the librarians note it. Also, I will ask my library to buy specific books and sometimes an author makes a sale because of my request, even if I didn’t spend my money. (I am lucky to have a great library near me.)

    USB stores are very poor around here, so they’re a no go. But best to see them as a way to lure a reader to your books, I think. Same with the library. For example, I would have never bought JR Ward’s first book because the premise didn’t appeal to me. But I was willing to check it out of the library and guess what book I’m buying soon?

    All that said, I do have family members—readers—who work very very hard never to buy books, as if they are a waste of money with no notion—they refuse to see it—that supporting books is worthwhile. They’re only interested in the library or garage sales. That may be, however, a generational thing, at least in part.

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  13. Wendy
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 12:33:44

    What Rosie said. Once an author “proves herself” I buy new. Heck, I tend to either pre-order or buy new around the laydown date even. I also tend to buy new for sub genres I would love to see come back in the big way – so I tend to buy ALL of my westerns new in the hopes that someone in NY is getting the message. As of right now, they’re not.

    I don’t feel guilty for reading library copies because my job is to BUY those library copies. I usually reserve library books for hard covers I just can’t see spending a ton of money on, or authors who are on my “close to getting dropped” list.

    The UBS is reserved for authors I want to try, or again, authors on my “close to getting dropped” list.

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  14. Bev (BB)
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 13:01:28

    [quote comment="3534"]I blogged about this and posted at Vanessa Jaye’s blog as well. Most writers aren’t saying “Buy new all the time!” We’re saying, when you can–when you’ve found a fabulous author that you want to see continue (meaning, you’ve already tried out this author before–either new or used–and you know that you like them) then you should feel better about buying them new because you are sending a message to the publisher that this author is someone you appreciate.[/quote]

    I’m sure that most authors do think this way, Ms. Leto, but that only makes me curious as to why those few feel the need to insist that readers avoid those other alternatives. What do they believe that attitude is actually accomplishing?

    Yes, I know that if one doesn’t agree with the attude, one may not understand it, but it seems to me that unless we – authors and readers who don’t believe that way – understand where they are really coming from this entire discussion is kind of pointless.

    Particularly when the majority of devoted readers aren’t even on the Internet so not familiar with this issue at all and therefore would most likely look at an author as nuts to even suggest not using a library or UBS . . .

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  15. Jane
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 13:07:39

    [quote comment="3542"]I’m sure that most authors do think this way, Ms. Leto, but that only makes me curious as to why those few feel the need to insist that readers avoid those other alternatives. What do they believe that attitude is actually accomplishing?[/quote]

    I think that some authors really do believe you should not buy used. I didn’t link or quote from Rosina Lippi’s site but she stated that her guidelines are to buy used ONLY when the book is OOP, the copyright is passed, or the author is dead. And if you have to buy new, buy from a non profit or library.

    It’s an interesting but unrealistic perspective. I believe the furor over ARC sales is one way for the author to vent about “used” book sales and I tend to think, if many authors had their druthers, resale of books would be illegal.

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  16. Alison Kent
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 13:33:20

    As of August, Harlequin is releasing several of their lines in eBook format: Blaze, Intrigue, Presents, Next and Special releases. I think FictionWise (or someone) sold a few HQ books previously, but this is from the eHQ store.

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  17. Jane
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 13:51:52

    [quote comment="3544"]As of August, Harlequin is releasing several of their lines in eBook format: Blaze, Intrigue, Presents, Next and Special releases. I think FictionWise (or someone) sold a few HQ books previously, but this is from the eHQ store.[/quote]

    Is this new because I have been buying Harlequin ebooks for several months now (maybe four?). I bought 5 luna books, Julie Leto’s Boys of Summer, Brenda Jackson, Jo Leigh, Jeannie London to name a few. Or are they releasing the backlist titles? I wish they would put out backlist titles of Bird and Singh. :(

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  18. Alison Kent
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 13:55:06

    [quote comment="3545"]Is this new because I have been buying Harlequin ebooks for several months now (maybe four?).[/quote]

    Hmm. I assumed it was new because we got a press release about the eBook store being launched as well as the mini-ebooks for $.99 now available. But maybe it’s been around longer than I realized.

