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July 26, 2006

You Killed Him

By Elaine Viets

"I’m so upset," a mystery lover told me. "My favorite series has been cancelled. I love his work."

She named a writer I’ll call John D. Christie.

"I have all his books," she said. "Now there won’t be any more. It’s so sad."

"Where did you buy his books?" I already knew the answer.

"At that cute used bookstore near the tea shop. Why?"

"You killed him," I said.

She looked shocked.

"I know you didn’t mean to, but every time you bought a used book, you put a nail in his career coffin."

"But I heard John D. speak at the library. He said he didn’t care where we got his books, as long as we read them."

"We all say that. We’re too polite to tell the truth: ‘Thanks for buying my books used. I love not getting royalties.’ "

"Oh," she said. "I didn’t think about that."

"Here’s something else you didn’t think about. John D.’s publisher looked at his sales figures and cancelled the series. Used book sales don’t count. John’s series was killed because he didn’t sell enough paperback originals."

The publishing news has been particularly depressing lately. A critically-acclaimed writer was told by her editor to write a new series – under another name. An award-winning author’s series is on hiatus. He’s writing a standalone. Two hardcover authors I know are now writing paperback originals. And paperback original authors are getting dropped.

The reason? Not enough sales.

I know you can’t buy every book new. I sure can’t. I read four or five mysteries a week, and I’d go broke buying them all.

But if you can’t afford to buy new, do the next best thing: Get them at your library. That way, the author will have some sales.

Writers are an endangered species. Only you can save us. Here are some things you can do:

(1) Don’t share books.

We love it when you talk up your favorite authors. But make your friends get their own

books. You know you won’t get your signed copy back – not without coffee stains. Besides, your friends can afford a seven-dollar paperback. They get hours of entertainment for less than a double latte.

If they can’t buy the book, there’s always the library. Or give them store gift cards for birthdays and holidays. The books they’ll buy will always fit them.

(2) Don’t send books.

These words make writers wince: "I loved your new paperback. I sent my copy to my mother in Seattle. She gave it to her sister in Springfield, who sent it to her daughter in New York."

You’ve spent nearly five dollars to mail a seven-dollar book.

(3) Don’t buy ARCs.

Authors hate Advance Reading Copies. Reviewers get ARCs so they can write about the books before they hit the stores. Booksellers get ARCs as a selling tool.

When you buy an ARC, you don’t get the book that’s sold in the stores. An ARC is riddled with typos. It’s not supposed to be sold. The first clue is that "Not for Sale" on the cover.

Unfortunately, plenty of ARCs wind up on eBay. When you buy them, you deprive your favorite author of a book sale. Eventually, you’ll deprive yourself of a favorite author.

Here’s something else writers love to hear: "I bought your hardcover used online for five bucks. That’s cheaper than the paperback."

And you wonder why your favorite hardcover author is suddenly in paperback? Your bargain cost that author his career.

Can you buy any books secondhand?

Sure. Any writer in the top ten on the New York Times bestseller list. You aren’t going to hurt Dan Brown, James Patterson or John Grisham. Pass their used books around to all your friends. Mail them from San Diego to Saskatoon.

Buy dead authors’ books used. Agatha Christie is long past caring if you buy her books new.

But if you want to keep reading the rest of us, buy our books new.

Don’t love us to death.


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Thank you, Elaine!
Fortunately (or unfortunately) I think most people are just innocent about the way the industry works. When people tell me with broad smiles that they bought my latest and will pass it around to fifteen friends at work/church, etc., I think they think they're showing their support.
And as the author of a hardcover series who is - by her own suggestion - choosing to publish the next mystery as a paperback, I know all too well how those 15 friends have killed Bubbles in hardcover!

I guess I should never talk up my favorite authors at the reference desk anymore anymore. I thought I was helping.

Elaine - Thank you, thank you, thank you!

As a bookseller, this is breaking my heart - and it is so, so true.

Other than our Book Clubs, it's tough to get this message out to readers.

Another thing you can do - in addition to taking Debby's (from yesterday's comments) lead and hand-selling your favorite books to friends and strangers alike, is to buy more books as gifts. When your favorite author comes to visit, buy one for yourself, and buy one for a friend - for birthdays, holidays, get well days, or just because you think they'd like it.

You can also buy new books and donate them to your local library - this helps in several ways: you get a tax deduction (keep your receipt), the author will get on your library's buy list, and more people will read it, hopefully boosting sales of the author's back list and future books.

When Elaine says authors are an endangered species, she means it!

Wait! How does the library thing work? Do libraries keep track of how many times a book is taken out?
Sarah being ignorant herself.

