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View Full Version : When Is it OK to Beg Readers?



AnneMarble
02-19-2007, 06:09 PM
OK, I know I'm late to the party (I didn't find out about this until the DearAuthor post (http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2007/02/19/drop-an-author-adopt-a-blogger/)), but I've just read a blog entry (http://mistborn.livejournal.com/29198.html) by fantasy author Brandon Sandersen suggesting that readers buy hardbacks instead of paperbacks to better support authors. He does make a good point about how you can buy the hardback on Amazon for less and yet the author and publisher will still get the same. But it still comes across as trying to "guilt" readers into buying the hardback. Y'know, I wish I could buy all the new hardbacks I come across that seem cool. But they cost a lot, even with discount coupons, etc. They're also harder to trade in later, heavier, harder to store, etc.

I don't mind it when authors point out that they do better and make more money when I buy books a certain way. After all, I don't like it when a favorite author is forced to take a day job because that means they won't be writing as many books. But I don't like guilt trips, especially as these posts often resort to "preaching to the choir." Not to mention blaming readers for problems they can't control, such as distribution.

And while we're at it, please don't lecture me. Don't "guilt" me into never buying a book before the street date, into buying a book as soon after the street date as possible, into preordering your books from the bookstore (and not from Amazon) to ensure that more copies will be ordered, into buying only from independent bookstores and never from the Evil Chains, into never ever buying used or lending out a book or trading it into the used bookstore when I'm done or even giving it away :mad: , and so on. I have bookshelves that have two and in one case three rows of books. And that doesn't count the boxes. :rolleyes: When haven't I supported authors? :tongue

On the other hand, when is it OK to beg readers? I've read posts from authors who asked readers to please buy their latest book new because the sales were low or whatever. Depending on the tone, I don't really mind -- I want to know if an author I like is not doing well. But I hate the essays that come across as lecturing. What is the dividing line? Or maybe the question should be "How come some authors come across as scolding schoolmarms, and others make you want to help them?" ;)

PeeDee
02-19-2007, 06:22 PM
I don't know, I would feel indecent begging. I would be willing to TALK about my latest work so people know about it, but no begging, and no complaining that they buy the proper format.

I mostly just want things to be read. Yes, I want to make money off it (enough money to support myself while writing the next thing) but it's silly to get wound up that readers aren't Buying The Right Copy Of My Book!

It's like getting mad because they bought the copy of your book from a used bookstore.

Books are meant to be read, and that's mostly what I want out of them.

I myself usually buy a lot of hardcovers, but I don't go "Golly am I sure giving the publisher and author more money this way." I do it because I like hardcovers, I like them on my shelf, and the text is easier to read.

aka eraser
02-19-2007, 06:24 PM
Where are all these begging writers you've seen? Outside of reading a few threads on the Publish America board over the years, I don't think I've come across any outright begging.

Hinting and hoping -- sure. Not-so-veiled advertising -- absolutely. But begging -- not so much.

Shadow_Ferret
02-19-2007, 06:29 PM
I guess I don't understand the industry enough. Why would they make more money if someone buys a hardback instead of a paperback? Seems to me if you're getting royalties based on percentage of sales, you'd get more money from paperbacks because they're cheaper and more customers would buy them, right? I mean what's the difference if you sell one hardback at $25 (outrageous sum if you ask me) versus selling 3 paperbacks at $8?

Provrb1810meggy
02-19-2007, 07:14 PM
Maybe, Shadow_Ferret, they mean if those people who buy paperbacks start buying hardbacks instead, they'd make more money. I doubt that would ever happen. Paperbacks are cheaper and more convenient, and most people, including me, don't think about the author's preferences when they buy books.

veinglory
02-19-2007, 07:25 PM
Yes, I read anoter blog saying we should support authors by buying new authors even when are are not really good yet so they get a chace to get better.

Cry me a river. It's a business, people buy books they want to read. I only listen to 'support the author' arguments that either work to change the practise or also improve the experience for the reader rather than laying a guilt trip on them. We are in danger of getting a very 'producer-centric' view of what the industry is.