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  19. MeriBeth
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 14:01:28

    Forgive the langauge, but bullshit. At present, I buy only one author new and in hardcover, and she’s dead. I’m buying MZB’s Atlantis-Avalon-Light series of book, many of which are now OOP and that’s it. If I buy a book it’s either an ebook or a svaed for purchase from Amazon. I don’t have the money to spend to drive two hours to the nearest bookstore, nor do I want to read books that suck. Literally. I resold my entire collection of LKH hardcovers on eBay because I couldn’t stand to look at them anymore after the travesty her writing has become. Find me a good, solid author with consistent ‘sink into it’ writing and maybe I’ll buy you. Otherwise… no can do… you can wait.

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  20. Jane
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 14:01:45

    Oh, wait, are you saying that this is the EHarlequin bookstore going live? Yes, then I got an email from E Harlequin too (some weekly newsletter thingy). But here’s my beef. Why are the prices higher than elsewhere on the internet? I wish HQN would price them lower, after all they aren’t taking a distributor hit. :( If they would only price them lower, I would buy more. :(

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  21. Zeek
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 14:16:19

    Well I gotta be honest, I don’t like anyone telling me what my purchasing habits (or lack there of) should be, even if it is an author suggesting it.

    Like most of you I buy USB, I go to the library, I swap AND I buy new.

    I’m not independently wealthy, far from it, *snort* some months I’m barely getting by, so this is the only way I can get my reading fix- short of turning tricks on the street! But I just can’t bring myself to it when there’s a library just FULL of books to read! hee

    Like you noted and as stated elsewhere … if it’s good enough they should have no worries. I don’t think Rowling and King care if there books are in a library!

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  22. Kristie(J)
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 17:23:57

    I’m one of the lucky ones that buys probably 80% or higher of my books new. I’m at the point in my life when my kids are grown and moved out. I don’t spend a lot of money on other things so books is the number one place my money goes. I am a BIG believer in buying new and mid-list authors new. If it weren’t for those willing to take a gamble, then I think the market would be even worse than it is now. At the same time I can understand why so many readers do rely on UBS and the library. Books are a horrible price anymore. I cringe myself at the price of books. Here in Canada MM books are usually $10.00, trade sized are $21.00 and hardcover can run over $30.00. And then there is tax on top of that!!! I’ve stopped buying trade and hardcover and just suffer from delayed gratification and wait for them to come out in paperback.

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  23. Rosario
    Aug 28, 2006 @ 20:23:19

    Going a bit OT…

    I don’t have an e-book reader (somebody mentioned that e-book readers can’t be used in the UK yet?)

    Karen, I don’t know about other brands, but while Ebookwise ships only to the US and Canada, as long as you’ve got a broadband connection, you’d have no problem using it in the UK (I had it sent to my uncle’s in Florida).

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  24. Nicole
    Aug 29, 2006 @ 07:27:56

    I think the part that’s new is that Harlequin is selling them from their website. But as others said, you can buy them cheaper at other places on the internet.

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  25. Bev (BB)
    Aug 29, 2006 @ 13:45:51

    [quote comment="3543]It’s an interesting but unrealistic perspective. I believe the furor over ARC sales is one way for the author to vent about “used” book sales and I tend to think, if many authors had their druthers, resale of books would be illegal.[/quote]

    I’ve been thinking about this overnight and I can’t get away from the thought that wishing readers only bought new goes way beyond unrealistic into ridiculous because Jane is right – ultimately the logical conclusion of that would be that resale would be wrong, illegal, whatever. Any resale.

    This about more than simply saying readers shouldn’t BUY used, too, you know. I mean it’s one thing for authors to not want those books that the publishers/distributors toss (and remove the covers from?) to be sold because that does mess up the count. I think. It’s completely another thing entirely to imply by association that a reader who bought a book in good faith and possibly even read it, maybe even enjoyed it but no longer wants it should then have to also toss it as the ONLY allowed alternative.

