Home » Royalties, The Business of Writing » PAY THE WRITER—Pirates, Used Bookstores & Why Writers Need to Stand Up for What’s Right

PAY THE WRITER—Pirates, Used Bookstores & Why Writers Need to Stand Up for What’s Right

31 December 2015

From Kristen Lamb’s Blog:

All righty. I’d vowed to take off for the holidays but *laughs hysterically* sure. Like THAT was going to happen. No, seriously, I’m working on resting more. I’m also working on learning to shut up. Clearly those two goals are getting re-slated for 2016 resolutions because the whole “Inside words stay inside…”

Not working out for me. So why not leave 2015 with a bang? Haters gonna hate.

To quote the great Tywin Lannister, Lions do not concern themselves with the opinions of sheep.

Today I’m going to say something that could quite possibly be grossly unpopular, but whatever. It’s for your own good. I’m feeding y’all broccoli to offset all that fudge and alcohol you’ve consumed during the holidays.

There’s a trend that just makes me see red and I’m calling it out today because if we do not address this 500 pound used paper elephant in the room, then it’s going to be really, really hard for you guys to reach your dreams, which I assume is to work as a full-time PAID writer.

For those of you who do NOT want to be PAID to write? The following does not apply. If you are content to work a full-time regular job AND slave over a manuscript as a second job and your ONLY reward is simply nice reviews, compliments, hugs, cuddles, and the joy your stories might create in the hearts of others?

I am NOT talking to you.

. . . .

Yesterday, I was on Facebook and it would have been one thing to see one writer post this link. But I saw like TEN writers post this link and they were excited…as if this Washington Post article were announcing a GOOD thing for our profession.

In an Age of Amazon, Used Bookstores Making an Unlikely Comeback.

Here’s the deal. I don’t care about bookstores. I care about writers. In fact, readers should care about writers more than bookstores because no writers? Well no real point in bookstores now is there?

Want to support the arts? Pay artists. Want to support books? Pay writers. It is simple.

. . . .

Often, we blog for free (though if you do it the way I teach you actually DO get a return on that investment). Once we are published? We do interviews and guest posts for…FREE.

So please. Do not expect to ALSO get our books for free. We are frankly DONE with free.

How can a writer get PAID?

. . . .

So happy you asked.

Digital pays writers the best. Then print copies. NEW ones. Buy on-line or in a bookstore or at an event in person. We writers get a royalty. Depending on the contract, writers can even get paid if a book is checked out of a library. That library PAID for the book and the writer was then, in turn, paid a royalty.

Upon so many times checked out? The writer is then PAID again for a new “copy” of the book.

Want to support a writer in the new year? BUY BOOKS.

Writers are NOT PAID for the purchase of used copies. So while I LOVE used bookstores I want to make a point here. Writers MAKE NO MONEY.

. . . .

To be clear, I do not mind used bookstores. What I mind is the attitude that somehow digital is bad and Amazon is bad whereas “paper” and used bookstores are “cultural” and therefore GOOD and preferable for writers.

. . . .

Want to support civilization? Buy old books. Want to support a writer and his/her family and career? Buy new ones or e-books.

Encourage and educate readers to do the same. Because here is the deal. If we writers go around cheering how AWESOME used bookstores are? How the heck are readers going to know they are benevolently gutting our careers?

They (readers) see us posting the links. They ASSUME we are benefitting. They have no idea how we get paid. Why not direct them to places where we might make money?

Link to the rest at Kristen Lamb’s Blog and thanks to Scath for the tip.

Here’s a link to Kristen Lamb’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Royalties, The Business of Writing

82 Comments to “PAY THE WRITER—Pirates, Used Bookstores & Why Writers Need to Stand Up for What’s Right”

  1. ‘To be clear, I do not mind used bookstores. What I mind is the attitude that somehow digital is bad and Amazon is bad whereas “paper” and used bookstores are “cultural” and therefore GOOD and preferable for writers.’

    Okay, that part I agree with. What I don’t agree with is the notion that people who shop used bookstores are too dumb to realise authors don’t get paid for resales. After the Garth Brooks flap about used CDs, I think North Americans at least were educated about that (if for some reason they didn’t know already).

