My $0.02

Sunday, August 20, 2006

There’s a very good post over at Julie Leto’s blog by guest blogger Susan Gable. The gist of it is, buy new support your writers. If you want your favorite authors to continue writing you need to support them in the very competitive market-place. It’s a excellent post, that I agree with. Up to a point.

For instance, there are, of course, things such as budget concerns. While I make a pretty decent living, at the beginning of the year I took a closer look at my debts and spending habits and realized if I wanted to achieve some long-term goals, I needed to revise some things. One of the first things to be affected was my book buying. Not for a moment did I consider *stop* reading, but more prudent buying decisions had to be made. Now I buy (new) less but with more thought put into the decision. And, while I hate to do it, I’ve started to return books for a full refund, if the first couple of chapters really weren’t working for one reason or another. (I’ve noticed other readers have copped to doing this, even an editor — Anna Louise Genoese, mentioned returning a disappointing read in a previous blog post, that I can’t be arsed to find/link to.) In the past I’d just eat the cost, or try to recoup at the UBS. No can do anymore.

I know nobody is suggesting that that a reader buy all new all the time for all favorite authors , and I realize that a lot of readers do not understand how vital it is to an author’s career to have those sales for each new release, but… I’m not sure readers have understand this. Remember Field of Dreams? “If you build it, they will come.” Readers want a damn good story. Period. They want to be entertained, swept away; they want to laugh and cry and be scared out of their wits. They want someone to root for and/or a villain to castigate and hate-on. The want the emotional roller-coaster ride of falling in love and/or the titilation of fall in lust. *g* The want to solve the puzzle/mystery.

If you give them all that (or a select combination), they will buy new. They’ll pre-order. They’ll buy hardback, they'll google you, find your blog/website, and search high and low, online and off for your backlist. They will hunt your ass down like a crackhead looking to score another hit from their dealer. lol. They’ll chat you/your books up at every turn. And those folks (family, friends, coworkers, strangers standing beside them in the bookstore) that they’ve chatted your books up to? Once they read your stories, see that you rock and your stories deliver, they’ll start the whole damn cycle starts all over again. You write the best book you got in you, every single time, you get the word out on it’s availability. People will buy it. New. Every Single Time. No well thought out posts, or enlightening prodding needed.

Going back the budget thing, if people are buying 'new releases' at their local UBS or for $0.01 on Amazon, or for a fraction of the price on E-Bay, if they are 'waiting awhile' before purchasing (and it has nothing to do with reviews/feedback), it's *most-likely* because... budget is a concern. Trust me. A true book lover will always want the new book and will pare a little out of the grocery money to buy new if they can. (Heck, I'm the type of person who will go through every single copy on the shelf to get the one in best condition. *gg* And I always use a book cover and bookmark.) If budget wasn't a concern (whether out of necessity, or an innate frugality), that reader wouldn't be taking these avenues to purchase. So, make your peace with that. Their budget needs will ALWAYS trump your concerns re earnings. Be happy you have a dedicated reader who will hopefully continue to love your work, promote it enthusiastically with friends, family et al, and who may just buy new one of these fine days.... ;-)
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Julie Leto said...

I totally agree with you...up to a point. :-) I do think that there are a lot of readers who always buy used and never buy anything else, then lament the loudest when a book's sequel isn't released. I guess my point is this...every so often, buy a new book. Something you love. Something you feel strongly about. That author will love you.

I have nothing against used bookstores, readers on budgets (been there, done that) or libraries. I just want readers to be making an educated choice to fulfill their reading habits. A lot of readers don't even know that used book store sales aren't reported as sales to the author or the publisher. I know this because I've talked to enough readers who didn't not understand how it all works.

Thanks for the trackback!

Karen Scott said...

I haven't bought a used book in over a year. That's a long time and a lot of money, considering I buy an average of seven books a week!

Amie Stuart said...

>>They will hunt your ass down like a crackhead looking to score another hit from their dealer.

You are so fucking eloquent! =)

I have to agree. I've bought a ton of new books in the last couple of years based on blogging. I can't even begin to tell you how many I've read, how many were duds and how many kicked ass. Maybe, to steal your phrase, if I can be arsed to, I will.

But with bills growing, and kids growing and my income not growing so much I've had to cut back this year. I'm not buying as much as I did. I haven't fallen back on the UBS (yet). But I'm buying books I really really want.

Jaye said...

