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Susan Gable
08-18-2006, 06:49 PM
The little post I made the other day in another thread here has blossomed into something much larger. I mentioned it on an email list for H/S authors, and one of them asked me to write a Guest blog article for her.

Well, I was quite pleased with the article, and offered it to anyone else who wanted to place it on their blog, or use it in any other way.

So, I'm also going to put it here, and hopefully it will stimulate some discussion. I see it as a way to gently educate readers about how "the system" actually works, and how important their support is in whether an author (or a line) continues publishing in the future. I think many people are unaware of how things really work.

Here's the article:

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 www.susangable.com (http://www.susangable.com/) for excerpts, contests, and more.

Susan Gable
08-18-2006, 06:51 PM
PS - If you'd like to use the article on your website, or your blog, please feel free to do so as long as you use it exactly as I posted it. (Including my by-line and bio, please.)

Thanks!

Susan G.

Sheryl Nantus
08-18-2006, 06:53 PM
gonna do it right now.

you ROCK, sistah!

:D

Marlys
08-18-2006, 07:07 PM
Just watch it doesn't backfire. There's a potential that readers will be ticked off if you try to guilt them into buying books new rather than borrowing from friends or libraries, or buying used copies.

As a consumer, most of my book buying is done for birthday and Christmas presents. I read a lot of library books throughout the year, then purchase the ones I like best for friends and family (often multiple copies of several favorites). If you want to make money off me, write a damned good book.

And as an author, I'd rather someone read my book without buying it new than bought it and didn't read it. They like it, they'll buy eventually--or spread the word to people who will.

Just my 2 cents.

HaleyDaulton
08-18-2006, 07:07 PM
Me, too! Hey, Susan...we women are a pretty powerful entity when we want to be. Maybe we could (and SHOULD) start a grassroots "get the word out" campaign to promote a resurgent interest in HQ. I'd be willing to bet there are many, MANY women out there who don't even realize HQ has such a diverse array of lines. I know I sure didn't until a few weeks ago!

Susan Gable
08-18-2006, 08:28 PM
Just watch it doesn't backfire. There's a potential that readers will be ticked off if you try to guilt them into buying books new rather than borrowing from friends or libraries, or buying used copies.

As a consumer, most of my book buying is done for birthday and Christmas presents. I read a lot of library books throughout the year, then purchase the ones I like best for friends and family (often multiple copies of several favorites). If you want to make money off me, write a damned good book.

And as an author, I'd rather someone read my book without buying it new than bought it and didn't read it. They like it, they'll buy eventually--or spread the word to people who will.

Just my 2 cents.

I'm not trying to GUILT anybody into anything. I'm trying to make sure they understand that by NOT buying new, they could very well be part of the reason a favorite author doesn't get a new contract. I don't think readers are aware of that.

I'm not saying, in any way, that no one should EVER buy used, or trade, or whatever. I'm just saying that sometimes, particularly with a writer whose work they really enjoy, they should help keep that writer in business.

For example, let's say Reader J reads this book by a new author, and absolutely LOVES it! It's the best thing she's read in years, and the story and characters are really sticking with her. So she tells her best friend about it. And so, of course, what does Best Friend say? She says, "Cool, let me borrow it."

If Reader J hopes that new author will sell another book to the publisher, the best response would be, "Hell, no, go get your own copy."

Now, would I rather have people read my book for free than not read it at all? Yes. I really want my story reaching readers.

But I have bills to pay just like everyone else. And, more importantly, I'd like my publisher to buy my next book. If they cut me loose, then next time I'd not even going to have people reading my books for free, because there isn't going to BE a next book.

There are some people who say that writers shouldn't expect to make a living with what they do, because it's fulfilling in other ways. It gives us joy. (Which, sometimes, it does. Other times it gives us a headache. <G>)

I used to be an elementary teacher. I found that position to be extremely fulfilling in many ways. It gave me great joy. (Other times it gave me a headache. <G>) So, let's not pay elementary teachers a living wage because, hey, they get fulfillment from other ways, especially knowing that they're shaping the future and molding children's lives.

Somehow I don't think that would go over very well, do you? :)

But I'm not looking to GUILT readers into anything. I just want them to understand the process. I'm all about understanding and making choices with full knowledge. :)

Susan G.

Medievalist
08-18-2006, 08:37 PM
It's worth reminding people that if they borrow a book, and like it well enough that they want to read it again, that that's a good time and a good reason to buy a new copy.

Or when you read a book that you know X will love, buy X a copy. It's a lovely thoughtful gift and it doesn't need an occasion to be a wonderful surprise for the giftee.

Sheryl Nantus
08-18-2006, 08:49 PM
if you can slap down five bucks plus for an iced drink at Starbucks, you can afford to buy a new book.

'nuff said.

