Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cash or readers?

I'm visiting my brother in the North of England for the weekend. We've been in town shopping. I couldn't help ducking into two discount bookstores. The selection was limited and random, but I picked up Steve Mosby's The Cutting Crew for two pounds from one shop and a copy of Anarchy and Old Dogs for a pound from the other. A pound for a brand new book that actually had two pounds stamped on it in big letters on the front. I thought two pounds was a bargain. I always feel guilty buying books below cost as I want the author to be probably rewarded for their labour. I justify it to myself because I buy over 100 books a year, so a large chunk of my disposal income goes to authors and publishers, and I write a review of all books I read which might help persuade others to try their work.

Buying books at these prices got me thinking about authors and what is best from their perspective. I suspect that at two or one pounds the author is getting nothing or little in terms of recompense. So, is it best to sell fewer books but make more money, or to sell more books and have more readers rather than recompense? Cash or readers? I'd be readers, but then I'm trying to live off of book royalties. It would be interesting to get other views.


Anonymous said...

Rob - Oh, interesting question! Honestly, I think I'd prefer more readers. I think the reason is that I'm a real reading advocate (reading of everything, not just my stuff). The more reasonably priced books are, the more likely people will read them. But perhaps that's just too idealistic.

Dorte H said...

Provided that the writer gets a proper slice when the book is new, I imagine it could be an advantage for him if bookshops sell his backlist cheaply after a year or two. That would be some kind of compromise. And if the cheap book gets into the hands of a serious book reviewer, he may find new readers after the review.

So as a reviewer, I believe I can make a link between my readers and my ´authors´. If that is the case, I think I have deserved my cheap copy. And as a writer I feel the same way: if people write a review, that is more important to me than money.

Kerrie said...

according to Michael Robotham he will still get the same return financially from a discounted book. What happens with your own books Rob?

seana graham said...

Publishers send galleys to bookstores on the sheer hope that someone will not only read it but handsell it in some way (I probably shouldn't tell anyone how many of them sit languishing in our backroom unread until someone carts them away.) On that basis, I think that someone like you who does critique and spread the word about many books should feel few qualms about buying some bargain priced editions.

Maxine Clarke said...

Having worked in a bookshop during university vacations, I know that it is too expensive for a shop to stock backlists, especially if they are discounted. The unit cost of a book even at full price is too low to justify keeping it in storage and stay in business.
That having been said, charity shops that operate on donations (of books that someone has previously paid for) and pay low rents; or libraries selling off many-times read copies cheap (for which the author has receieved public lending right royalties) seems fairest to me.

I agree that as a reader and reviewer one is simply overwhelmed with proofs, arcs and free copies....where will it all end?