'K, Juile, point taken on not supporting the author's sales, then bitching about why the next book isn't being written/released. ;-) Although... are they such a large segment? Or are they the loudest?

I guess, I'm just thinking either the reader will want the book brand new, or the reader has very specific reasons why s/he is buying on the cheap, so that "whole support your author thing" won't affect the first group's choice, and can't affect the second group's (who probably have little or no choice).

It might affect the impulse buyer, who will (might) now think twice about grabbing that 'bargin', but then there's probably other things that come into play like convenience, etc.

I hear what you're saying, believe me I do, I'm just not sure if the group of people it 'might' persuade, is that significant in size. Book prices are increasing, along with a sundry of other things, yet most people's income isn't keeping pace. And if they are voracious and/or dedicated readers, chances are their income/budget isn't keeping pace there either. Yet, no one is going to cut back on their reading. They'll just find other ways to meet that appetite. The bottom line is, some one (or a series of someones) are going to lose out. Buy two books at the UBS/ebay, etc? (with the benefit being --hopefully--word of mouth buzz that will generate other sales for those authors) Or 1 book brand new? And support that one author's career? Most people don't have just one favourite author, but several, and with printing schedules increasing with author's having multiple releases per year...

I'm playing devil's advocate. ;-) There's a lot a grey area here. But once again, I will say it was an important message to get out. Food for thought.

Jaye said...

Karen, I honestly can't tell when I last bought a book at the UBS. I think back in the spring. I used to buy *at least* 7 books/week also. Most weeks easily twice as much. Some weeks more... and that's *not* counting ebooks!

You might have seen a post I did where I had pictures of the various to-be-read piles around the apartment. I took 10-15 boxes of brand-new never-read books to the charity shop earlier this year because I didn't know when I'd ever get around to reading them. Combined with the UBS becoming more and more picky about what they're buying (and a drastic reductions on what they're willing to pay) plus the many, many disappointing reads I've had, rather than the keepers I was hoping for, it all added up to literally thousands of dollars lost. poof!

We went to Las Vegas for a 4-day weekend. The total cost (flight, hotel (The Mirage, not Holiday Inn *gg*,)plus an all day side trip--by plane/helicopter/boat--to the Grand Canyon) just about equalled what I spent on books the year before. :-( I still buy, and I still buy new, but I buy much less. There's a lot of authors/books I would have tried in the past that I won't now.

Jaye said...

Aimee, in my reply to Karen, I pretty much said what you did. My income has increase at a decent clip, but my spending was even more accelarated (things like eating out more than I was cooking at home, for instance). Next year my son goes to university/college and I have to cough up the cash for that. And now that he's 18, there are things I'd like to do that I didn't before because it would have cut into the time I spent with my son. But those things will not only cost time, but money. If the majority of books I'd read/bought in the past couple of years had been keepers, or mostly enjoyable, I'd be angsting more over my decision, but unfortunately I've read more duds, or just plain 'meh' books over the past years, so I don't feel like I'm making much of a sacrifice.

Julie Leto said...

I most definitely see your point. I think there is a middle group, though, as evidenced by the fact that even publishers are starting to acknowledge that used book sales are starting to hurt business. Price point is a big factor. Got that. Just want readers to be educated in their choices, that's all. We're not pointing fingers or hating on the used book stores. We just want people to know how and why things happen in this business so they can make informed choices.

If I had to choose between feeding my child (or me!) or buying a book, you can bet that I wouldn't be forking out cash at Barnes & Noble. But I, too, have cut back on my buying and am being much more selective. So far, I haven't been disappointed. Fewer and fewer books are throwaways for me because I've investigated them so thoroughly before I buy.

I love the Internet!

Amie Stuart said...

>>Aimee, in my reply to Karen, I pretty much said what you did.

You know in the last 3 or so years...wait lemme start over. I've probably read more this year than I have in the previous two combined but I never stopped buying books. This year, I'm buying less but reading more where I was buying more nad reading less. At least it seems that way.

Maybe as Julie said, I'm making more informed puchases =)

Jaye said...