    And don’t bring up donating to libraries because I’ve tried donating my paperbacks to the local library in the past. They won’t always take them. There’s just too many of them out there, especially romances. Sometimes even when they do take them, they simply put them out for sale almost immediately. And we’re right back where we started with the resale question plus I’m sorry but if it was okay for them to resale even for “non-profit” purposes, then it’s okay for me to do it when I was the one who owned the book in the first place.

    Which is why I keep coming back to the thought that this is just a crazy discussion and wondering why it’s even an issue for ANYONE.

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  26. jaye
    Aug 29, 2006 @ 21:04:23

    I’ll repeat what I’ve said on my own blog (but a little more concisely. *g*)

    The thing that niggles at me is, this plea(?), advice(?), enlightenment(?) is, sort of, uhm… useless. As we can see from the majority of posts/comments on this subject from the different blogs, this info is either preaching to the choir, or falling on rocky ground.

    People who buy new will continue to buy new for a variety of reason–supporting a author, just being one of the reasons, but not necessarily the primary one. People who buy used, well, they’ll probaby continue to buy used, for their own reasons. For them, reading with enthusiasm and chatting up the author’s work (with, hopefully, equal enthusiasm) to other, is how they (choose? can afford to?) show their support.

    Let’s face it, reading is a very selfish pleasure. Not selfish in a bad way. Just selfish in a It’s-All-About-Me (the reader) -And-My-Enjoyment way.

    The percentage of readers this info will sway is miniscule, imo.

    I’m just sayin….

    And not all that concisely, in the end. ::snort::

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  27. Alison Kent
    Aug 29, 2006 @ 21:14:54

    [quote comment="3580"]The thing that niggles at me is, this plea(?), advice(?), enlightenment(?) is, sort of, uhm… useless.[/quote]

    Yes, the posts preached to many members of the choir – but, they could also reached a lot of silent people who have never realized how authors earn their money. One of the commenters on Rosini’s blog even said she thought authors were paid up front and that was it. So there are readers out there who don’t know about sell-throughs and royalties.

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  28. Alison Kent
    Aug 29, 2006 @ 21:20:41

    [quote comment="3581"] One of the commenters on Rosini’s blog even said she thought authors were paid up front and that was it. [/quote]

    Rosina. Sigh. Need sleep.

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  29. Jane
    Aug 29, 2006 @ 21:21:19

    Here’s a thought that has been rolling around in my mind and that is, are authors trying to make readers feel guilty about NOT buying new. Because I have to say, from a self interest point of view, I just don’t want to have to worry about financially supporting an author, a sub genre, a line. I just want to buy what I like. All the stuff about print runs, royalties and so forth are interesting but honestly, I just don’t know if I like that affecting my reading purchases.

    I know that sounds very selfish, but it is also selfish for authors to ask readers to buy new. But that is a very human reaction (to act in acccordance with one’s own self interest). I haven’t really thought it out yet. It reminds of me of a concept in Anthony DeMello’s book, Awakening, in which he posits that all actions taken by man are selfish, even charity is selfish as it fulfills the need to feel good about one’s self.

    I do wonder if it is a good marketing technique though, which has to be something authors think of when blogging.

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  30. jaye
    Aug 29, 2006 @ 22:36:13

    Alison, I should have said, *almost* useless. :-P, You’ll see by the time I got to the end of my very concise post ::snort:: that I did wrap up by saying a *small* percentage of reader would (could?) be influenced by this info. For the most part, I still think the majority of readers are in the either/ or camps, with very few sitting on the fence of ignorance AND receptive to being swayed by this info. (*Ignorance* meaning lack of knowledge; not being insulting.)

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  31. jaye
    Aug 29, 2006 @ 22:41:54

    Here’s a thought that has been rolling around in my mind and that is, are authors trying to make readers feel guilty about NOT buying new. Because I have to say, from a self interest point of view, I just don’t want to have to worry about financially supporting an author, a sub genre, a line. I just want to buy what I like. All the stuff about print runs, royalties and so forth are interesting but honestly, I just don’t know if I like that affecting my reading purchases

    Jane. this is exactly what I meant about reading being a very selfish past-time. Personal reading is about the reader and his/her enjoyment (and I guess for some, enlightenment also). Period. If you happen to save the whales, or support an author while you’re at it. That’s a by-product for all but the most dedicated fan. But this info/advice isn’t aimed towards them.

