Last week, I wandered into a bargain bookstore. I looked around for awhile, but didn’t see anything I wanted. But, it made me wonder: as writers, when we buy books, should we get books that have been discounted so greatly that it’s unlikely the author and publishing company are earning anything?
As writers, most of us are readers. And it can be an expensive habit to feed. Not that it’s a bad habit, just an expensive one. And, obviously, we want to buy books so that we can support other authors and follow trends and be able to read critically. Discount bookstores offer books that are inexpensive and affordable, so even if you buy a lot of books, you can still not feel like you’re dropping tons of money in one place.
On the other hand, discount bookstores rarely have the newest releases. They don’t really have books from big-name authors. And sometimes they smell bad, like the everything is just rotting together (at least the one I was in did).
On entering, I picked up a brand new hardcover book. The publisher’s recommended price was $18. The bookstore was selling it for $6. I know that normally about 50% of the price goes to the store and the rest goes to the publishing company, where part goes to the author, illustrator, etc. I have a hard time believing that any of that discounted sale goes to the writer (which is, of course, what I’m most concerned about).
But I know very little about discount bookstores. Do books go there to die? Do only books that didn’t sell enough go there, so that at least something can be done with them? Some sales?
Of course, libraries, which I have no problem with, also don’t sell books, but they make them available to dozens of people. Of course, if people get excited about a book, they’ll recommend it to other, who will recommend it to others (or they should). This can generate excitement and buzz about a book or an author that can generate sales – or at least familiarity.
Libraries also pay for the book when they purchase it (although I believe it’s tax-deductible, somehow).
Some bookstores also carry new and used books, and I’m positive the author doesn’t make anything of resold books.
My question is this: Is it more important to support an author monetarily – by buying books that will lead to them making money and hopefully being able to write more books, or is it more important that we read and share what we’re reading with others to inspire excitement and passion in them?
I guess my ultimate question is: how can we be promoters of literature, for authors and for readers? What’s the best way to do that?