    • I don’t necessarily see that as directed at consumers but more at the Amazon-obsessed media who celebrate any “anti-Amazon, move no matter how silly or how much collateral damage it causes others, usually without touching Amazon with their barrages.

      All the coverage is about the middlemen, publishers and bookstores, and none about the concerns of authors or readers, as if books wrote themselves and money grew on trees.

    • It’s silly, anyway. Second-hand sales probably help to support high initial prices. I know several people who’d only buy $60 console games because they knew they could sell them on and get much of that money back when they were done.

      A much bigger problem is publishers letting books go out of print, so the used copy can cost 10x as much as the cover price (or more). Clearly there’s a big demand for those books but the publisher won’t supply it, and the author makes no money.

  2. I was in a used bookstore a few years ago looking for an out-of-print book about WW I battleships, and when I got to the counter with my treasure, a woman ahead of me was buying an armload of recent bestsellers. We got into a conversation about books and I casually mentioned that the authors of the books she was buying would not get a penny from her purchases.

    She was shocked. She had no idea, but the book shop owner was looking daggers at me.

    • I casually mentioned that the authors of the books she was buying would not get a penny from her purchases.

      She was shocked. She had no idea, but the book shop owner was looking daggers at me.

      Right then would be the time to suggest that she look up the authors online and send a donation to them through PayPay (if available). A dollar per book ( Or even a quarter.) would be a lot more than the author got from the original sale. 😉

      • I’ve done that, when possible.

        • The author of a used book has already been paid.

          Once. By the original owner.

          When you buy groceries, do you send a donation to Purina and to the farmer, in addition to paying the grocery store?

          No. Because that would be stupid.

  3. I really don’t think whining about used bookstores is a productive pursuit for authors. First, you DID sell that physical book and you were paid on it. Assuming that used bookstore customer who scooped it up for a couple bucks would have found and bought it at a new bookstore is a wild assumption that is probably false in most cases. Why do authors expect to be treated differently than every other product? Does a clothing manufacturer get more money when a shirt sells in a thrift store? Does a car manufacturer get more money when a used car changes hands?

    Second, with writers offering free books, and even paying to advertise those free books, I find the complaint about used bookstores to be less than compelling. Did this writer consider that the person who bought the used book (for which the author had already been paid) might actually like it and perhaps seek out more of their work, possibly buying a new book next time?

    I understand this isn’t an easy career for most people, and it is understandable to an extent that writers whose sales are less than they’d like tend to obsess over things like used books ad pirate web sites. But they’d be better served focusing on readers, understanding what they want, and writing more…and trying to market their books the best they can.

    The whole “writers of the world unite” thing, railing against any instance where a writer isn’t getting paid is a bit tiresome. It’s not good advice to new writers. You run a business as an author, and you need to get your work in front of people. And you need to stop focusing on peripheral nonsense. You will get paid for your writing because you built a group of readers who want to read it. Not because you pumped you fist in the air and shouted, “the writer needs to get paid.” That’s not how any business works. Is a bakery giving out free samples being taken advantage of? Or are they hoping people will take a bite and buy something else? Why do writers think they are exempt from these laws of commerce? Why do they expect some moral mandate to be enforced, guaranteeing they will be paid for every keystroke? There are certainly those out there who use the desperation of writers to get free work done, but there are also plenty of times it makes sense for a writer to participate in something, even if they are not paid for that bit of work. Especially writers who need to build fanbases.

    I say this as someone who has never had any free books. But this is a very crowded market, and many of the participants still need to prove themselves to readers, who are understandably picky with what they use their limited dollars to buy.

    • Came here to say this, and you said it way better.
      Also, when I was a kid, it was rare I could afford a new book. I also went through them so fast that it was totally not worth it to buy new, because then I’d only get one book instead of several. However, I found some great authors and bought new books from them later, which I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t first had those cheaper used copies.

    • Your comment is outstanding.

    • Nailed it.

    • Thank you!

      You articulated what I was feeling.

    • I am not whining. I am acting like a reasonable business person. I have no problems with regular people promoting a used bookstore. Books are NOT their INDUSTRY. I had a problem with WRITERS who should KNOW BETTER promoting used bookstores instead of places where they would be PAID.

      This would akin to an estate attorney promoting free downloadable do-it-yourself wills when his own business is failing.