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  32. jaye
    Aug 29, 2006 @ 22:45:14

    urk. Sorry for all the typos/grammar fubars in my last post. It’s quarter-to-twelve, and I should be in bed, rather than administering one last kick to this poor horsey. :-P :there, there, Trigger. Here’s a nice juicy carrot::

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  33. Sybil
    Aug 30, 2006 @ 01:40:32

    hmmm is selfish the correct word here…

    I mean all hobby’s should be about that person’s enjoyment. If you like to watch movies, do you skip movies you want to see because you can’t afford the ticket price and then the movie house closes, or that producer goes belly up because you picked up their creative work in the Hollywood video previously view bin?

    Do authors write only to market and what readers want? Or do they write the book that calls to them? Is that selfish?

    I wonder how many readers are really clueless enough that they need to be told it is better to buy new. Hell if I could I would buy all my books new because I want to support the author and I rather have the never read purdy book.

    But just as a writer isn’t going to write a western because I the reader want it, I am not going to buy all my books new because the author wants it.

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  34. jaq
    Aug 30, 2006 @ 08:24:09

    Based on some responses, I think pertinent bits and pieces of my comments are being missed. (Not that I blame any one for skimming through my longwindedness.)

    I did specify I didn’t mean selfish in a bad way. I just checked Webster’, in case there is always a negative attached to the word (most common use), but all Websters’ says is: Self’ish: adj. devoted only to one’s self. This is all I meant by saying reading is a selfish pleasure. The reader is only (or at least, primarily) thinking about pleasure to be derived from the reading. Nothing else. I’d like to think there is a range of leeway in terms of degrees of selfishness.

    I think I might have to start writing in point form, rather than my usual ramble. :-P

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  35. jaq
    Aug 30, 2006 @ 08:30:15

    Sorry, Sybil. Jane also used ‘selfish’ in her post, I realize, a little late, that you weren’t necessarily addressing me. :-P (Although, my reasoning re the use of the term selfish, still stands. )

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  36. Sybil
    Aug 30, 2006 @ 10:27:49

    LOL no not really, but questioning the use of the word in general in reference to readers and what they buy.

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  37. Robin
    Aug 30, 2006 @ 12:27:13

    Which is why I keep coming back to the thought that this is just a crazy discussion and wondering why it’s even an issue for ANYONE.

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    This issue, IMO, boils down to a somewhat unresovable conflict of interest between authors and readers. Authors make more money the more new books that are sold, and readers save money the more used books they buy. Authors, IMO, have a legitimate gripe about authors being dumped for low numbers when readers won’t buy new books by new authors, but it’s also the case that many readers wouldn’t have money to buy nearly as many books to support the genre in general if they didn’t buy used.

    I buy a combination of used and new; if I want to send a message to a publisher that an author is worth investing in, I will buy new. Some authors I will only buy new because I want them to have my royalty money. Some authors I will try in used, but msot new authors I will buy new so they at least have a chance. I don’t borrow from the library because I like to own my own books. I buy a lot of OOP books used. And when I’m unsure about an established author, I will often try one book used to see what I think.

    Even though I buy the lion’s share of my books new, I don’t think there is anything wrong with buying used. In fact, I think readers who buy used and then go on to recommend these books to other readers are potentially more valuable than readers who buy new and simply recycle their books to the UBS or library. I don’t think readers who buy used should feel obliged to do this, but I think those who do are contributing quite substantially to the sales of authors who might only be narrowly focused on those readers who buy new. I wish that publishers could somehow track used book sales, too, as a way to measure the popularity of an author, because some might be selling quite well on the used market. I also like it when publishers offer new authors at a cheaper price, or when they periodically offer cheapter editions of books (I have bought new copies of both Crusie and Brockmann that way). Perhaps more creative promotions would HELP more readers buy new. Because I don’t always think it’s that they need encouragement, but actual assistance to be able to afford more new books.

