Used Bookstores are EVIL! (Not really.)

This is liable to be a bit meandering due to medication and injuries, so bear with me.

Lately I’ve seen a lot of posts discussing how buying books at local brick-and-mortar, mom-and-pop used bookstores is deeply damaging to your friendly indie author. These posts, blogs and articles invariably devolve very quickly into angry shrieks that pretty much seem to amount to “I (I mean we! We! Right?!) deserve to be paid if you read anything I write!”

Okay. Not a bad premise. I don’t disagree. But then they start pointing out how positively sadistic and evil it is that used book stores are “stealing” (several went so far as to call such bookshops legalized piracy) the profits right from your pocket and claiming they’re “helping” you by getting exposure. Essentially saying they’re fucking you over coming  and going and yet you feel happy about it.

Well. I disagree. And given that I have a number of published works, I suppose that makes me an author and thus entitled to my opinion. So here’s my rationale on this.

First: They’re “stealing” from you, because you don’t make royalties and you should. And this is apparently only an issue for us poor little indie authors.

Okay, sure. I don’t make any money if one of my books somehow is purchased, traded in at a used book store, and then purchased again. Though that’s not exactly true; I made my royalty on that first sale. And yes, yes, theoretically it could pass through twenty more persons and I’m missing out on all those sales and I should be mad about it. Except I’m not.

Know why? First off, there seems to be some interesting delusions on just how much writers make. I get between $0.20 and $1.16 for copies of my books or ebooks that are sold. Now, sure, I’d love to have an extra $23.20 (assuming it was my most expensive title and I got optimum royalties on each sale) in my account. Then I’d break the $25 barrier and actually get paid! But it also isn’t make or break. And let’s not forget that those assumed twenty extra sales would be trickles over the course of a year (or several.) Well, bugger all! Those filthy pirates are robbing me of a dollar a month, under optimal conditions! Kill ’em all!

Of course, perhaps this is only my attitude because I don’t realistically make any money on my books, which is probably attributed to the fact that my books are trash, no one cares and no one reads them. I’m sure that’s what some folks would say, anyway. Of course, with that logic, one then wonders how my book landed in that bookstore in the first place, let alone rode the merry-go-round twenty times. If it didn’t do that, then I didn’t lose any money at all, now did I?

It only becomes more illogical if you assume you’re selling dozens (or hundreds) of copies a month. You’re going to whine about the twenty (or even a hundred) royalty payments you missed out on over the course of a year (payments which, in all likelihood, you’d not have gotten anyway, because the individuals buying you in such shops are more likely impulse buys rather than deliberate clicks on Amazon). So you’re missing out on maybe a hundred bucks a year. When you’re (in theory) making between a hundred to 500 a month in sales. Gosh, that extra ten bucks in a month (again, under optimum conditions) is really gonna make or break you, is it?

And if you’re actually supporting yourself writing (as in, you are clearing over $1,500 a month, which in my area is basically “cost of living”), or are (and congrats, by the way) a literal best-selling author, then that extra ten a year sounds even more like a bunch of pretentious shrieking with no reason.

So there’s that. You’re not actually losing out on all that much, and if you’re to the point of starvation where that amount is actually making an difference in you surviving or not (or what tax bracket you’re in), then – as much as I hate to be the dream-crusher – perhaps you need to reevaluate your life priorities. Get a job. It sucks. But unless you’re so blessed as to have made up disorders or actual injuries severe enough to warrant disability payments, that’s how life works. We aren’t all going to be Stephen King or J.K. Rowling (both of whom had day jobs for quite some time, even after selling their first novels to big publishers.)

Second, such things also argue that the exposure thus gained isn’t worth the loss of that cash money. Really? Have you looked at what advertising campaigns cost you? $10 on Goodreads or Facebook will maybe get you 100 visits. Not buys, mind you. No guarantees that the visitors will actually buy your book, read it, think about it or be aware of your name later. I’ll eat that loss of $1.16 when at least my book is sitting on someone’s shelf or in their mind compared to the (potentially) twelve “looks” at my book that have high odds of fading from the viewer’s mind almost immediately when the next shiny “click here!” button is pressed. Sounds like an acceptable investment to me.

Last, and here’s the real kicker. If one is so deeply concerned about this, take some time out of your day (perhaps the time you spend explaining how these stores are all evil pirates) and go visit a few of them near you. Perhaps I’m lucky – though I really think not, given the general attitude towards reading, readers and writers in this area, as I have lamented on more than one occasion – but of the seven used book shops within a 25 mile radius (in other words, easily visitable), five of them are more than willing to do displays, events or special arrangements with local or semi-local authors. The other two are specialty shops that don’t fit my genre, but I’m sure that if there was a match, they’d be willing to do something as well.

At the bare minimum they’re willing to put copies of my stuff on the wall, right by the register, with big stickers that say “Local Author!” and the like. I just have to provide the books. They’re also willing to talk decent rates on splitting the take if one of them sells (often 40% or more, which certainly beats that $1.16, now don’t it?) Admittedly, I need to buy copies for them, but as 2016’s tax season looms and I look back over my earnings, I made the most profit from such sales.

Let me say that one more time: I made the most profit from sales originating at evil pirate thieving used book stores. Not from copies sold on my site; those earn me almost nothing once shipping gets worked in. Certainly not from Amazon, B&N, CreateSpace, etc (since apparently I’m lucky if one book sells every other month from one of those platforms.) Even if one works it out to percentages based on copies sold (since volume would obviously account for a higher dollar amount, duh), it’s still astronomically better than any other platform. I make $1.16 if you buy it yourself online. I make about $0.70 if you buy it from my site. I made about $5.50 per sale in used book stores.

So, as noted. Just meandering babbles… but stuff to think about, anyway.

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