AnneMarble
02-19-2007, 07:51 PM
Where are all these begging writers you've seen? Outside of reading a few threads on the Publish America board over the years, I don't think I've come across any outright begging.
Even before the Internet was big, the first one I can think of is Rebecca Brandewyne, who did an interview in Romantic Times where she complained about people who bought her books used instead of new. She sort of backtracked in the next issue, but the damage was done. Her popularity fell after this, and I wonder if this had a part in it. Since then, she and some authors have founded a sort of on-line "grassroots" campaign reminding readers to buy books new whenever possible. I've seen similar pleas on other authors' blogs, sites, etc. (The Invisible Ribbon campaign, which has since petered out.) I've found similar pleas just by Googling for authors' opinions about used book stores. Also, in one of the blogs I read today, there was a complaint about a small press book that contained an essay reminding readers that authors didn't get paid if they lent books out to friend, bought the book used, etc.

I never read the thread, but I did hear of a reader who posted on an author's official message board to explain how happy she was that she saw the book on the shelf before the official street date. The author scolded her for that, complaining that the reader did her a disservice because this would affect her sales figures. :rolleyes: (Sales before the street date didn't count as much because they wouldn't get her on the best-seller lists or something.) Yeah, way to treat your fans.

I'll probably think of more later. :D


Hinting and hoping -- sure. Not-so-veiled advertising -- absolutely. But begging -- not so much.
Yeah. I don't mind when authors point out that I would help them more by preordering the books or buying them from bookstores instead of Amazon. But some expect people to do that.

veinglory
02-19-2007, 07:55 PM
That and laboring the point that authors often get a smaller cut from sales through a distributor. It's true but unless the readers asks about the issue, telling them will generally come across as scolding.

seun
02-19-2007, 08:06 PM
Ditto what PeeDee said. If I was published, the only thing I would care about is whether people enjoyed my books. I wouldn't give a toss if they bought a paperback, hardback or secondhand copy.

Maryn
02-19-2007, 09:00 PM
Tell you what, authors. You write a book so freakin' good that I know I'll want to read it at least four times, and then I'll pay four times as much as a paperback.

Seems like many of the authors doing the begging are writing 'airplane books,' lightweight fare to be read once, then forgotten, maybe even deliberately left behind. $28.00? I think not.

In fact, when I know an author's been all whiny about readers failing to support him, I might just wait until I see his title used or at the library. I'll teach him to whine, by god. You want me to buy hardcover, write books I can't wait to get my hands on.

Maryn, with a harrumph

AnneMarble
02-19-2007, 09:09 PM
Tell you what, authors. You write a book so freakin' good that I know I'll want to read it at least four times, and then I'll pay four times as much as a paperback.
You tell 'em! :D

Besides, is it really that bad a thing to sell mass market paperbacks?! There are lots of great authors who never make it into hardback. Some do OK despite that. Some don't. Others end up in hardback but then don't do as well. (That might depend on the genre. Romance fans are very cautious about buying trade paperbacks and hardcovers.)

The original blogger said that he saw the mass market paperback edition as a form of marketing. But I wonder if he has that in reverse. I remember reading a post where SF/fantasy publisher Jim Baen said that he considered hardbacks to be a form of marketing for the mass market paperback release. I don't agree with everything he believed (!), but I always thought he had a point there. Having a hardcover edition means that when the paperback edition comes out, you can use quotes from reviews of the hardcover on the paperback edition. Also, IIRC stores are more likely to shelve multiple copies of a mass market release if it came out in hardcover first.

tjwriter
02-19-2007, 09:15 PM
My only question is will the author make more money if I buy 4 of his paperbacks or 1 of his hardbacks? Obviously I can't afford to buy all 4 in hardback, so he can have his pick of how many of his books I can buy.

Susan Gable
02-19-2007, 09:17 PM
Ditto what PeeDee said. If I was published, the only thing I would care about is whether people enjoyed my books. I wouldn't give a toss if they bought a paperback, hardback or secondhand copy.

You'd care about those second-hand sales if your numbers went down enough that your publisher stopped buying you.

When all we had were the little Mom and Pop used book stores, used book sales didn't impact authors as much. But now, with the advent of massive used book sales, right alongside the new copy on the internet, and in some cases, even before the new copy is available (which happens, for example, with category romance because those who subscribe to the Harlequin book clubs get their books a minimum of one month before they're on-sale to the general public, and they then turn around and sell them on the internet prior to the release) it is making an impact.

And the thing is, most readers (obviously not the readers around here, who are well informed of How Things Work) don't understand that by buying a favorite author used all the time, they're actually impacting whether or not that author continues publishing.