I've been reading about Longtail Economics and its application to selling books. Lately I noted that some marketing experts are predicting the death of the bestseller. (How's that for a switch? We've been hearing "demise of the mid-list" for decades!) Why is the bestseller headed for the tar pit? Because soon all readers will be able to indulge even their most obscure reading taste as all books become more easly available to everyone. (Starting with Amazon, and now all indies have been challenged to better communicate their wares to customers with info, mulitiple reviews online and easy, fast & cheap ordering.) The trick is to make as much info as possible available to the buyer.---And to get rid of used book sales! Then midlist authors will rise again. Just hope we can hold out that long.

Dear Cinema Dave:
Please read my blog again. Writers love libraries -- and they love us.
Elaine Viets

Sarah - yes, they do!

When you donate a book, it's added to the library's circulation list (and others). If the book circulates, then the library is more likely to buy the next one when they receive the notice of a new release.

We have also seen more backlist purchases from customers who read the author for the first time from a library including both Elaine's Murder Unleashed and your Cinderella Pact.

See, this is why I speak at libraries. Also, for the cookies.


***THANK YOU*** I've made this argument until I've turned blue, and usually get an indulgent smile, a shrug, and "Oh...a writer..they don't understand the Real World" look.

WOW! I had no idea this is how the business worked. I feel so guilty for shopping at a used store. I have to say in my own defense is that I primarily use the used bookstore to try out authors that I have heard about and wanted to try. I have found many "new" authors that I LOVE that way- many of whom have been added to my auto-buy list. I also have purchased their entire backlist. I hope that I can be forgiven for my past mistakes, but I will think twice about who I buy and the impact of my purchases at the used bookstore from now on.

I feel bad when I talk up one of Sarah's books, or my sister's books, and I tell my friends, "sorry, I'm not supposed to lend it to you." Fortunately, most of my friends understand, and they buy. (Well, I lend my sister's books, but that's different. Family issues, and all.)

Ahh, Josh. I have trained you well. Go forth, my son, and talk up....

Dear Cindy:
Please don't feel guilty. We've all bought used books, before we knew better. Go and sin no more. And thanks for understanding.
Elaine Viets

Brava, Elaine - all beautifully said. Now I'm armed with all the perfect persuasive arguments. I especially love the idea of buying new books then donating them to the library for a tax deduction. I had no idea that gets an author on the buy list. I'm going to do that with a bunch of my favorite books right away.


I have this weird (okay, fine, everything about me is weird) obsessive compulsive thing that MAKES me purchase MASSIVE QUANITITIES of books BRAND NEW and I can't help it, but I NEVER LEND ANYONE MY BOOKS. Ever. They're miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine. (Hey, I'm an only child, we don't share so well)

Lauren - I'm with you and I'm the oldest of five, so I guess it's not the only child thing!

I stopped lending my books years ago when I figured out I wasn't getting them back.

Plus, I need my own books. So when I love an author, I buy copies as gifts.

Thanks to Mary Alice at Mystery Lovers, I've known about this library thing for awhile, and I always get a copy for our local library, especially when an author is nice enough to do a signing. Our library loves it and, hopefully, it helps the author too. Especially with hard covers, lots of people can't afford to buy them, so the library idea is good for everyone, I think.

Elaine, thanks for posting this. I feel like a beggar sometimes -- "Please, please buy my book so I'll be able to sell future books" -- I don't like guilt-tripping people into helping me out, but I'll do it if I have to. It's not enough to love a writer's books. You have to buy them if you want him/her to continue publishing.


It has been my experiencew that when donating books to the local library, these donations go to the library's Friends organization for the next book sale.

Yes, Annette, you have to make sure the book goes into the library circulation, not the auxiliary sale! It's a different process. And my experience is that paperbacks go to the sale, but hardcovers can go into circulation if you ask politely and go through the library's procedure.

Just a few words in defense of used book sales--I find out-of-print books there, that I can't find elsewhere. Otherwise, for current, newly published books, I buy them new---I hate reading through other peoples' food and drink spills.

Ah, vindication. I've been feeling guilty about the fact that I can't even walk through a bookstore without buying truckloads of books, but no more.
And I love libraries, for all those reasons and this one too: air conditioning and an AC outlet so I can keep cranking out the next book without the children trying to "help" write it.

"Go and sin no more."

Thanks, Elaine. You've now ruined used book sales for every Catholic in the land. Which, I suppose, was the plan...

See, I talk up an author (ex. Sarah or Nancy or....) to a friend. THEN, I provide them with their own copy (probably PB, and always new) to try. This way they have no reason to not try, and more incentive as the guilt that I will lay on them otherwise is not something to be taken lightly! LOL!!! 99% of the time, they love my author and will now ask me to be sure to pick up the next copy for them and they will reimburse me.