      Any reasonable person would think the attorney was insane, but if writers do it it is okay? “It’s culture.”

      So the lawyer should be paid but if we want to be paid and act like a business then we are whiny entitled brats?

      My complaint wasn’t the bookstore or even the used bookstore. It was WRITERS sending people to the very venues where they won’t be PAID. That is not being a WISE business person. Would HONDA spend advertising dollars promoting Vinnie’s Used Cars? Would the chef who’d created free samples promote another restaurant or HIS OWN where he would get PAID?

      You give the example of a bakery giving away free samples but what if the bakery gives out free samples and then recommends the cake shop on the next corner? That is what writers are essentially doing. They are doing all this hard work and then sending customers to a place where they will make no money.

      “Oh, well he cooks for the love of FOOD. It should matter where people buy their food or he isn’t a ‘real’ chef.”

      Since the average person has no understanding how authors are paid, they honestly believe that when they go to that used bookstore and walk out with an armload of books they are supporting writers (as other commenters have indicated). And articles like the ones in the Washington Post ARE slanted to make it seem that digital and Amazon are “evil” and “bad” whereas all bookstores are noble and just.

      I don’t feel anyone owes me anything. But, at the same time, I am only asking what is right and that is I am paid for what I do just like everyone else.

      If you really believe that authors were all paid full royalties off that book the first go round, then I recommend looking more into our industry. There are many predatory practices that don’t benefit writers (I.e. poaching remainders). But even then, I still don’t care about the used bookstore.

      But when we criticize these sacred cows (bookstores) and start to ACT like a businessperson and simply ASK for consumers to be EDUCATED and to vote with their DOLLARS as consumers do in ALL OTHER AREAS of a capitalist society? That is for some reason unacceptable.

      • “Since the average person has no understanding how authors are paid, they honestly believe that when they go to that used bookstore and walk out with an armload of books they are supporting writers…”

        I think the average person does have a pretty good idea how writers are paid. At least as good and idea as they need. They understand that writers aren’t getting any money directly when they buy used books. But I also think they understand, as others have stated, that the used book market indirectly supports the publishing industry and writers indirectly as well. And that there is a value, to all writers, to simply be supportive of literature.

        Not that there aren’t some people who don’t care either way. Certainly people who pirate ebooks are under no illusion writer are cut in. They just don’t care.

        I’m not sure most people have a lot of illusions about the economics of it all. I think there are some people who don’t give a damn if writers get paid. There are others that buy enough books at retail, they are fine with buying used books occasionally. There are others who understand the complex socio economic issues and have determined, like many of the people commenting, that in the long run used bookstores and books are good. And there are some people who might feel a little guilty, but simply don’t have the money to make other choices.

        I’m with you on the argument that people bash Amazon unfairly and too often assume that all bookstores are graced by angels, but you took it all too far for me.

        • I was not TALKING to readers. In the post, I excused readers. I did NOT excuse WRITERS who are running a business and are promoting a venue where they are NOT paid and then complaining they cannot make enough to eat.

          And if you read the comments on my blog, I am sad to say you overestimate what the average person knows. Quite a few people were unaware the authors were not paid from these outlets. And often readers cluster in outliers. They are people who buy A LOT of books. So even if a small percentage is unaware the authors are not paid from these outlets, if they are VORACIOUS readers, they can make a significant impact if they are not buying the correct places.

          They should at least be given the education to use their purchasing power where they choose to do the best benefit—the bookstores they love or the writers they love.

          And sure, maybe there are people who don’t give a damn if writers get paid. Seen it on this thread. BUT, if people like me don’t at least try and educate others (because really, how would you know? Hollywood acts like publishing hands us all $500,000 advances) then the good writers leave and what will be left are the MEGANAMES from the Big Five who haven’t written their own books in years and the drivel that is being slapped up self-published on Kobo and Amazon.

          Because the GOOD writers, the talented ones? They got starved out and they did it to themselves because they promoted thrift stores instead of the places they made money.

          I am also unsure how “Feel free to buy used. Feel free to promote used. Just make sure to also tell your readers/fans that if they really want to support you to ALSO buy NEW” is going too far. So we agree to disagree. And better I go too far than die a lukewarm piss ant death no one notes.