I don't think most authors are trying to guilt people into changing their book buying habits. However, they do want their readers to be educated. I know numerous authors who've had series they write cancelled mid-series, all because their numbers went down.

Then fans are left saying, "What happened? I LOVED that series! I bought every last one of them from the used book store down the road." Well, that's what happened.

The early numbers are becoming more and more important, too. The writer writes the best book they can, then it's all in the fans' hands.

Trying to raise awareness is not the same as brow-beating readers. I'm not advocating for that. But readers do need to know that the power is in their hands for the continuation of their favorite authors' careers.

So if you find an author you love through used books, buy his/her newest release when it first comes out, and buy a new copy. That's all writers are asking.

Susan G.

PS - I'm not a fan of hardcover books. Never have been. My preference as a reader has always been for paperbacks.

veinglory
02-19-2007, 09:25 PM
That *is* a fair point, but I have seen authors asking for a hell of a lot more than that--hence the counter-response.

tjwriter
02-19-2007, 09:34 PM
Susan,

I tend to buy only new books just for the reason you described. Even if I've never heard of the author before.

Nobody but the used bookseller is making money if you only buy used books, and books are a business.

Of course, this is also why only those special writers get a purchase from me in hardback. I just can't afford to buy everybody that way.

Which is why I'm genuinely curious as to what makes the most money for the author: 4 paperbacks or 1 hardback? Cuz Maryn's right. I can usually buy about four times as many based on cost alone.

veinglory
02-19-2007, 09:41 PM
Here is dearauthor with a link to the original (if modified) post: http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2007/02/19/drop-an-author-adopt-a-blogger/

lfraser
02-19-2007, 10:05 PM
If I lend my mother a book by, say, Sherri Tepper, or Lois McMaster Bujold, she's going to read it, and love it, and buy the rest of the writer's books.

If I buy a title from an author I don't know, in a used bookstore, and I like the book, I'm more likely to buy the writer's next title new.

The arguments get a little silly. Libraries, for instance. What writer would complain about a public library distributing ONE copy of a book to thousands of people? Hell, that's probably where most of us got our books when we were kids.

Susan Gable
02-19-2007, 10:10 PM
Here is dearauthor with a link to the original (if modified) post: http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2007/02/19/drop-an-author-adopt-a-blogger/

Okay, that seems a little extreme, even to me. <G> Saying an eight dollar paperback is a "giveaway" to entice readers into buying the hardcover, which is what REALLY supports authors...

Uhhhhhh...no. I know plenty of authors who live on paperback income. That's cause they don't HAVE hardcover releases. (Though I have to admit, it does seem to be getting harder and harder to pay the bills as a pb novelist. That's just MHO, based on reflections of numerous pb authors I hang around with. No impossible, mind you, but getting a lot harder.)

Like I said, I've never been a fan of the hardcover as a reader. Voracious readers prefer pb -- otherwise we could never feed our habit enough. :)

The only time I buy hardcover is from the remainder stacks, and I make no apologies for that. <G> I mean, when I can buy a hardcover for LESS than the paperback -- like I said, it's all about feeding my habit. <G>

Susan G.

Susan Gable
02-19-2007, 10:12 PM
TJ, I wish I could answer your question about 1 hardcover vs. 4 paperbacks. You know, if you're buying the 4 pbs new, I wouldn't sweat the difference. Personally, I'd rather see you buy the 4 pbs. Because that makes the overall numbers for book sales look better. <G>

Susan G.

Shadow_Ferret
02-19-2007, 10:20 PM
Maybe, Shadow_Ferret, they mean if those people who buy paperbacks start buying hardbacks instead, they'd make more money. I doubt that would ever happen. Paperbacks are cheaper and more convenient, and most people, including me, don't think about the author's preferences when they buy books.
Maybe these writers need to join the ranks of the working class and realize they are freaking lucky I'm buying their goddamned book at all.

There's a lot of choices out there all vying for my entertainment dollar: DVDs, theater, CDs, restaurants, etc.

If I have $25 to spend on entertainment for the week, I'm going to look for the biggest bang for my buck. That ISN'T hardcover books. Expecially if I can get 3 paperbacks or 1 paperback and a DVD or CD for that $25.