Julie, I didn't get you/Susan were hating on UBSs, (hope you didn't get that impression from all my rambling) it just seems to be a 'sticky' situation with no clear-cut 'winning' decision. :-/

Like you, I've found that being more selective and cutting back on my book purchases has resulted in in more enjoyable reading experiences. Also, being able to return books for a refund has helped. I know that sounds horrible(!), but I'm far less bitter about a reading disappointment when I'm only out the 30-60mins it takes to read the first couple of chapters, rather than being out of time and money. Geez, it sounds like I'm doing returns left and right. lol. I've only returned 3 or 4 books so far this year. I hate to do it, which has made me even more picky with purchases. Hmmm. Now that I think about it, a lot of my 'keeper' reads this year have either been from the tbr or re-reads. =:-o On the other hand, 4 of the 6 books in my 'reading or about to read' section of the sidebar are all brand-new buys.

I didn't realize that UBS were making such in-roads in regular sales. Here in Toronto there are far, far, far more retail bookstores than UBSs. Aside from that I find I've been mostly buying used DVDs from UBS this year (and I'm not the only one, considering they've expanded the square footage of the DVD shelving.) As I mentioned before, the UBSs here have gotten more and more selective themselves as to what they'll buy. And whereas a couple of years ago they'd paid $2- $2.75 for a MM that cost $7-$8 new, now they're paying $0.75 for a book that's $10 new. Hardly worth lugging the books down to the store.

For me, UBSs are for out-of-prints, or browsing and finding a 'hmmm...this sounds interesting' book. When it comes to books I've read reviews, heard buzz, or for known/loved authors I make a bee-line to the retail outlets. It never even crosses my mind to find it on the cheap. If I have doubts, I'll see if it's at the library, or wait till more feedback shows up online. *gg* Yeah, I love the internet too!

Jaye said...

"This year, I'm buying less but reading more where I was buying more nad reading less. At least it seems that way."

I was just about to ditto this, then I realized the reason I'm reading more is because I'm writing less..... ::shame:: lol.

Sela Carsen said...

The trade paperback just kills me. Why, oh why, would any sane person pay almost $14 for a book that you know is going to come out in MMP in 6-8 months for half that price? Unless it's by a small publisher, I just wait.

Dh just retired. We're not flat, but we're not as flush as we were, so the book-buying that I used to do just went pfft. If it wasn't for the pile of books, mostly freebies, that I picked up at RWA, I'd be hurting for reading right now.

I have so much credit at my local UBS from books that I've traded after buying new, that I'd be an idiot not to use it. As it is, I'll probably end up splitting what's left between my neighbors.

It's a nasty, complex issue and it's all shades of gray.

Sela Carsen said...

There are 2 UBS in my town, both owned by the same folks. I think there are only 2 small bookstores in town. And there are 3 B&Ns, and soon to be 2 BAMMs, 1 Waldenbooks at the mall, 1 Sam's Club and more WalMarts and Targets than you can shake a stick at.

In short, there's no shortage of places to buy new books around here.

Angelle said...

I spend about $500 on books per year now. They are ALL new if in print. I prefer the feeling of new books. But books are extremely expensive now. Even in Japan where I live and where everything is at least 25-200% more expensive (that 200 wasn't a typo) for $8-9 I can get a decent meal at a restaurant (not take-out or fast food).

Besides these days I expect more from the books I read because I paid more for them. $8-9 is a LOT to pay more MMPB.

Julie Leto said...

I agree, it's shades of gray. But the point of Susan's blog was just to get the information out there and get discussions going, which we're doing, which is GREAT.

I returned one book last year. It was a YA and even though I read the back cover copy and a few pages in the store, I couldn't believe how horrible and depressing and, actually, disgusting the book became. I marched right back to that store and demanded my money back. (I buy YAs, read the, then pass them on to my niece.) Romance wise, I've never thought of taking a book back, usually b/c I do know what I'm getting before I purchase.

About two years ago, I stopped reading and let me tell you, I was miserable. I made the decision to bring reading back into my life and it was a great choice for my writing. It took me out of my own head for a while...which is a good thing! Now I try to read, even if only a few pages, every night. I'm a much happier person!

Jaye said...

Sela there are 8 bookstores within, say, 10 mins *max* walking distance from my office. Made for very interesting (& expensive) lunch breaks. lol.

Trade-size books cost $21 up here (taxes included). I have bought one or two at full price, but mostly I've bought them at the UBS. Which is ironic, cause the UBS (3 of the 4 UBSs I frequent are owned by the same people) don't buy them a lot, only certain title/authors. I was really into The No. 1 Ladies Dective Agency books (trades) at one time and that's where I bought them. I did however turn 3 friends onto the series--who as far as I know bought their books new. See how that works out? :-p

"It's a nasty, complex issue and it's all shades of gray."