Take Sarah and CINDERELLA PACT. I rcvd a copy as a most awesome of awesome gifts. But hey! I must show my $ support as well, so luckily for me, I had three friends that I wanted to pick copies up for... Brandi.. Andrea...and Cindy. Brandi was crying when she missed Sarah at Chester County Books, so was thrilled that I got her one in Bethlehem. Andrea is just working through the Bubbles books, but considering her profession (nail tech), she was easy to hook.

Or Nancy's series...my sister Cindy is often asking me for suggestions of reading material. (Actually, I just took her in March to her first ever book signing in Philly and she joined as a Jr. groupy) But due to her lack of finances, and me having a strange compulsion to buy books...I bought the entire series so that she wouldn't have to worry about missing anything. And now know what to get her each year now.

I have bought used, but actually only after already purchasing a new pb and deciding that the author and book is a keeper...and I prefer HC in that instance so will search for a copy somewhere. So, then I have both.

Debby ~ I always wanted to be a groupie, so am glad that I have found some wonderful author/friends that I can now stalk..ummm ...support!!!

I confess that I both buy used books and loan out my paperbacks. In my defense, however, I do so judiciously and in ways that, I strongly hope, result in a net increase in book sales. Like Cindy, I use used book stores and used book sales as a place to find "new" authors. And, like her, if I like them, I'll buy out entire backlists. Similarly, I lend books within a very small circle. If my friends like the first book, they'll go out and buy the rest.

Eventually, though, I run into the problem of dealing with the large selection of paperback books I can't keep indefinitely. As much as I want to keep encouraging folks to buy books to support my favorite authors, I need to do something with the silly things. So this time, I'm donating them to the local hospital, where they will be given and/or sold to patients and their families.

With luck, some of them will discover authors they haven't read and whose backlists they desperately need to buy . . .

Thanks for the absolution Elaine. I feel less guilty now. I did want to say that some of the authors that I "discovered" and are now on my autobuy list are all of the ladies of the Lipstick Chronicles. If it wasn't for the used copies I fell in love with, I might never have found you all and bought your backlist and continue to buy the new ones.


In reference to your question about keeping track of circulation stats, we can do that for an individual book at Broward County Library. One of my proudest moments last summer was informing Harley that "Dating is Murder" was doing better than
Bob Woodward's "Secret Man!"

Feel free to e-mail me if you would like to know how your books are doing in
Broward County, Florida.


In reference to your question about keeping track of circulation stats, we can check that for an individual book at Broward County Library. One of my proudest moments last summer was informing Harley that "Dating is Murder" was doing better than
Bob Woodward's "Secret Man!"

Feel free to e-mail me if you would like to know how your books are doing in
Broward County, Florida.

I know you love us Elaine Viets and we love you too!

I also want to endorse Rebecca the Bookseller's suggestion -
- buy new books
- donate them to your local library
- get a tax deduction (keep your receipt)
-the author will get exposure
- more people will read it and hopefully boosting sales of the author's back list and future books.

So, if you write a trilogy, donate the first two books and cash in on the conclusion!

I love this library donation idea!

Dave - how can we make sure that our donated books go into circulation, rather than to a book sale? Is there a trick? Are there special code words, like making travel reservations?

Great post. I never thought it this way, but of course you are right.

How many times has this happened to you at a signing: Two or three ladies come up to your table with one book and you ask: "Who do I make this out to?" Lead lady sez, "Oh make it out to me but when I'm finished I'll give it to Emma and Joan here."

I used to just smile sweetly. But now, with a backlist of seven books, I gently convince them to each buy a different book so they can swap 'em and enjoy the WHOLE SERIES because you REALLY need to go back to book 1 to understand this character and then you REALLY need to read book 4 to find out why he was had to move to Florida...etc.

Usually, they end up buying all seven. It's war out there, man.

First of all, I can be counted as one of Debby's converts, and it was through her that I first discovered Nancy, and her turning me on to this blog that I discovered Harley, Susan and Elaine (Sarah I had already discovered through Adwoff).

I share the compulsion already mentioned to own my own books, so I don't use the library much anymore. But I do confess I've also used a UBS or the online version, PaperbackSwap, to try new authors. However, if I like them, I do pounce on their new releases as soon as they come out. Also, I have the sickness shared by some of you that I am physically incapable of walking by or through a bookstore without buying something.

And I refuse to lend my books to anyone. If I get them back at all, it's usually not in good shape. But I have been know to give my copy away to encourage someone to try an author I love, but then go out and my myself another copy (see above compulsion to own books).

However, now that I've been educated, I will in future cull my collection by donation to the library rather than take them to a UBS.

Not only do I buy my own books (and I'm a librarian)I have the compulsion to turn my favorite authors face out on the bookstore shelves. I get really paranoid because most of my favorite authors are midlist and I want to see their books keep coming. Met a woman in Barnes and Noble who noticed me in the mystery section and asked for a recommendation and after I quizzed her on her preferences managed to send her out with a dozen books and six authors she'd never tried before. I should have gone into readers advisory instead of law cataloging.