Who even buys hardcovers these days unless you're a JK Rowling fan? I pick them up occassionally through my book club when they have specials, but other than that, I don't even look in the hardcover section of the bookstore.

tjwriter
02-19-2007, 10:21 PM
That's what I was thinking. I joined the B&N book thingie, and since I get discounts, I've been buying books left and right. (Shhh! Don't tell my husband!)

If it were me, being the published author in major bookstores, I prefer the sales numbers of 4 new PBs rather than 1 Hardcover. Regardless of the money that I get. It just looks better on paper to the publisher.

PeeDee
02-19-2007, 10:44 PM
It's like an artist complaining that people just HAVE to come to his gallery and see his painting, and he HATES them all if they go out and buy a postcard with his picture on it.

In the time spent complaining, you could be painting another picture. Or writing another book.

There's nothing wrong with self-promotion, done with some amount of tact. Just like there's nothing wrong with suggesting that maybe if people are really impressed with your book, they might buy it in hardcover? Or they might buy a copy and give it to a friend? But again, done with tact and decency.
It's not that begging is beneath you as an artist, it's beneath you as a human being.

Writers obsess over the strangest things, when they're writing their stories. And then, when their stories are out in the world, they find a whole wealth of other Really Strange Things to obsess over.

Here's what you could always do to get yoru name out there and boost sales. Why not write and sell some short stories? And then in your blurb, mention your novel.

..

Why begrudge a used bookstore or a library? That's like getting mad at your mom cause she lends a copy of your novel to a friend. It's just goofy. The most important thing is, books are getting read (which is what books are meant to do).

Worry more about doing the bit where you write a book so stunning that they read it from the library, then have to go buy their own because of how it's affected their lives. And then worry about writing your next set of a hundred thousand words in a cunning order.

Susan Gable
02-19-2007, 10:53 PM
That's like getting mad at your mom cause she lends a copy of your novel to a friend. It's just goofy.

My mother is well-trained. She doesn't loan copies of my books. She gives presents of copies of my books -- copies she purchases as those gifts.

We can go on and on about "the higher calling of writers" and that what's important is "books being read."

Call me a ho, but I want to get paid for my work. :)

Susan G.

PeeDee
02-19-2007, 11:04 PM
I want to be paid too. And I will be paid. A writer (higher callings be damned) should not give his work away freely or easily.

That said, writers are scrabbling in the bean field like everyone else. Not sitting on the road next to the bean field, encouraging people to throw them the bean now and then, so's they can think up better stories.

...

Put another way, You can play music on the street corner with your hat down in front of you for money, but you shouldn't play half a song, then stop and say "Unless you pay me, my blood sugar's going to get a little low and then I won't play anymore."

CheshireCat
02-19-2007, 11:17 PM
Which is why I'm genuinely curious as to what makes the most money for the author: 4 paperbacks or 1 hardback? Cuz Maryn's right. I can usually buy about four times as many based on cost alone.

Assuming the author has sold at least 10,000 copies in hardcover, the royalty is usually 15%. So a sale of a $25 hardcover is going to earn the author $3.75.

The paperback royalty is usually around 10%. So 10% of a $7.50 sale in paperback nets the author .75.

Here's the thing. Hardcover sales are harder to earn because fewer people buy hardcover; strong hardcover sales mean a devoted readership, which is a big positive signal to the publisher. Hardcover books tend to be remaindered rather than returned, so the publisher doesn't have to plan on the industry-standard (ETA: Should have said industry-average) 50% of a print run to come back (the stripped covers, at least).

You can do the math. If you buy roughly 5 copies of a paperback, the author earns the same as one hardcover sale. But that's a relative number; are we talking about 5 copies of the same title? 5 different titles, probably published over several years?

Make no mistake, the author wants your book dollars whether you buy hardcover or paperback. The author would prefer that you buy new because those are the only numbers the publisher sees, and the only sales that contribute to the author's ability to earn a living. The author is grateful to libraries, but hopes that readers who discover the author there will begin to buy new copies for themselves.

And if you want that author to keep writing and publishing books you enjoy, it helps to understand the publishing industry well enough to know where you will get the most bang for your buck.

Rolling Thunder
02-19-2007, 11:43 PM
I'm always going to buy PB's instead of HB's. That being said, I always buy new instead of used because I'm usually looking for a specific title and I depend on the bookstore to have a copy when I want one. I realize many people go to used bookstores and garage sales to buy books but you can't really do a thing about that. My grandmother and her sisters would do this and then pass the books back and forth to read, until the books ended up in cardboard boxes (dozens of which are packed in the loft of my shed).