          • I’m surprised at the “drivel that is self-published” insult to the indie publishers in this post.

            • Just the true colors coming out.

              Now a days there’s a lot more chaff to go through to find the wheat, just as it has been from ‘the publishers’. Which makes it harder to stand out and be noticed. Many would wish for less competition — not realizing that any narrowing the playing field might make ‘them’ one of those on the wrong side of the cut.

              In order for a writer to ‘run their writing as a business’ means they want the least competition in their field to improve their odds on getting a piece of the buying pie. (and then something like 50shades comes along and proves that no one really has any idea what ‘type of drivel’ the readers are willing to eagerly pay for …)

              Write. Write well. The rest of it is a crap-shoot. A crazy cover might get more people to look inside, a witty title might get them to check it out. There are all kinds of ways to try to improve the odds. But nobody has the key/secret to getting something to go viral (if they did you know they’d never tell as they’d use it themselves to rake in the money!)

              Write. The rest is window dressing and all the window dressing in the world can’t keep a reader from giving up on it three pages in and telling all their friends that it’s so much nicely packaged ‘drivel’ …

          • Even if you couls somehow eliminate used bookstores, it would do little to increase sales of new books.

            People who buy used books are looking for one of two things:

            1. A good cheap reading copy of a book that they feel is too expensive new. If used bookstores disappear, these people will either use the library of go without that book.

            2. An out of print title that can’t be purchased new.

      • Okay, first, I suspect that most writers, and certainly most self-published or even hybrid authors, only have a very small number of books in used bookstores. So, we’re talking about a very small number of books in the vast majority of cases. Is this something an author, juggling trying to finish books (and maybe get an extra one out), do some marketing, and generally manage their business of being a writer, should even waste time thinking about? As I mentioned, I understand why an author, especially one who is not satisfied with their sales levels (not saying this is you), would be drawn to rail against petty nonsense like used book stores. You see much the same with people pulling their hair out over pirate sites or complaining incessantly about returns on Amazon. I understand these emotional responses, but virtually everyone experiencing them would do themselves a favor by ignoring them. They’re a distraction, nothing more. Does anyone seriously think used bookstores have a measurable impact on most authors sales and income?

        Second, the biggest challenge an author faces other than actually writing a good story is getting noticed. And this is becoming more and more difficult as the market become ever more crowded. I don’t think most authors have truly considered the ramifications long term of a market where nothing goes out of print. For most of the history of publishing, the vast majority of the books put out in a given year disappeared. But ebooks and POD have changed that forever. So, having somebody pick up a stray book in a used bookstore is a form of exposure, a way of hopefully getting that person to perhaps buy another book of yours (or ten).

        If I came on here and posted that I had 100,000 people, and all of them would read a book if the author gave it to them free, I suspect the resulting flood of emails would crash my server. Authors struggle to be noticed, and for many it is the failure to do so that will end or limit their careers. So why pick out a tiny little dusty corner of exposure and rail against not getting paid for a handful of books?

        Lastly, why would an author “promote” a used book store. Well, perhaps because they are people too, and they have some interests and desires apart from selling books. Someone who is shamelessly promoting their work (in any field) every time their mouth (or fingers) is moving, are extremely boorish, and they are unlikely to generate a lot of people who want to listen to them. Would you limit your speech in life to only things that directly result in your being paid a few dollars? I’d suspect an author would not post or blog about something seriously harmful to their career, but used bookstores? Is that really a problem for most of us? Something we must ban from discussions for fear we will see a few dozen books (and less than that for most) change hands nationwide without us getting a second royalty on that?

        My main point is that it is just this kind of pointless, diversionary thinking that draws authors away from focusing on the keys to success. For those who aren’t selling as well as they’d like, it is NOT used bookstores, nor pirates, nor Amazon’s liberal return policies. If you want to get to the levels you desire, focus on writing great (and ever better) books, tend seriously to the physical aspects (covers, editing, blurbs, etc.), and pursue all avenues for exposure (even if this means not getting paid for a few copies).

        • I don’t think used bookstores have an impact on authors’ incomes.

          Why? Because generally, the people who shop at used bookstores probably don’t have a lot of extra money. Take away used bookstores, and they may buy a few new books throughout the year. But only a few.