Kasey Mackenzie
08-18-2006, 09:11 PM
Not to mention, if YOU can't afford to buy the book, ask for it as a gift. Or ask for gift certificates to book stores for Christmas/birthdays and go buy books then. Or if you can't do these things, then do what you can to spread the word about great book X that you LOVED to all your friends and family who CAN buy the book, and ask that they do the same.

Sonarbabe
08-19-2006, 06:46 AM
Well, I do a bit of everything. LOL. I buy about 20 books a year new. (That's about all I can afford w/ 2 kids and what I get paid) and Mama Sonarbabe supplies me with her paid for copies of Blaze books. Not to mention, if I really love a book, I will tell my customers to buy the book and sure enough, I will find one or two of them coming through the line with a book that I suggested in their hands. :) In the end, it evens out. I have yet to break into Harlequin and I would be absolutely heartbroken if my line were to go away before I even had the chance to get one book accepted.

AnneMarble
08-19-2006, 07:53 AM
Just watch it doesn't backfire. There's a potential that readers will be ticked off if you try to guilt them into buying books new rather than borrowing from friends or libraries, or buying used copies.

Don't forget the controversy when Romantic Times interviewed Rebecca Brandewyne (I think back when they were still using quill pens ;)), and she complained about readers buying her books used. I wasn't as angry as some readers were, but it did annoy me a bit. You see, I discovered her in a used book store, and then ended up using that store to preorder the next four of her new books. (And if I remember correctly, preordering is supposed to be even better for the author's sales than wandering into the store and buying her books new off the shelf.)

There are a lot of readers like me who buy tons of books new, probably more than they should. ;) I know they get upset when someone "reminds" them that they should support authors by buying books new. Especially as some authors have gotten ... well, a bit strident or preachy about this topic. (No, I'm not saying you're one of them.) I have four main bookshelves, plus extra plastic shelving units and boxes full of books, not to mention loose books that keep trying to trip me, many of them bought new. Maybe I have helped a lot of authors stay afloat. :D But when I see the "Buy my books new!" messages that some authors put out, I feel as if that's not enough and they're still not satisified. ("What, you bought one of my romantic suspense novels used? I'm mellllting! I'm melllting!.") ;)

Also, who is the audience for this? I'm sure much of the romance blog audience is made up of people who buy new books as often as they can. Heck, I like new books better -- they smell so much nicer. :D So you might be preaching to the people who are already buying a lot of books new.

Susan Gable
08-19-2006, 05:53 PM
Don't forget the controversy when Romantic Times interviewed Rebecca Brandewyne (I think back when they were still using quill pens ;)), and she complained about readers buying her books used. I wasn't as angry as some readers were, but it did annoy me a bit. You see, I discovered her in a used book store, and then ended up using that store to preorder the next four of her new books. (And if I remember correctly, preordering is supposed to be even better for the author's sales than wandering into the store and buying her books new off the shelf.)

Oh, Anne, I quite agree. Like I mention in my article, I'm not 100% ANTI used books. Used book purchases serve valuable purposes, especially for that "test-drive" of an author, or for finding books that have gone out of print.

Most authors I communicate with have no problem with the local used book store. The biggest...well, threat, I guess is a good word...from used books came when Amazon put up their buy used button right next to the brand new copy, when the book's barely been released. For example, particularly with category romance, some of those books go out to specialized readers -- i.e. subscribers -- a month before the book is released to the general public. So, often times, those books are available used on the net before the book has had its "public debut." That makes it really tempting to buy the used copy. Makes it really easy. Not as easy as going to the local used book store and digging around through the books -- which is always a lot of fun to see what you can find.

Again, I want to emphasize that I'm not saying readers shouldn't get their bargain books. We ALL do it, writers included. Most of us have that same voracious appetite for story as our major readers do. And when you can blow through 4 or 5 books a week, well, we're talking major cash.

Believe me, I get that.

I just want readers to understand how the system works and how those bargain reads are invisible to the publishers, so they don't count them in the writer's fanbase when it comes time to pen a new contract with her.



Maybe I have helped a lot of authors stay afloat. :D But when I see the "Buy my books new!" messages that some authors put out, I feel as if that's not enough and they're still not satisified. ("What, you bought one of my romantic suspense novels used? I'm mellllting! I'm melllting!.") ;)

Of course you HAVE helped a lot of authors stay afloat! :) Every new book you've ever bought has helped. Which is why I say thank you. Not just to anyone who's bought my book new, but to all those readers like you who DOES buy new books. I know there are some readers who never buy a new book. (Yes, they are out there.) Sometimes they simply CAN'T, and I understand that completely. (Been there, done that.)

My target audience for the piece was the person who rarely, if ever, buys a new book, has the wherewithall to do so, then wonders why an author or line that they really loved got cancelled, because they don't understand how the system works. :)

And I'm totally grateful that people are reading my piece with an open mind and NOT lumping me into the "money-grubbing-authors" category. I don't have a new book I'm hawking right now. :) I'm just hawking knowledge at the moment.

Susan G.

