Discount Bookstores: Should We Avoid Them?

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?

The Pros

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.

The Cons

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).

The Problem

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?

Other Options

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?

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  1. Happy Monday, Robin!
    Great questions! I think that’s why WORD OF MOUTH works best for authors. If you write a great book and people talk about it then other readers will buy it. The old bookstore may have a great book by an author who has a current release and someone reading their old book may be more apt to look for the newer release if he likes the author’s writing. Nowadays, many authors are offering FREE books on new releases on certain days hoping to get readers to buy it, like it, and spread the word BY MOUTH. Someday, if one of my books is in that old discounted store, I wouldn’t mind one bit if I didn’t receive a royalty on that book’s purchase because it would be satisfaction enough knowing that someone was going to read my work and possibly be inspired by its content and my message and recommend me to someone else.
    Have a great day!

    • Robin says:

      Michelle – That’s a great point, that even without royalties, someone can still read and enjoy your book and share it with others. I love that thought.

  2. Great post! I would like to say that… If possible, to both! As an author, I always love seeing my sales rank go up (Who doesn’t?) but it is an unfortunately rarer occasion when I get a review. I really enjoy getting both of them, so I would say that if you could do both-support both monetarily and via word-of-mouth, authors love it. I know I do. However, if you had to choose between the two, I would say word of mouth.

    A) The book in a old bookstore has already been paid for. Unless it was stolen from a print run or something. 🙂
    B) your word of mouth could result in the author getting additional sales.

    In short, do both. But if you have to choose, go with word-of-mouth.

  3. Robin says:


    Thanks for the feedback — so both, but especially word of mouth. What reviews do you value most? Any? Goodreads? Amazon? Blogs? I know there are dozens of sites where readers can review books, but I don’t know which is most valuable/helpful for published authors.

    I did mean to add that used books have already been paid for — I’ll have to go back and change it later. But I still don’t know how books at discount bookstores work. Do you?

Please share your random thoughts.


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