Ro asked;
How can we make sure that our donated books go into circulation, rather than to a book sale? Is there a trick? Are there special code words, like making travel reservations?

I wish,
but once it is donated..it is donated. Sometimes people will donate items (not necesarily books - more like 8 Track cassettes)with certain stipulations for their donations. Sometimes the stipulations get so demanding, that we do not accept the terms of the donation...and then they donate the items anyway!

We have recirculated Stephen King and J.K. Rowling if the book is in good condition. This cuts down on theft issues (especially Stephen King). The money we save with NOT ordering the same Stephen King book;
allows us to perchase more Martin, Strohmeyer, MacBride, Kozak and Viets!

Code words for travel reservations? What's that about? And where do I get the decoder ring????

Do you know what a relief it is to learn I'm not the only person who buys masses of books?! And buys multiple copies of my favorites as gifts? And doesn't like to let my books leave my house with somebody else? (Why do people who are scrupulously honest about everything else feel it's okay not to return a "borrowed" book?)

I'm a librarian, a rabid reader - and an Australian. Paperbacks are not $7 out here. They're $20. Sometimes $30, if they're those huge softcover things. Don't even start me on the price of ordinary fiction hardcovers. We're talking a fortnights' worth of coffee, not one or two.

And we get our books anywhere up to 12 months after they're published in the US. So when the paperback version of your book's being published in your backyard, your Aussie readers are just getting your hardcover version and trying to decide whether it's worth $45, or whether to wait another 12 months for the $18 paperback. (Unless you're JK Rowling, of course, with simultaneous worldwide releases).

Thus, Australian readers buy hardcover versions of the books they CANNOT do without, and they circulate that to their friends. Then when the paperback finally comes out, those friends buy their own copy. Those friends who can't afford the paperback then haunt the second-hand stores to complete their collections with the $8 books.

Many of us have taken to buying our stuff online from overseas, where the exchange rate and timing is a _little_ kinder to us; but then we feel guilty about not supporting our little local bookshop, struggling to survive in a fairly hostile artistic world. Some of us end up buying only second-hand books (this is where we get our otherwise mythical $8 paperbacks) simply to avoid the moral dilemma of where to spend our new book money.

I know published writers, and I fully understand the issues behind it all. And I'll buy new books wherever I can, because I love new books. But I can only afford one or two a month, and I can read that many in a day. Now _there's_ a dilemma, solvable only by raiding the collection of friends ...

On library donations; I don't think we have the same policies over here. Books are donated, and that's it. Eventually they'll get incorporated into the backlog of books to be catalogued (unless they're copies of books we just can't keep on the shelves, then they're prioritised) or placed on the sale tables, depending on what they are and their suitability to the collection. Unsuitable donations with stipulations tend to get placed on the "too-hard" shelf for as long as it takes for someone to conveniently forget about the stipulations and deal with it in some other way ...

Forgive me, Elaine, for I have sinned.

Today, I bought a used book at the library book sale, a hardback copy of The Gormenghast Trilogy. For a DOLLAR. (Sorry for the scream, but you should have heard me when I saw it in the library.) I bought it, even though I already own it in soft cover. I paid big bucks for it as a birthday gift to myself. This one, I gave to my son as a late birthday gift. He was so thrilled, he paused his one-day-old IPod for 14 seconds to exclaim, "You got this for a DOLLAR?"

This collection is very hard to find. It was out of print for ages and, as stated above, I forked it out when it came back to life. The author is very dead. So technically, according to the edict issued by the Book Tarts, I didn't really sin, did I?

Except, to quote Jimmy Carter, I did in my heart. I should have gone to the desk and insisted that this book be added to the collection. The entire system only owns one copy, and it's in terrible condition. They know me, they would have done it. Instead, I paid my money and ran, before somebody realized they'd dropped the ball.

I'm bad. And guilty. But also happy.

And please let there be a Princess Fuchia junkie reading this, to fully appreciate this bargain. And grant me absolution.

Kerry - Yup - there are magic words. I first discovered this when planning a Disney vacation. I later learned there are lots of deals out there - but you have to work to find them. They change all the time, and I don't know the current ones. The really good travel agents always knew them, but those people are a dying breed.

Your best bet is to find an unofficial website for your destination, and check there for the inside scoop. There are tons for Disney, but I've found them for other places too - start Googling!