          When you’re a reader living paycheck to paycheck, who wants books in her house, $5 at a used bookstore nets you anywhere from 5 to 10 new-to-you books to read.

          But $5 isn’t going to buy a new book, unless it’s from the bargain bin. How much do authors earn from sales of bargain binned books? < Real question, I don't know about that aspect.

          Even if my hypothetical reader (Okay, it was younger me!) had an extra $5 per month, that's only $60 per year to spend on books. Maybe 2 to 4 new books at current prices? Compared to 60 to 120 used books?

          Of course I don't suggest people look for my books in used bookstores. My sales links are sales links, and there are dang few physical copies of my books floating around (barely 200 at this point in time).

          I suggest they buy ebooks, which I try to reasonably price. I earn a living from ebook sales, not print sales.

        • The thing is I am a very unique author. My business is in building brands and platforms and teaching the BUSINESS side of the BUSINESS in conjunction with CRAFT.

          The single greatest challenge I have had with writers is to find the balance. I have found in the ten years of doing what I do that writers tend to swing wildly one direction or the other.

          Either they scope-lock on algorithms and marketing and promotion and where books are bought and spreadsheets and sales…and completely IGNORE their art and craft.

          OR they go all bohemian and “Amazon is the devil!” “Digital is bad!” “Yay used bookstores!” Stick it to the MAN! Um, wait, you DO realize THE MAN pays you, right?

          But these are the SAME WRITERS who will then complain they can’t make any money.

          If you do happen to ever check out my blog, I always work for a balance of both. My MAIN focus is craft. Write EXCELLENT books. But also we are a business.

          And as I said in the post. If ONE writer had promoted this article I would not have cared but my feed literally EXPLODED with writers cheering the used bookstores sticking it to Amazon and I was WTH? One writer? I don’t care. TEN? We have a problem.

          • Well, I fall somewhere in between all that. I don’t do much by way of marketing or promotion other than write. I do treat it like a business when it comes to providing the best end result of that writing I possibly can, and keeping track of it all with spreadsheets, because taxes and treating it like a business.

            I don’t think Amazon’s the devil (that would be dumb of me, since it’s responsible for the lion’s share of my living), but I know there’s not a corporation in existence that’s perfect, and that there are worse ones.

            Seems to me what this boils down to is being worried what some authors do will cause problems across the board for everyone.

            If another author wants to promote used bookstores as places to buy their books, let them. If they want to focus on marketing over craft instead of balancing the two, let them.

            They’ll fall by the wayside, and it won’t affect the rest of us much, if at all. Call it natural selection at work. It goes on all the time anyway, and new writers appear constantly to refill our ranks.

            You can’t help people who aren’t interested in helping themselves.

            I said above that I don’t think used bookstores have an impact authors’ incomes. I should’ve said “negative” impact.

            I have no clue how many new books I’ve purchased over the years, due to buying used books. I’ve remembered author names, and went looking for more from them. I’ve replaced old favorites with new ebooks, because my Kindle has loads more room than my office bookshelves. Friends and family have always known a book or gift card to a bookstore is an excellent gift for me.

            I buy new a lot, but I still buy used too–and I buy both for two, because my daughter is also a voracious reader. Price is always going to be a determining factor, because books may be a “necessity” for the two of us personally, but they’re actually a luxury item.

            Shelter, food, etc. are bigger necessities. People are going to pay their electric bill or rent before they’re going to buy books. IF they have money left, and consider books a personal necessity, they’re going to buy what they can afford to, where they can afford to. As long as new book prices are high, it’s going to be used books, or from a selection of less expensive (probably indie or on sale) new ebooks.

            The above isn’t even factoring in that some community-minded people will shop at used bookstores because they’re local businesses, or the only bookstore in town. Or that without used book buying options, a lot of books would possibly end up joining all those “remainders” the Trad Pub system and new bookstores throw away all the time. Even voracious readers cycle out books they’re not going to read more than once.

            I’m sure everyone here understands that pointing people to places to buy used books results in not earning anything from used book purchases. But doing so will not result in the collapse of the writing industry or annihilate the ability of all writers to earn money from new book sales.