L.Jones
08-19-2006, 06:34 PM
In the olden days Harlequin and Silhouette used to end EVERYTHING it seemed with the something like: The best way to learn what we want is to read our books.

I think the internet has quashed a lot of that thinking. All over, even on these bbs, you find writers who feel they have gleaned enough info from helpful authors and editors and blogs and websites to submit to publishers without ever having read what they publish.

I wonder about all the webstores I see selling books - are they all royalty paying situations? I don't mean those clearly used one, but Heathen Girls was listed Months in advance at more than a dozen on line stores and I had no clue if they were just the equal if indie bookstores or what. The business is just not the same as it was a few years ago and have to give a hats off to Susan for getting the word out that new sales are important.

annie jones
Luanne Jones

Susan Gable
08-19-2006, 06:42 PM
In the olden days Harlequin and Silhouette used to end EVERYTHING it seemed with the something like: The best way to learn what we want is to read our books.

I think the internet has quashed a lot of that thinking. All over, even on these bbs, you find writers who feel they have gleaned enough info from helpful authors and editors and blogs and websites to submit to publishers without ever having read what they publish.

And I think that reasoning is really flawed, Annie. I agree with you that I see it all over the place. And I don't understand how folks think they can understand what the eds want if they don't read some of what they're buying. Goodness, sometimes I have a hard time figuring out what the eds want, and I'm reading and obstensibly writing the things. <G>

It honestly does pay to do your homework. You cannot tell the nuanced differences between a Superromance and a Special Edition, or an Intrigue and an Intimate Moment (soon to be called Romantic Suspense) unless you've read a number of both of them. It's not just a ploy on the part of the Harlequin editors (or any publisher's editors) to get you to buy their books. It's the best way to get the feel of what they're trying to do.

Susan G., who as a former teacher, thinks homework is important. <G>

Sheryl Nantus
08-19-2006, 06:54 PM
but... but... but...

isn't it *easy* to write romance, compared to other genres?

*sarcastic look*

:tongue

L.Jones
08-19-2006, 07:22 PM
And I think that reasoning is really flawed, Annie. >

Absolutely it's flawed. I'd go so far as to say it's a huge mistake. But now more than ever I see and hear people who want to be Romance writers who do not read, much less read widely and enjoy, the genre.

Most pubbed authors I know spend a chunk of change every year buying books. That's smart on a couple of levels for us, it keeps us abreast (or a heaving bosom for those sniff at Romance types) of the trends, helps our friends and sometimes helps us get to know a bookseller or two.

As an unpubbed writer, these things are pretty important too.
As a reader, well, if you want good writers to thrive, you have to support them. As a bookseller I personally saw a lot of people buying trendy book they either ended up not liking or even not reading and then not having then money for, say a genre book, they really wanted to read. So the genre book got put on a library list or borrowed because the trend book was hot, people were talking about it NOW and they wanted to be a part of the club, the discussion, in the know or at least able to say "I have that book, just too busy for it now".

Put that last bit in to say - people still have money to buy books, they just need a push to treat themselves to what they really want to read, not what everyone else is reading.

Maybe instead of going at this as saving an author it would work better to go at it from a Eat desert first standpoint - "Save yourself from a dull book. Buy what you love first!" :)

annie

brainstorm77
08-19-2006, 07:28 PM
Susan i would just like congratulate you on your success with Harlequin. It must be excellent to have published with them and to have done so well :)

Susan Gable
08-19-2006, 07:29 PM
but... but... but...

isn't it *easy* to write romance, compared to other genres?

*sarcastic look*

:tongue

Sheryl, since you probably know that I'm currently fighting that battle RIGHT NOW elsewhere on this board, lean closer to your monitor so that I can smack you. <G>

Susan G.

Susan Gable
08-19-2006, 07:31 PM
Maybe instead of going at this as saving an author it would work better to go at it from a Eat desert first standpoint - "Save yourself from a dull book. Buy what you love first!" :)

annie

YES!!!! I love the eat dessert first theory for EVERYTHING. Yes. People should forget about what other people think and read the books they want to!

Susan G.

Susan Gable
08-19-2006, 07:35 PM
Susan i would just like congratulate you on your success with Harlequin. It must be excellent to have published with them and to have done so well :)

Thank you. It is.

Susan G.

Lolly
08-19-2006, 11:57 PM
I have mixed feelings about this subject. When a new book comes out, I usually get it from the library first, just to see if it's worth my money to buy it. If it is, then I will.


When I do go to buy books, I usually use Amazon. That's because we don't have lots of money, so I can't go running off to buy a book every time I want. It's not so bad for paperbooks, but when new hardback books cost $20, that adds up. So I like using Amazon's wishlist. I buy books about once a month, so it's nice to pull up the list and say, "Ah, yes, there's that book I've been wanting to buy."


On the other hand, now that I'm moving into writing myself, I can understand the desire to make as much money as possible!