As a reader who has purchased several ARCs, I disagree about #3. Not all ARC buyers are just hoping for an early read and don't know what they're really buying. Some, like myself, are interested in a favorite authors writing process, the edits from ARC to HC, the collectors interest of owning an ARC, and yes, an early peek at a much anticipated story. Typos make it interesting. But there's nothing like the actual HC and I can say from experience that myself and friends who buy ARCs also buy several HCs, and audios, of the books after release. So before you criticize the ARC buyer, be aware that not all of us are sucking the financial support out from under the author. We're advocates of buying multiple copies in multiple formats. Whether or not it says "Not For Sale" on the cover... if it's on ebay, it's for sale. If it's illegal to sell an ARC, someone should tell the sellers. If not, keep 'em coming because personally, I believe an author should feel honored that their book generates enough interest and anticipation for the few ARCs that sell on ebay.

Sue - thanks for the heads-up. Some publishers actually do enforce the No Sale rule on their ARCs, especially if it's a bookseller and the book has yet to be released.

Now might be a good time to also mention that books without front covers are always a bad thing to buy - it means they should have been destroyed or returned.

I have to disagree. Probably 75% of my favorite authors I have discovered by being given an already-read book by someone who enjoyed it. I then buy the rest, but had I not been given the first one, I may or may not have discovered the author eventually. I discovered Janet Evanovich, Charlaine Harris, Anne George, Lee Child, and others this way. So that one free book I received generated lots and lots of sales for the author, which may not have happened otherwise.

So had you rather take the chance that someone might never "discover" you, or would you rather I share a book and maybe win you a fan who might then buy all the rest of your books?


In a way, this is a similar dilemma to that facing the recorded music world. A study fairly recently apparently demonstrated that the (technically illegal) worldwide music-distribution service did not result in fewer sales for those performers; that people who heard the music they might never have otherwise found, because it was free (yes, I know, there's radio; but oh! the limitations on THAT), then went and forked out real money to get the real whole album.

And I know these issues hit the borderline-successful authors/composers/performers much harder than the very popular or the utterly new (the new want all the exposure they can get, and the very popular have all the exposure they need). Trying to strike the perfect balance between unpaid exposure (2nd-hand books, lending, libraries, reading clubs, and all those other grapevines that don't result in direct royalties) and paid exposure (bookshops, book clubs, actual hard sales of new books).

I _wish_ that 2nd-hand stores could somehow add their sales statistics back into the publisher's databases, because they are still sales ... they are demonstrations of interest and exposure, and in many ways are a better judge of the actual longevity and investment-worthiness of an author than new books sales. Will that author's books command prices close to new on resale? Will they be seelling for $1 in 6 months' time? Do they appear in 2nd-hand bookshops within a day of publication, and very cheaply? Do copies go from "first published" to "extremely rare" quickly, thus demonstrating worth more accurately than any financial thingie?

This is stuff _I_ think should be relevant ... (and would assuage my guilt at building up my big reading collections from 2nd-hand bookshops ... ).

I really never thought about the consequences of buying in a used bookstore & appreciate all the info. The last thing we want to do is shut down an author with a great series that we love. My question is - how about the bargain sections of the big bookstores like Borders? I am drawn to the sale racks & "buy 2 get the third free" offers. Do the authors get the full royalty from that book sale & Border's takes a hit at what they make? I hope so!


I have to agree with Sue and Lula. I've probably purchased from a USB less than five times. I always try to support authors but many people have budgets much more stringent than mine and if they utilize used books to try new authors so be it.

This particular blog seems to be getting a lot of attention and perhaps that was the idea. I for one, have supportd you Ms. Viets. I've recommended you to friends and had placed you as a book club selection for November but I'm rethinking that option because I think there are less petulant authors to support.


Readers are a community. We buy books, new and used. We buy them at the local bookstore, online, flea markets, and used book stores. We share them with our friends and co-workers and sign them out of the library. None of these activities are illegal, but Ms Viets seems to think that I have a duty as a reader to support her in the manner she sees fit.

I don't have to justify what I read or how I get it to anyone. When you become a superstar, you aren't going to invite me up to the mansion for tea, so stop trying to convince me I have a vested interest in your career and owe you something.

The worst thing about arrogance is that when you develop it, you no longer recognize it. Tomorrow, I'm taking all Ms Viets books to the used book store.

Whoa there, Kimberly and Kay - I think you're attributing some kind of malice here that simply does not exist.

I'm a part of the reader community too, so since you're allegedly speaking for me, here's a response.

The majority of comments here expressed acknowledgement and appreciation for the information, which is not well known.

Naturally, your opinions are welcome, but I have to object to the personal slings. Elaine is not only a terrific person, but a very hard-working author. She is neither petulant nor arrogant.

What she says is true - we need to support our authors if we want to keep reading them.

If her comments changed your opinion about her books, by all means, give them away. But don't ignore the overall message; it's valid.

A writer evokes emotions with words. This is the honest reaction in me, a fan of hers. It's feedback. You have said I'm entitled to an opinion and then your last sentence implies otherwise. I don't agree with you or her. I'm not looking for an argument. I'm stating how I feel.