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  38. Bev (BB)
    Aug 30, 2006 @ 14:35:28

    [quote comment="3595"]

    Which is why I keep coming back to the thought that this is just a crazy discussion and wondering why it’s even an issue for ANYONE.

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    This issue, IMO, boils down to a somewhat unresovable conflict of interest between authors and readers. [/quote]

    Somewhat? I’d think totally unresolvable and what’s more it’s never going to be resolved, either. No matter how much “some” authors lecture readers, no matter how much other authors might wish to “educate” readers, selling and buying used books is always going to be there.

    Is the difference of perspective about money? Well, sure, but does acknowledging that change anything either?

    Not really.

    I think the reason I question the validity of this discussion is that it seems to be between two sides who lack power to do anything about the issue in the first place. Authors really don’t have that much control over the prices of their books and, while readers do vote with their pocketbook, I don’t see publishers stopping printing new books anytime soon because a large number of readers buy used books.

    So, again, I have to wonder what exactly we’re really talking about. Individual authors falling by the wayside, possibly? I don’t want to sound heartless, but is it really my responsibility as an individual reader to worry about that?

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  39. Robin
    Aug 30, 2006 @ 15:11:33

    I think the reason I question the validity of this discussion is that it seems to be between two sides who lack power to do anything about the issue in the first place.

    I guess this all depends on how you define power. While publishers produce and price books, do they really “sell” them in every sense of the word? I think authors play a role in whether and how many of their books sell, and that websites and blogs do play a role in marketing (along with book signings, etc.). As Alison pointed out, there are some readers who don’t know how the royalties structure works, as well.

    I don’t think there’s ever a good reason for authors to “lecture” readers about why it’s bad to buy used, nor do I think it’s the reader’s responsibility to “save” any particular author. However, it must be admitted that readers DO play a role in the market value of authors, and that we do vote — however crudely and imperfectly sometimes — withour dollars. So while there might be an ever-existing conflict of interest between authors and readers on this issue, I still think there’s room for discussion, negotiation, and education on both sides.

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  40. JulieLeto
    Aug 30, 2006 @ 16:11:40

    What Robin said.

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  41. Bev (BB)
    Aug 30, 2006 @ 17:25:10

    [quote comment="3598]So while there might be an ever-existing conflict of interest between authors and readers on this issue, I still think there’s room for discussion, negotiation, and education on both sides.[/quote]

    Okay, laying discussion and education aside because I’m not saying nor will I ever say there shouldn’t be any of either of those, just that I’m suspicious of some of the topics and this happens to be one – I have to admit that the idea of “negotiation” between authors and readers lost me completely.

    Huh? Negotiation over what?

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  42. Robin
    Aug 30, 2006 @ 20:29:12

    Huh? Negotiation over what?

    Nothing material, if that’s what you’re wondering. I’m just talking about negotiating terms of understanding in the absence of agreement; after all, this is hardly the Arab Israeli conflict. Parties that have competing or even adverse interests can admit the opposition has some valid points, even if each side refuses to subscribe to the views of the other side. I set this apart from “discussion,” because often I think that takes the form of people talking “at” one another more than anything.

    I also realize that not everyone is aiming for greater understanding across the author-reader divide, that some people are completely comfortable with the separatist position. I have absolutely no problem with that, either. I just tend to gravitate in the direction of bridges.

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  43. Robin
    Aug 30, 2006 @ 20:39:53

    Oh, man, sorry about the way my answer sounds — that’ll teach me to post right after my corporate law class!

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  44. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 30, 2006 @ 21:45:53

    This is one discussion I can’t offer a valid opinion on.

    One part of me understands the buy new deal. If authors don’t sell well, then the next book won’t get picked up. And a lot of excellent books are written and then we never hear from the author again…reason, the sales didn’t justify a new contract in the publisher’s opinion.