            Basically, if you want people to support you as a writer, then point them to places to buy your books new. Don’t worry about other writers shooting themselves in the foot.

            I don’t even worry about Amazon haters. My experience shows me that a lot of readers have no problem shopping at Amazon for new books, even if they’re also buying used there or elsewhere.

          • Your use if all caps is the literary equivalent of sticking a bullhorn in someone’s ear and screaming. It’s an alienating and amateurish device.

  4. In an Age of Amazon, Used Bookstores Making an Unlikely Comeback.


    In an Age of Overpriced Big Publishing Books, Used Bookstores Making an Easily Foreseen Comeback.

    There. Fixed it for you.

  5. “Want to support the arts? Pay artists. Want to support books? Pay writers. It is simple.”

    Sorry, but that’s the way to support the ‘publisher’ and the book seller, not always the writer. And at least buying used means you’re not supporting the publisher either, just the used book store.

    Which is why finding/buying self/indie published e/books you like is nice — you know the writer’s getting a chunk the money. (though I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule …)

  6. The author of this uninformed screed might be shocked to learn that the chance that the reader of a physical book actually paid for it (even from a used bookstore) is only 50% (in the U.S.). Yep, ‘pirating’ is a much bigger problem with pbooks than ebooks. She should forget about used bookstores and rail against readers who loan out their books to friends. Those people are just evil, stealing money directly from poor starving writers. And libraries. Can you believe that organizations dedicated to outright thievery are run by non-profits, colleges and universities, and even local governments?

    • And what about us readers that enable the non-profits? I donated nearly 500 books to Friends of the Library and Goodwill when we moved last year. 🙂

      • I, too, recycle books.[hangs head] Yard sales. Donations to the library. I give them to friends. I donate them to church charity shops.

        Oh, the shame!

    • If writers were recommending people go to sites with pirated copies of their books to download for free where they made no royalty or they were recommending names of friends who could loan out copies of their books for free? I would have smacked them for that too. We are a BUSINESS.

      And libraries PAY US FOR BOOKS. Authors are paid a royalty and in fact selling to libraries is very lucrative for writers (seems you know about uninformed screed).

      If we (writers) want to remain in business (code for writing more books) we have to actually make money. That is how capitalism works. And sending readers (code for customer) to places you don’t get paid is BAD business.

      Yes, I “get” that those used books a the bookstores were originally “paid for” but if I want to make MORE MONEY? Then tell me what sense does it make to send people to second hand vendors?

      That is idiocy and self-defeating.

      • And to reiterate though I made it CLEAR in the post. I love bookstores. LOVE secondhand books. Love donated books. I donate books. I sell books. But I do not promote used bookstores because it cuts my throat financially. I was not chastising regular people. I was chastising WRITERS for being unwise in their BUSINESS.

        I was asking that IF they wanted to promote used bookstores to please make sure that they educated their readers that they DO NOT get paid from these venues. That if the reader DID find something they loved, to please BUY NEW. That’s it. No communism. No entitlement. No “writer welfare” or “Church Book Sale Shaming.”

      • I have no problem with readers pirating my books or buying them used. And I run a successful business with my writing. Believe it or not, some of us make money without doing things your way.

        I found my first Stephen King book in a used bookstore. I’ve bought everything he has released immediately ever since. I’m in this for the long haul, working to acquire hardcore readers, and couldn’t careless about how they discovered me.

        Giving away books through promotion, piracy, or used sales is all the same to me.That absolutely does not ‘cut my throat financially.’

      • “And libraries PAY US FOR BOOKS.”

        How do you think a book ends up in a used bookstore? It is first purchased new.

        An author makes the same royalty either way.

    • Aye, Sir William. Off with their heads! How dare poor people expect to be allowed to read books. Who do they think they are? The cultured elite?

      For shame. SHAME!

  7. Consumers care about the product, not the producer.

    Think they will buy a new car rather than a used car because they want to support auto workers?

    Buy a new house rather than an existing house to support the building trades?

    Abandon Craigs List in favor of Amazon and Target to support all kinds of workers?

    And don’t pick up that newspaper in the berak room. Go buy a new one to support news writers.

    • A book is not a mass produced car. It is a work of art and if you want books that read like something that came off a Ford assembly line then be my guest. I won’t stop you.

