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March 9, 2009

The process of writing a novel for myself is much different from ghosting a novel for a client. For one thing, I view publishing from a completely different perspective.

I’ve had seventeen books published under the names of my clients—two self-published and the rest purchased by traditional houses—but those were all contracted under a work-for-hire agreement.

In other words, I was paid a set fee upon completion of the manuscripts, and my work was essentially finished after typing that last period.

When you publish a book under your own byline, as I intend to do, compensation begins with the advance (if any) and continues with royalty payments (assuming you earn out). This has gotten me thinking more and more often about the business of the publishing industry.

This weekend, my husband and I took our weekly trip to Half-Price Books, where we typically spend between $30 and $50. We are both voracious readers—he of science fiction and military procedurals; me of mysteries and thrillers—and together we devour ten or twelve books each week.

As we were perusing the endless shelves of gently used paperback books, however, I got to thinking about loyalty. When I spend my money at Half-Price, I deny authors the much-deserved royalty payments they would have made if I’d purchased their products new.

Does that make me a traitor to the industry I one day hope to conquer? Will I look with scorn at people who shop at Half-Price Books once my own manuscript is published?

The thing is, I view used-book stores as a valuable contribution to society. There have been many times over the years when I couldn’t afford to read unless I found material on the Clearance shelves, and I think these stores encourage people who wouldn’t otherwise read to spend their hard-earned money.

On the other hand, perhaps I owe it to the authors I enjoy to buy their books from a regular book store and contribute to their earnings. It isn’t as though I purchase all my material used, but I think I would find myself on the streets if I bought everything new. I simply read too much.

And God help me if I insisted upon purchasing every book in hard cover.

So what do you think about used book stores? Friend or foe to the publishing industry? And am I a traitor?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2009 10:43 am

    A very interesting question, which has bugged me for awhile. I think the publishing industry has themselves to blame for it, at least in part, by charging as much as they do for new hardcover books. Can you imagine paying $30 a pop for the Twilight series in hardcover, riddled with poor grammar? It’s not worth it. Lis’Anne mentioned on her blog a couple weeks ago about picking up a book filled with plot holes and inconsistencies. Apparently the editor couldn’t be bothered getting them fixed, so they’re cranking out crap and expecting us to pay top dollar for it. I, for one, resent that.

    And buying used books is no worse than just going to the library. Publishers got greedy once best-sellers started selling in the millions. Now that’s all they want. Sure, as writers, we’d all like to see that kind of success, but we’re realistic. The chances of that are about as good as winning Powerball.

  2. Sam Tamlyn permalink*
    March 9, 2009 11:02 am

    Very good points. I almost never buy new books written by an author I’ve never read before because it’s too much of a gamble. I read plenty of books where I have to ask, “Was an editor even involved in the process?”

    And prices on books are much higher than they used to be. If I’m going to buy new, I hit Wal-Mart or another big box store because they are usually marked down 30 percent.

    • May 14, 2017 11:18 pm

      Ma fille est de caractère timide, c’est pour cette raison que je tiens à remercier l’animatrice « Léa » qui a complètement changé ma fille le jour de son aneorersaivn.Vius avez su prendre en compte les informations concernant ma fille lors de ma réservation et je vous en remercie.A l’année prochaine et merci encore la Ribambelle

    • September 5, 2017 9:38 pm

      I’m with Alice. I have nice wide shoulders (although quite bony) for those who need them – either to cry on, lean on, or beat out of frustration and grief. We ARE supposed to be His body here on earth. I don’t doubt for a second that Christ would have wept himself at the loss of Gabriel and every baby taken too early from their parent’s arms, just as He wept for Lazarus, and He KNEW without a doubt what was coming after.Sending you my love and my respect and my friendship, always.

  3. Amy permalink
    March 9, 2009 11:05 am

    At least buying at half price books means giving something to the economy. You might not be putting money in authors pockets but it all evens out. If I really like an author I buy their new stuff in hardcover and again in paperback because I prefer to read paperbacks in bed. But no you’re not a traiter. 🙂

  4. Sam Tamlyn permalink*
    March 9, 2009 12:19 pm

    Thanks Amy. It seems like all we hear about lately is the economy. 🙂

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