Jaye said...

"these days I expect more from the books I read because I paid more for them."

Angelle, agreed 1000%.

Jaye said...

Julie, please don't think I'm (we're) finding fault with the post. I truly think it's a great post. But... *gg*.... I'm torn.

It's not as cut and dried as presented. I think that's the problem.

As an apiring writing myself, with many published writers as friends/crit buddies I totally understand and stand behind Susan's message.

But I'm a reader too, and in some ways the approach to books is in direct odds to the writer. It's a tricky, icky situation.

Going back to the 'message' who are you going to support? Just your favourite(s)? How many favourites do you have? Can you afford to support them all? What about the writer who isn't necessarily a favourite, but who is doing something different? Do you buy to support him/her so that you get more 'different' rather than more of the same? (And that analogy could be stretched to an entire imprint/line and not just an author. Perfect example, BOMBSHELL). What about a past favourite, not really writing what you care for now, but you're hoping h/she will again in the future--do you keep buying her new? Or should you chose the multi-author series, even if the individual books are uneven, with some fantastic offerings amongst several disappointment. What if you're also a writer-- what about friends that are newly published? In the last year I've had 8 (off the top of my head) friends get published (NY houses as well as eboks), several of them with multiple releases. You want to buy and support them so they get that next contract, right?

I applaude Susan's post. It's great to get that awareness out there. But, a far more complex situation.

btw. I drive my crit partners crazy with my questions. lol.

As for not reading. I can't comprehend that. I get depressed when I can't find a decent read, much less not reading at all. There's nothing in this world like getting lost in a good book. Nothing.

Jane said...

I question the statement that it is the readers who always buy used and then lament the loudest when a sequel isn't released. The loudest readers seem to be bloggers and bloggers are avid readers who buy new. I am always seeing posts saying "i bought this at amazon" "i went to the bookstore" etc.

I feel those "buy new" blog posts are scolds to the reader which gets my back up. I know a ton of readers, both in real life and on the internet, and not one of them buys "exclusively" used books. Where are those "statistics" coming from?

And, why don't writers unite and get the price of books back down to something reasonable. If the books were less expensive, readers could buy more.

Julie Leto said...

Jane, writers can unite all we want and we can't do anything to affect the price of books. That is set entirely by the publisher, and even beyond that--it is set by the market. I know next to nothing about economics, so I can't explain it, except to say that writers have NO say. I know that when my category books go up in price, I'm not even informed. I don't find out until the readers do.

And trust me, publishers know how expensive books are--if they didn't, they wouldn't offer special prices when they have a book they really want to move.

I do understand about the trade book thing--I was thrilled when Pocket decided to move my series out of trade and into mass market paperback. My agent and I lobbied for this, but we had no actual say-so. I just figured that my category readers, who were used to paying less than $6 for one of my books didn't want to shell out $12 for the different format. Yes, the book was longer and more complex, but still.

BTW, the book that is coming out in mass market is exactly the same book that it would have been in trade. I did not edit for format and I will continue to write the best book that I can, no matter how it is released. Trade and hardcover feel like you should get a better book...but really, it's not about quality, except in the quality of the paper and materials. The storytelling should always be the best the author can do--no matter how the book is released. My opinion.

Vanessa, I agree with your points. Susan's article just covered one aspect of a very complex situation.

Amie Stuart said...

>>I was just about to ditto this, then I realized the reason I'm reading more is because I'm writing less..... ::shame:: lol.

Shame indeed! LOL I'm writing more nad not just because I have to. I definitely feel a correlation between reading more, and writing more.

Btw Let me know what you think of The Enemy. I've had it sitting in my TBR pile for *cough* a while now.

Jane said...

Julie, I was being a bit tongue in cheek when I suggested that authors do something about the pricing of their books.

But it seemed to me to be the same kind of statement as saying readers need to buy new. I think about this concept alot and have actually a blog article that I wrote about it (and haven't put it). It discusses that the true root of the symboitic relationship between the reader and the writer is the need for the reader to read and the writer to write. Those are essentially companion, symbiotic goals. The self interests of each party divurge from there.

Readers, particularly voracious romance readers, must carefully budget their dollars to maximize the books that they can read. The more authors that publish in trade or hardcover reduces the number of overall books purchased. I read that the Trade, particularly, has lead to a big decrease in mass market purchases.