Of course it's legal to buy books at a used bookstore and I've done it many times, in my ignorance. I was also poor, with two small kids, law school loans to pay off and my office was right around the corner from a used paperback store.

It never dawned on me that my used bookstore purchases were never seen by the publisher who might have assumed that the author I happened to be reading used wasn't building an audience and, therefore, should be dropped.

I think Elaine's post was aimed at explaining how the industry works and that if you liked an author, wanted to read more of his or her work, then the only way to keep the author "alive" was to buy his or her books new. Sad, expensive, annoying but true.

In newspapers there's a formula for estimating circulation, a number businesses rely on when choosing where to place their advertising dollars. As I recall, it was three readers for every paper sold. I wonder if such a formula exists in publishing.

On my bubblesheads list or on femmystery.com, I often read gripes about why a series stopped or why an author changed her name and genre. Well, here's the explanation. No hostility or coercion or arrogance involved. Just the facts, ma'am.

I think there are many more reasons why series stop or why authors change their names or genre besides people lending books or buying at used book stores. It must be incredibly difficult to maintain a series and keep it fresh.

This particular blog is being talked about at DorothyL and other reader/writer forums on the net, btw, and most are not in agreement with Elaine from what I have read. It hit a nerve, apparently. I think it's more complicated than just "don't buy used books and don't give your books away".

If all UBS closed tomorrow, and not another person ever gave away or loaned a book, my bet is that book sales would fall off considerably. How else can a person "try out" an author without spending $30? Not every reader, especially in my age group (over 50) uses the internet. Blurbs on book covers are less than useless, IMO. Book covers themselves are for the most part, a big turn-off, at least to me. My library is small and not very well stocked. It has not one of you ladies' books...I've looked.

So what's left?

"But if you can’t afford to buy new, do the next best thing: Get them at your library. That way, the author will have some sales."

Faulty logic. It's okay to sell one book to a library that 100 people read for free, but not okay to loan your books to your friends or sell a used copy? Why specifically?

"Authors hate Advance Reading Copies."

I'm an author, and I love ARCs. I love signing them. I love it when someone makes money off of them, even though I don't make a dime.

Many indie bookstores can only stay afloat by selling ARCs and used books. More power to them, I say. I'd rather have someone distributing my books than someone hording them or throwing them away.

The more people that read you, the better off you are, whether they read you new, used, free, online, stolen, loaned, or as an ARC.

The reason? Out of those who read you, some will become fans. Out of the fans, some will buy you new. So it is in your best interest to be read by as many people as possible, however they may find you.

The used book buyer did not 'kill' that author. That assumes the buyer would buy a new book if the used book wasn't available. That isn't the case, for several reasons.

1. Books are an impulse purchase. It is likely that if the used book had not been on the shelf, the buyer wouldn't have ever discovered the author.

2. Some people buy used books, or remainders, or ARCs, to try out an author before committing to a full price purchase. Had the reader seen this book full price, she may have passed.

3. If given a choice between used and new, used does not always triumph. Amazon has used copies of practically every title they sell, available alongside the new copies. Last I heard, Amazon is still doing okay selling new books, which means someone is buying them, even though the used option is available.

If your sales of low, don't blame the second hand dealers, or the readers who buy ARCs or used books. The person to blame is staring back at you in the mirror.

Not selling enough? Then get out there and sell more copies yourself. It's your name on the cover.

This is a very hot topic at DorthyL and other lists on the net. Interestingly, the majority opinion of the reading public 'out there' was offended. Judging from the offline emails I received from my post above there were many readers of this blog who were in agreement with the minority opinion here at TLC.

As someone who spent over 100.00 *retail* this month I'm well aware of the power of my consumer dollar. Since discovering this site over a year ago I have gone ahead and purchased the books of all of the authors here but one and have shared those authors with friends who read. On occasion, I've loaned a book. Most of us would like to share a favorite author by buying their books as gifts but many people cannot afford that luxury. Don't discount the power of word of mouth and the happy reader who wants to share.

Additionally, there are many reasons a book doesn't sell. Maybe it's no longer fresh, perhaps the writing isn't up to par. I'm sorry ladies, but there are a lot of stinkers out there. Furthermore, don't assume your reading public are idiots.

You may not agree with some of the opinions here but please, because we read this site and buy your books, don't assume we have to agree with everything you say.

Just the facts, ma'am.


And yet, Mr. Konrath, Elaine Viets received an Anthony nomination this year so, uhm, clearly her writing is more than notable. Et tu?

The whole argument that Arc's being sold ruins careers thing is false. Most people who buy arcs also buy the hardcovers. They are collectors and people who want to read the book early. When the hardcover comes out they buy that too. And some go and buy the paperback as well.

And while someone not selling enough books will not get published the small percentage of used books being sold is not enough to do that.

