Sticker Shock, Part One
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.