To combat the decrease in MM buying, publishers have raised the prices by over 200% IIRC in the last 20 years. That's a big increase. The fact that a MM costs $8.00, in and of itself, reduces the overall books purchased too.

I know that I am participating in a vicious cycle of reduction of print runs, removal of authors from the genre, and maybe even increased costs but I feel helpless to stop it. What can a reader do? Stop reading as many books per month? Wouldn't that reduce overall book sales as well?

I think readers feel helpless in other areas. We love certain authors and buy them but they still don't get published. I remember when Joan Wolf wasn't able to finish her Dark Ages series which I loved. I bought those in hardcover the day that they came out. I feel that Wolf's inability to continue to write "her" stories lead to a complete demise of her writing overall. Nothing since that time period has been worth the price of the paper its been printed on which is a sore disappointment for me.

Because readers, individually, have such divurgent tastes, buying new, when we can, seems to have no overall effect. And you can't expect readers to continue to buy new if they don't want to read the book. I.e., I can't expect Jayne to buy Joan Wolf new just because I like her.

My neighbor is a devoted romance reader, but she represents (to me at least) the general reading population. I have an interview of her going up next month. She buys at the grocery store and at Target and she buys what is on the shelf and nothing more. She doesn't order online. She doesn't even go online. She doesn't particularly love the books that she is finding but because its there and familiar, she reads it. But she definitely doesn't find the urge to buy like she did in the past because, as she says "they are just not as good anymore." Chilling, huh?

Basically, I like to blame it all on the publishers. The publishers are doing the romance reader, the romance author and the romance genre a bad turn.

Sasha White said...

" I'm just not sure if the group of people it 'might' persuade, is that significant in size. "

It might not be signifigant in size compared to the over 50% of the market that romance consists of, but as a "new" author with her first book out there, I can tell you that every book sold makes a difference. My publisher is hyper aware of how many books sell, and that determines not just how much I get paid, but if I get another contract at all.
And as much as I like writing, I like eating too. :)

For me, UBSs are for out-of-prints, or browsing and finding a 'hmmm...this sounds interesting' book. When it comes to books I've read reviews, heard buzz, or for known/loved authors I make a bee-line to the retail outlets. It never even crosses my mind to find it on the cheap."
This is the way I think too. :)

Sela said:
Why, oh why, would any sane person pay almost $14 for a book that you know is going to come out in MMP in 6-8 months for half that price? Unless it's by a small publisher, I just wait.

Well, not ALL trade books will go to MM. Even for bigger pusblishers. IMO, it's almost backward that only the better selling trades then go to MM. If the trade book doesn't sell well, it will NOT go to MM.

And with some of the newer erotic imprints like HEAT and Aphrodisia, there are no plans to even put the top sellers into MM.

That said ... I agree on the price. I buy very few Trade books myself. They are expensive.

I don't think Susan's post was meant to scold readers into buying new. I know myself I linked to it simply because until I sold to NY I didn't realize how precarious the whole thing was for authors. I bought what I liked and what I could afford, and I still buy that way. I think the post was meant to be a "this is why lines are closing or some authors disappear" type of thing.

Liek eveythign else in life, it's all inhow we look at it. :)

Jaye said...

Julie, you're not the first author I've heard who's asked to go from trade to MM. I think trade is fine (expected and preferred) for some genres/authors. For others I think it migh actually hurt sales, despite the 'prestige'. Tess Gerritsen had a recent post about how she campaigned to have a certain look to the MM release of her recent HB. She didn't want the same 'tasteful' look of the HB, she wanted the same graphic feel of many of the genre bestsellers.

Jaye said...

Amie - I started the book, but I'm pretty much reading 4 books at the moment. All of them excellent. (Not sure why I can't settle down and just read one.) I'll let you know when I finish.

Jaye said...

Jane you have to post that blog article soon! You've articulated a few more of the issues relevant to this topic that were swimming around in my mind. Unlike you, I tend to ramble and decided to quit while I was ahead. *gg* While I think I touched upon a few of the difficulties in even approaching the 'buy new' mentality--ie what criteria do you use to decide--you've outline here, why, even if the approach were implemented, it might still be doomed to failure. It's all a numbers game, right? But there's such diversity in readership and story/genre type, that *somebody* somewhere (either reader or writer) is bound to lose out.

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