Wednesday, January 31, 2007

From the (e)Mail Bag: Getting What You Pay For

A reader brought something to my attention that I found troublesome.

She had purchased some of my backlist on eBay, from one of the zillion or so vendors who offer a smorgasbord of merchandise in an effort to cater to the varied tastes of their customers. This particular vendor had tacked on a healthy premium to one of my newer books because the book was autographed by the author. Any wonder the reader emailed me, asking not only why I charge to sign my books, but why I charge more than double the book's original price?

More than double? Ouch.

Go ahead. Ask me if I was a happy bunny when I received the question.

I wasn't.

Unfortunately, neither was she when she read my reply. Here's why:

First off, writers aren't compensated for used book sales. We get nothing. Zilcho. Zip. Nada. No matter how often or where a used book is sold and resold, only one person makes money and that's the person doing the selling. I wish it were different, but there y'go.

Secondly, I don't autograph books . . . at least, not anymore. I did the first couple of books, when I donated them to a charity or other fundraiser, but I quit the practice. Now, I leave it to the movie stars and the politicians to give autographs.

I'm a writer. I inscribe my books to a specific individual when the person buying the book asks me to, and I've even been known to hug that person's neck in gratitude. I don't mind signing a book. I do it for free, and I say thank you for trusting me with your precious reading time.

What I do mind is being someone else's cash cow.

But there's not much I can do about it, except to say caveat emptor - buyer beware. I don't know who autographed the book that reader bought. And I don't know if the vendor knew . . . or even cared. Odds are, probably neither.

So I have a suggestion, and I think I speak for many authors. If you have a book you want me to sign, send it directly to me. I'll sign it for you.

No charge.


Geri Buckley


Christie Craig said...


Good post. I do autograph my books at signings, and sometimes just when I'm in a store ... if I'm asked to do so.

And while I hate it that we don't get money on those resales, I like to believe that we can catch a lot of new authors who will buy our books (new) after they discover us in a used bookstore.


Samantha Hunter said...

This is just an incredible story -- I hope the reader was upset with the seller and lets them know, not with you. She can also contact eBay about fraudulent selling practices. Or perhaps you could contact them about them selling fake autographs?

I will sign books for friends and people who ask me directly, that's it. I gave up on going to stores when I had a book out to sign them, because from casual observation I don't think it helped to sell more books, and maybe it even cost me a few sales, LOL -- could be someone wanted a clean book, not one with writing in it. Ah, well.

I never know what to say when I sign books anyway. It ends up either being a short "Best wishes" or a little letter in itself, LOL.


Allison Brennan said...

Ugh, Geri. I feel for you. I think that totally sucks that someone would do that, but you're right--caveat emptor.

I do sign stock at bookstores, but usually only locally.

Cheryl Bolen said...

I'm surprised a reader would not know that a book autographed by the author is considered to have more value.

This is especially true for celebrity books. I once bought my son Al Franken's book and was happy to pay extra for an autographed copy, and I've have presidential biographies autographed by the (former) presidents. These are worth substantially more than ones not autographed.

However, I think a lot of internet sellers have a greatly inflated sense of the worth of a paperback author's autograph. Especially in romance. In reality, few people believe a romance author's signature enhances the book's value. This is especially true if the book is autographed to a specific person.