    Another part of me understands those who buy at UBS. UBS can be an author’s best friend because readers discover new faves there and then go out and buy the author’s current releases. I also know how expensive books are, so i definitely understand from the reader’s viewpoint. For those of us that can put away a book a day, buying that many new books would be impossible for a lot of readers and they shouldn’t have to miss out on their hobby just because they can’t afford new books.

    But UBS sales don’t mean squat to publishers. Doesn’t matter how popular a title is selling thru the UBS biz~if readers aren’t buying some of the mid list or new name authors, they shouldn’t be surprised if they don’t see a sequel to a book they found in a UBS and loved. There may not be a sequel.

    If you want to support a fave author or a new one that wrote a book that blew you away, the best thing you can do is buy the book new. If you do, that increases the possibility of the author selling more books to that publisher. I’d say it’s even more important when it’s a mid list or fairly new author. This is how the people who constantly hit the best sellers lists continue to hit the best seller lists~they have a large, devoted following that will buy new.

    On a side note, a few months ago I was at a new and used bookstore, talking to the owner. A customer came in and joined in on the conversation about how she couldn’t find any good historicals any more. Conversation came around to that she never, ever bought books new. She then went on to complain about the lack of decent, recently released historicals. While she’s entitled to buy her books however she chooses, if she isn’t buying anything new, ever, it’s my opinion that she doesn’t have a justifiable complaint when it comes not being able to find her type of books any more. She’s not buying, so techinically, she’s not giving herself a voice with the publishers.

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  45. Karen Scott
    Aug 31, 2006 @ 02:32:24

    What about the used book store owners themselves? If readers stop buying as many used books, then surely this impacts them, perhaps even leading to closures? Or do they not really matter in the great scheme of things?

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  46. Phyl
    Aug 31, 2006 @ 08:34:50

    I know the original post does not address this, but at some point, don’t we have to bring e-books into the discussion? E-books carry some risks of their own. They can be copied illegally just like music and video files. But they give authors a chance to bring their OOP backlists back into the marketplace. I’ve purchased several OOP Regency titles from Belgrave House and Fictionwise. It costs me less than buying a $.01 + postage copy used off Amazon, I get it instantly, and the author gets a royalty payment.

    What does tick me off is seeing new print titles sold as e-books for essentially the same price (although I guess I’m not spending any gas money to buy it). E-books cost a publisher less to produce and I’d like to see publishers encourage us to buy these with discounts and volume buying promotions. New and mid-list authors might really benefit, especially as the e-book market grows.

    Phyl, who buys it all–new, used, and electronic.

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  47. Jane
    Aug 31, 2006 @ 08:44:57

    Phyl: Good points regarding ebooks. 1) even if the book is not in ebook format, there is still the piracy risk. Over at Teleread.org, it was reported that the Harry Potter story was availlabe in illegal ebook format within hours of its release.

    2) Ebooks that cost more than the print version or is the same price is ridiculous. I hate that.

    3) I do think that widespread ebook popularity can create profits where there weren’t any in the past. I wrote an article a while back called the Long Tail based on Chris Anderson’s theory that the internet and digital downloads can create profits from the misses.

    Karen – I believe that some authors view Used bookstore owners as bottom feeders who earn money off some one else’s labor.

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  48. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 31, 2006 @ 08:57:27

    What about the used book store owners themselves? The UBS owners have been hit really hard with the emergence of ebay and amazon marketplace.

    Most of the brick and mortar UBS that I know have had to develop a website just to stay in business. I know some of gone out of business.

    I don’t have any issue with UBS, period. Back when I was 19 and broke, that was the only place I could afford to buy a book. People who consider them bottomfeeders probably need to take a hard look at reality.

    While yes, I’d love it if all of my readers bought only new, and right on the day of release, it’s a fact of life that isn’t going to happen. People have to prioritize and if that means they are going to buy some of their books used because they have to buy shoes for their kids, I’m fine with that. I know what it’s like to be tight on money.

    And UBS store owners have to make a living just like anybody else. They aren’t doing anything illegal and like I said before, a UBS can be an author’s best friend. That is how a LOT of readers find new faves. And most readers, when they have a fave, they want the books nice and shiny and new. People who consider the UBS owners bottomfeeders need to step back and take a long, hard look at reality.