That said, I buy almost all my books new. I can affrod to and I want to support the authors I like. But I'm not dropping $20+ on someone I've never read. I'll buy a book used. If I like it I buy the rest new.

Maybe a less militant approach? Instead of NEVER BUY USED!, try "If you buy your books used, then in the next year pick your five favorite authors and buy them new." Explain how sales keep you in print.

Used book and arcs being sold doesn't really kill careers, and if it keeps the indepndants open that's agood thing. They care about the writers, the chains and box stores don't. It's a matter of balance.

And Peggy Sue? The crack about the Anthony Award Nomination was very high school. Grow up.

And Elaine? Congrats on the nomination. SUsan McBride as well.

Everyone has the right to state their opinions, and there seem to be a lot of them regarding this topic. I feel rather conflicted about this, because although Ms. Viets is technically correct regarding second-hand-book sales, the message seems to be clouded by a mixture of hostility and bitterness, which, to be honest, is really throwing me for a cuppa.

As a reader, if someone says to me, "I really liked John Q. Public's new book. I won't let you read my copy, you need to go buy your own, but I think you might enjoy it," I'm going to do one of two things: (a) Look it up online, get more information, and buy it used, or (b) forget about it altogether. Why? Because there are a gazillion books out there, and I have neither the time nor the money to waste on something I MIGHT like.

It's a common practice in most retail outlets to not only direct customers to the product, but to put the product in their hands. Clothing stores allow you to try on in fitting rooms. Car dealerships offer a test drive. Cosmetic counters and bath and body shops allow a certain percentage of their product to be used for demonstrational purposes. They do this because showing a product is far more effective than talking about it. Why should books be exempt from this marketing tool? Sure, there's a good chance the secondary reader won't buy that particular book, but if she liked the author, she might purchase other books by him/her.

Whatever happened to, "It's better to have been read for free, than to have never been read at all?" Am I really expected to tell my best friend--with whom I share my lipstick, cell phone minutes, US Weekly subscription, and Tampax supply--that she can't read a book I love because, (a) the author's not dead, (b) the author's not rich enough to risk losing the $0.78 she makes off a potential purchase, (c) the author might get righteously pissed off and write about me on her blog? And if so, would this behavior still be expected of me if I one day found myself on Oprah's Christmas card list?

It's easy to say, "Compromise and go to the library!" But let's face it: Not every library carries every book. Considering the library in my hometown has a collection of maybe 250 books--most with "Chicken Soup" in the title--a reader would be hard-pressed to find even a Dan Brown or Janet Evanovich, or any other author Ms. Viets believes can afford the alleged poaching. (I'm not even going to ask why it's okay to "steal" from the rich, but not okay to "steal" from the Not-As-Rich-As-I-Would-Like-To-Be.)

I'm willing to believe this post simply didn't come across the way it was intended. Was it supposed to be informative, or accusatory? I can't tell, but from the sour taste left on my tongue, I'm swaying towards the latter. There are dozens of solid business reasons why an author might be dropped. Why should I, a reader, be held accountable for book's failure-to-achieve, when there are other more appropriate people to take the blame (like the author, editor, and marketing and art departments, to name a few)? It isn't a reader's job to buy what publishers want to sell. It's a publisher's job to provide what readers want to buy. And if an author isn't fulfilling his or her obligation to help a publisher achieve this consumer-driven directive, it makes sense that the publisher will make way for someone who can. That's really sucky logic, I'll grant you, but complaining about "the way things are" isn't going to change "the way things are."

As someone who reads and buys a ton of books, I thought the information Elaine provided was worthwhile and informative - I didn't realize the impact of certain ways of buying books. I'm happy to do whatever I can to support my favorite authors.

On the other hand, I did NOT get the impression that this blog was some kind of list of Commandments for Good Readers. I don't think Elaine Viets, or any other author, was looking to accuse anyone, or make people who cannot afford to buy all new books, feel bad.

As a person with a degree in Philosophy, and some expertise in logic, I found many of the posts not only interesting, but great examples, both good and bad, for the night class I'm teaching.

That's one of the reason this is one of the few blogs I read on a regular basis - it's always interesting!

And congratulations to Elaine and to Susan for their nominations!

There are two sides to the argument.

As a writer I can see, and wholeheartedly support, Elaine's position. Publishing today is "all about the numbers", and trust me when I tell you, those numbers are watched and watched closely. Members of this board can probably tell you far more about that than I could, but I can say a friend of mine had a series shut down after the third book failed to "generate expected numbers", and last I knew, she has quit writing completely.