But if they stumbled upon an author they really liked and that author had a new book come out they'd fall ass over teacups to get a copy at the bookstore. Every one of them, so they could read it and discuss it afterwards.

So there is some good that comes out of it in the end, even if the author doesn't always realize it.

What we really need is self burning books. Ones that burst into flames 30 days after you remove the shrink wrap. Asimov would have appreciated that....I think. :D

Pagey's_Girl
02-20-2007, 12:22 AM
I generally only buy used if it's an out-of-print book. Hardcovers, it depends. If it's an author I really, really like, I'm far too impatient to wait until it comes out in paperback - I want to read it NOW. (Stephen Donaldson, are you listening? :) )

That said, I have a friend who, with my blessings, has been taking copies of my little POD book to the fantasy/sci-fi cons to resell. It works out. I get the royalities, our writing group gets the money for server upkeep (which is what the whole point was for doing it - we're not talking about mass-market stuff yet) and she recoups her investment on the books she sells. It's all good.

TsukiRyoko
02-20-2007, 12:24 AM
It's always ok to beg readers. Not the obvious sort of begging (Author holding gun to sobbing reader's head type of thing), of course. Think of minor begging as promotion! Any obvious begging will make you seem like a jackass.

Linda Adams
02-20-2007, 12:27 AM
I always try to buy paperback. I've had far too many instances of buying hardcover of an author I liked and the book not being good. Besides, I read at lunch at work and a hardback is awfully heavy to carry!

Marlys
02-20-2007, 03:31 AM
I hate it when authors scold readers for buying used. As an author, I've steered people to libraries and pointed out the cheapest places to buy my books (new or used). Yeah, I want to make money--eventually. But chances are, these readers will remember my efforts when they are in the position to purchase new. You can't buy loyalty, but you can earn it: by helping out, by refusing to make readers feel bad about not being able to afford new books, and especially by writing the best books you can so that they'll want to buy you new when they can.

I've been a reader all my life, and know what it's like to purchase according to my means. When I was a student and later a new parent, there was no money for enough new books to support my reading habit. So I used the library, and I bought stacks of used books from Goodwill. When I could afford it, I stepped up to buying new paperbacks. For a time, I was even able to afford new hardcovers.

Throughout, though, I always bought new copies of the best books I'd read that year to give as gifts for Christmas and birthdays. And when I do purchase new, it's almost always authors I've first encountered in used or library copies. So free and cheap reads do, in my experience, most definitely lead to full-price sales.

Unless, of course, you're on my "do not purchase-ever" list because you scold readers for not buying new... :D

Southern_girl29
02-20-2007, 08:48 AM
Lately, the only hardcovers I've bought are the Harry Potter books. I almost always buy PB because I can buy more that way. But, I almost always buy new. The only way I buy something used if it's an older book that I want to add to my collection, like something by Stephen King or Dean Koontz that I haven't been able to find in the store.

limitedtimeauthor
02-20-2007, 09:28 AM
I buy what I can afford. What else do they expect me to do? I go to the library if I can't afford anything. I discovered my favorite fiction author from a book that was given to me!

That said, I am glad to have been reminded - very graciously, very tactfully - that buying a new book is like rewarding the author for doing a good job. And I love to do that when someone has given me a great story. I definitely want to encourage that! If I could, I would single-handedly support the publishing industry, but. :Shrug::Shrug:

Oh, and I also go to the library to check out the writing books before I buy one (or ten) of them, because I have wasted money on new books that turned out to be terrible. The good ones [writing books] you find at the library are worth buying new, because you'll refer to them again and again! So there's the reward to the author for writing something worthwhile.

Now, when I have a book out, I want all of you to mortgage your houses to buy it in hardcover in the first week it's out, 'kay? :D

ltd.

ATP
02-21-2007, 09:58 PM
Two small points.

One - Being required to obtain the books I wanted via Amazon, I thought
I could order them second-hand. Despite statements that such were sent overseas, the sellers did not send second-hand books to my part of the world. Amazon forced me to buy all the books new - then they could be sent to me.

Two - these writers who appear to be begging might not do themselves a service, public relations-wise. I would think that a concerted and constant PR effort by one major or an assortment of smaller writer organisations, as advocate, on the behalf of these writers (novelists) would be what is required.