    Ebooks are a whole different subject, in my opinion. An ebook is a file… one that can be copied, shared, indescrimately, forever. You don’t have just ONE copy~you can sell the file and keep your copy. That’s piracy and that IS illegal. I know of one ebayer who kept selling ebooks, the same titles repeatedly, until Ebay finally stepped in. Before they made her stop, she’d sold those files enough to have made hundreds of dollars. No work on her part, and she was stealing. A used book can’t be multiplied and sold to fifty or sixty people, who can then go on and try to sell THEIR copy to fifty or sixty people. Ebook files can.

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  49. Miki S
    Sep 05, 2006 @ 22:19:46

    I noticed when I was doing my taxes that almost all my print book purchases last year were used. I realized that somewhere along the line, I’d made a subconscious decision to buy only ebooks new. So it’s a rare purchase, now, for me to buy print new.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the poster who said it was ridiculous that ebooks are often sold for the same price as print. When you read that an author receives $0.36 per book, you have to assume that much of the rest is printing, shipping, storage, destruction. Yes, promotion and editing costs would be static. But the difference must be pure profit for publishers! So frustrating!

    Especially when you consider my ebook will never show up in a UBS or library tag sale. It will only be swapped with a friend if I’m willing to loan my ebook reader! (And since the DRM format I purchase requires the entry of my credit card number to first open the book, there’s no way I’m going to let a pirated version float around in the ethernet, even if I wanted to!)

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  50. Shay
    Sep 24, 2006 @ 05:18:04

    Im late, but RE: the library: what sucks is that the very forma chosen for the romance genre is what keeps it from being stock in libraries. paperbacks are not formats libraries are fond of because they are a chore to take care off–think of your own library. Who gets ordered? Hardcovers and sometimes trade paperbacks because they’re easier to take care of, not to mention they go nicely with on the shelves with the older titles.. But the way the romance genre is run, they rarely, if ever release debut authors in hardcovers the way other genres do.

    A little off topic. it’s been noted that the baby boomers are flocking to the HC and TPB format, which is why the mass market paperback has suffered, and younger readers aren’t replacing those baby boomers. Which is funny because most teen fiction is published in TPB and HC–why is the romance genre one of the few genres where everyone (but mega bestsellers) is given MMPBs ad along with that, the chance to break-out?

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  51. mariannna
    Dec 14, 2006 @ 07:56:44

    Hi all!
    p
    Bye

    ReplyReply

  52. Robert Mitchell
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 21:15:30

    Jane replies:
    August 28th, 2006 | Quote
    This is kind of veering off topic, but I think shelf life is part of the reason that mid list authors can’t make it, particularly category romance writers. Category romance books are only available a short time and there is generally very little pre pub buzz. By the time people are talking about a category, that book is gone. Ebook format allows a book, like a category, to have longer life. I think it would be interesting to see whether authors are seeing increased sell throughs with their books being available in ebook format.

    ***
    Jane, check out what Misty Lackey has to say about e-books and how they extend the life of a series or catagory. Hmm, I was going to quote her but I can’t find the site. However, loosely paraphrasing it as I remember it it goes something along these lines. Once she started having some of her books released in e-format she found that her backlist recieved a boost and her older series started selling again.

    Time, it takes time for readers to find a book sometimes. Often more than the month that’s available for a romance. Or as often happens to me I’ll find a book by an author, enjoy it and then want to read more by that author but can’t find the older books. The benefits, to the authors, of having their books available in e-book are enormous, but the benefits to the reader are just as great. Now if we can only confince the *Publishers*!

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  53. andreas04: close to attraction
    Mar 13, 2008 @ 14:10:29

    [...] a discussion going on over on Dear Author about readers buying used books. Well, that’s not entirely the point of the discussion, which is why I decided to retreat to [...]

  54. andreas04: close to attraction
    Mar 17, 2008 @ 13:13:01

    [...] still chewing on the discussion going on over on Dear Author. This time it was a comment by Robin that caught my attention. I also realize that not everyone is [...]

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