As a reader, I look at my bookshelves and the first thing that leaps out at me is without used bookstores, I wouldn't have the complete SAINT series by Leslie Charteris. Most of the books were written before I was even born (1956) and in-print/out of print on them has fluctuated wildly. A quick glance at the shelf shows MOST of the collection is the Charter (a division of Ace Books) paperback series reprinted in the 1970's/1980's (which I bought new), but I'd have to admit that probably around 25% of the collection are older printings, purchased in used bookstores over the years. Charter Books did not reprint the entire series, and my goal was the *complete* series. About three years ago I was able to find the single title I was missing ... in a used bookstore in London.

By not buying used books, the series would have some huge holes in it. Had the missing books been reprinted new, I would have bought those to fill in the gaps. But they were not. So, I used the only option left. Was I wrong to do so? I don't know. I do know I have the complete series, and that's what I wanted. Wanted badly enough to be on the lookout for the missing title when I was well into my forties...:)

Now, one can also use the argument that Charteris had long since retired from writing (he died in 1993), was very wealthy from his earlier labors, and could have given two toots whether his books were bought new, used, online, PDF, whatever. Publishing was a very different world in his day, when sales counted but not as much as the prestige of being Leslie Charteris's (or Ernest Hemingway's or Raymond Chandler's or Daphne DuMaurier's) publisher. It was very much a "Gentleman's Business", when an author was nurtured and supported by the publisher in hopes the "Breakout Book" would happen one day. Things have changed since then, and like movie box office or television ratings, it's "all about the numebers."

You can bet today's authors watch those numbers as closely, if not closer, than the publishers watch them.

Shouldn't used book store owners be able to make a living too?

Just asking.

Also, I would be interested in knowing what Ms. Viets recommends you do with used books. Someone suggested donating the books to the nursing home. Doesn't donating them to any good cause just mean that someone can read it free or buy it used when that reader might have bought it new?

Evidently, we need to lobby to have sales of second-hand books included in publisher sales data, where feasible and not too onerous for the booksellers. Then this entire point becomes moot!

Of course, the offset issue is that the publishers would probably then demand their cut of the price, which would instantly push prices to near-new, which would then belie the whole point of second-hand books ...

So, maybe a voluntary, neutral database or website where booksellers can deposit information about their sales, which publishers could then use? I don't know; maybe such a database DOES already exist, and I don't know about it?

In which case, if publishers _are_ informed about re-sales of their authors' books, they've been telling porkies to their authors about the relative readership of said authors' books ...

Interesting discussion. Let me be up-front about this: I'm a writer (23 books in print) and a reader. Because I understand how important sales are to an author's career, I buy new most of the time. But there's a nice chunk of selfish mixed in with the altruistic behind this decision: I'm not fond of waiting. When one of my favorite authors has a book out, I want it NOW.

I also check books out at the library, borrow books from friends, and loan them out myself. I've discovered some great authors because a friend loaned me a book or two, and gone on to buy them new. I suspect a ton of readers do this.

So, in my wholly unnsolicited opinion, readers should not feel guilty for buying used or for loaning their books. It's great to educate readers, make them aware that their buying habits can affect whether or not their favorite author or favorite series continues to be published. It would be lovely if readers decided to pick a few favorite authors to consciously support by buying their books new. But for many--most?--of us with a heavy reading habit, it isn't realistic to ask us to buy everything new.

My own life would be poorer if one friend hadn't loaned me the first two books in Kim Harrison's sf/fantasy series (I've bought the rest myself) or if another friend hadn't sent me to the library to check out Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski books. I just finished her latest hardcover--which, yes, I did buy new.

I buy my books new. Even when I worked in a UBS, I still bought them new. My dh keeps saying "why don't you try the library or wait for it to come into the UBS?" The library list for my favorite authors is a mile long, or they don't have the book. Someone needs to buy the book and donate it to the UBS when done. I find the UBS's excellent for out of print and backlists that I can't find at Borders. And I don't want to wait when my favorite authors latest comes out.

I've discovered authors through the UBS and from my family/friends. I bought one of Robert Randsi's books because the arch was on the cover. I left it at my mom's in Phoenix so my suitcase wouldn't be so heavy on the return flight. She read the book and ran out and bought the full backlist, hence, we've discovered a new author.

I've read a few ARCs. One I bought from an online listing after the book had been published several years. I couldn't find it in bookstores or UBS's here. I had a friend buy me an ARC of my favorite authors because I was having a miscarraige and she knew it would be a great picker-upper. I had the author sign it and expressed my gratefulness of this book getting me through a tough week. She said she was glad to help. I also read one won by a friend through a contest, but bought the book when it came out a month or so later.

Believe me, its tough to support new authors, series when you're buying them new only to have them discontinued because of low sales.

I think authors should get royalties from UBS's. The states does because tax is charged on used books. Think of how many times a used book is bought, returned, bought again, and state sales tax is charged on every sale--I'm not even counting the initial sale! Yes, its less on used books, but, they are charging tax.

So interesting it is, I like it !

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