Friday, August 18, 2006

Save a Writer, Buy a New Book

Author Susan Gable has written a witty article about why readers should buy new books. She has asked other authors to spread the word, so here is Susan's article.
Susan Vaughan
DEADLY MEMORIES, Silhouette Intimate Moments, for sale now. Buy it new!

Save a Writer, Buy a New Book!
By Susan Gable

The recent demise of yet another Harlequin line, this time the kick-butt heroine line Bombshell, got me to thinking, which, as anyone who knows me will tell you is always a dangerous thing. I heard from a number of readers who were surprised by the closing, because they had friends who just "loved that line!"

I've also heard things like this: "I can't believe they closed that line. I loved that line. I read those books every month at my library."

Before I go any farther with this discussion, I have to offer up a disclaimer. I love libraries. Especially as a child with a voracious appetite for story, I borrowed armloads of books from my local library. I love bargains, too. I shop like men hunt or play sports. It's a victory when I score a bargain. (New black cocktail dress, originally $79, marked down to only $16. SCORE!) Used books are great bargains. Swapping books, another great bargain. The new websites on-line, where you can "rent" a book, in a system similar to NetFlix, are also an interesting bargain. Good grief, even the airports these days have a program where you can buy a book, read it, then sell it back to them. What a bargain!

But did you realize that those bargains could be putting your favorite line or your favorite author out of business?

It's a difficult, touchy subject for authors to discuss. We don't want to appear anti-used books ('cause we're not -- not entirely, anyway), or make readers think we're money-grubbers, always harping on them to buy our books. We all know (believe me, we KNOW - most writers don't make anywhere close to as much money as people think we do) how tight money can be sometimes, especially with the rising costs of gas and heating fuel, and food, and taxes, and…well, you know. Everything.

We’ve been known ourselves to sometimes borrow and trade books, or buy used. Or go to the library.

But publishing these days is a strictly-by-the-numbers business, which means if the numbers don't live up to the publisher's expectations, a writer can kiss her slot/line/future contracts good-bye.

"Where's SoAndSo's latest book? How come she hasn't published another story in that series that I love so much?" If you find yourself asking that question, it could be that your favorite, SoAndSo, got cut loose because the numbers of that last book in the series didn't do as well as the one before that. How did you get your hands on that last book? Did you buy it new, contributing to the continuation of the series, or did you bargain read it? Bargain reads don’t count towards our numbers.

Writers, especially those of us at the "lower echelons" of the publishing world, need our readers more than ever. Without you, there would be no point in what we do. (Well, okay, there's a certain satisfaction in telling yourself a story, but it's the audience that makes it truly special. It's a shared dream.) But now, because of the numbers, we need your support even more.

Our careers, our lines, even our publishers, live and die by the numbers.

So please, where and when you can, save a writer. Buy a new book. We'll all thank you for it. And that way, you'll have more choices of books in the future.

Susan Gable thanks her fans for buying her books. Her latest book, The Pregnancy Test, sold well, thanks to them. It was also awarded the National Readers' Choice Award for Best Long Contemporary. Visit her at for excerpts, contests, and more.


Shanna Swendson said...


I recently caught a lot of flak on a mailing list for writers when I posted something to that effect in response to someone else posting to tell everyone about this great online book swapping service, where you could get books for free! (and by the way, mention her user name if you signed up so she could get points). I questioned the etiquette of chiming in on a list made up of authors and aspiring authors to tell how they could avoid allowing authors to be paid for their work.

Not only is it bad karma for when your own book is out there in the world, but what I wanted people to think about was that swapping books or buying them used deprives them of a voice in the industry. Buying a book is like casting a vote. It's a way to tell booksellers and publishers that you like that sort of thing and want to see more of it. As a result of your purchase, you've cast a vote for that author, that book, and possibly even that genre or subgenre. When you swap or buy books used, you're invisible to the industry and your preferences aren't being recorded. Don't gripe about how they aren't publishing anything you like if you aren't buying new books because you gave up your right to vote on what's being published.

Cheryl Bolen said...

I just cringe when people I know tell me they're looking forward to getting my newest book at the library. I always ask that they buy new. "It's not the 36-cents a copy I get," I tell them. "It's the fact that if I want to keep writing, my publisher has to have decent sales in order to allow me to keep publishing."

It's amazing how clueless people are. I refuse to even link to amazon from my site for fear people who love my books will click to buy the dreadful USED copy.

Now, this is OK for Nora Roberts. But for struggling midlist authors like myself, every sale is important.

Devonna said...

On the other hand, there are lots of readers out there like me who can't afford to go out and drop down full price for books every time they want to read. I wish I did, but right now I just don't. I do go to the used book store and I do go to the library, and yes I even have preferred cards at Borders and Barnes and Noble. And when I love a book ~ I tell everybody. I tell my coworkers, I tell my boss, I tell my friends. And then guess what happens? They go out and buy your books because I've recommended them to them. And if they like them, they're going to recommend them to everyone they know. And so on. And so on.

Sandra K. Moore said...

I know a number of folks who can't afford to buy new books and therefore support their favorite authors (but would like to), and I also know a good number of folks who can afford to support authors but choose to pass books around amongst themselves.

The "swap readers" appeared, in fact, baffled when I explained that their "free" enjoyment of the book is hurting the authors' livelihoods and skewing the publishers' impressions of what people enjoy reading. This isn't about writers being greedy -- it's about whether or not we're empowered to keep writing. If my books don't sell, my publisher will drop me. Period. This is business.

On the other hand, I'd really like to see some creative thinking come into play. The publishing industry seems firmly rooted in the Victorian era, and while some houses are making inroads into new markets, there's precious little rethinking of the old ones.

Is our old market drying up or simply moving on? Is anyone at all thinking outside the box on this question? I have no idea.

But I do know that, in an address on Digital Rights Management at an Open Source Consortium, Cory Doctorow talked about releasing his first Tor sci-fi novel online -- as a free ebook -- from his web site the same day the printed book appeared on the shelves. He reported logging over half a million downloads of his ebook, and his novel is in its sixth printing. Copyright infringement isn't his enemy, he said -- obscurity is.

So I think the issues may be much more complex than convincing our friends to trot down to Barnes and Noble to buy books. Maybe we need to rethink the entire process from the beginning, starting with how books are packaged and consumed.

Vicky said...

I guess you are right somewhat about used/swapping about books.I do hope that the writers who have given so much of there time, effort and creativity in writing a book, they deserve their share of acknowledgement (and money as well!).

I do buy the used books and to tell you the truth,I do agree with one of the comments that there are people out there who cannot afford such books. But thank god that I can afford to buy gud books now and its a passion of reading only that drives me to buy books,weather old/used/new.

And I hope to write a book of my own ...probably a romance.

Gud luk to all the writers..u guys are really doing a great job for avid readers like us.