      I don’t believe in propping anything up and I am not asking for anything I haven’t earned. I am a capitalist. I don’t mind used bookstores at all. I mind writers sending readers there without educating them.

      I was chastising writers for being unwise business people. Hey, if you want to make enough money to keep writing books, send people where you are PAID. And if consumers want to support a writer they love, buy new.

      So YES, if you find a really wonderful book at that resale shop and want to make sure you get more books like that, buy new because that pays the writer. This isn’t to “support” us like we are on welfare. This is paying us a wage (because unlike MOST people we don’t get a paycheck. We earn everything ONE royalty at a time.)

      This “paying the writer” is so YOU, dear consumer, can enjoy more of the entertainment you take for granted. More Star Wars and Game of Thrones and Hannibal and Seinfeld. You think that genius falls out of the sky? Or that artists maybe worked really freaking HARD on that?

      That maybe those purchases ensure you get MORE good content. Because when people DON’T pay and when the writers can’t keep writing? You get the deluge of S$#! that is being first-time self-published on Amazon. THAT will be your future.

      Get THAT off Craig’s List. But hey, at least you will get it cheap.

      • Of course books come off an assembly line. It’s called a printing press. Just crank them out. Books aren’t special, and the people who produce them aren’t special.

        Buy more new cars rather than used cars, support the people who make them, and we can get more of what we take for granted. Think the genius that went into the design, engineering, and production of a car falls out of the sky? People work really HARD on that. These people need to be PAID.

        • The FINAL product comes off the printing press. After months of research and creation and design. Honestly, that is a ridiculous statement.

          And frankly, you are comparing two things that cannot be compared. What if car designer, mechanical and electrical engineers were only paid in royalties? They made no salaries? They could only afford to design better and safer cars if people bought new automobiles?

          Car manufacturers pay everyone who creates a car a really nice salary. And guess what? If I made the salary of a car designer? I could care LESS where you bought my book or if you bough new or used. But, I am essentially an entrepreneur. Every single book sale matters to me. For me it is the difference between being able to pay bills and not pay bills.

          If a Honda sells or doesn’t sell, it doesn’t impact whether that designer can make a house payment.

          But maybe if engineers and designers WERE paid that way it would matter to you. Maybe if people started dying in fiery crashes because the engineers hadn’t been able to update airbags since 1992, people would buy NEW.

          You are criticizing ME, but not taking into account that my profession is 100% commission. But then when I TRY to get out and hustle for that commission and EARN the sale, you treat me like I want a handout.

          But to be blunt, people like you are not my audience. Anyone who feels the arts are nothing more than a widget off an assembly line? Just…wow.

          • As someone with several relatives who work in the transportation industry, the notion that cars or other like utilitarian objects are somehow lesser than books is appalling. The amount of design, engineering, and testing that goes into the final assembly line version, not to mention adherence to government safety regulations, certainly makes it an equivalent, if not more challenging, endeavour. For shame.

      • “A book is not a mass produced car. It is a work of art and if you want books that read like something that came off a Ford assembly line then be my guest. I won’t stop you.”

        I’m afraid I must respectfully disagree. As a one-time book seller employed by a large retail chain bookseller, I can tell you that both publishers and these types of bookstores do not treat books as works of art but as mass produced items with a short shelf life and extreme short term value. I spent a lot hours in the bookstore stock room stripping covers to be returned to publishers for credit and dropping the remainder of the books into vast dumpsters filled to the brim with these works of arts. And mass market paperbacks weren’t the only things routinely culled. I’m the owner of 6 copies each of the complete works of Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo–gorgeous coffee table books with special cases that I rescued from those dumpsters.

        • I agree they treat them as mass produced commodities and if they continue to do so the quality will decline. There is a very good reason it is no longer the BIG SIX and an equally good reason bookstores have gone under and Borders is gone and B&N will likely also disappear unless it makes money off selling figurines and records.

          There is a good reason the Nook is a failure when the Kindle is not.

          There is a very good reason Amazon is taking over and indie books are taking off. And to be blunt? I don’t care about used bookstores because I am not traditionally published. I care about writers and I want them to be prudent business people so they can continue to write.

          When industries are wasteful and greedy and do not value their resources, eventually that comes back to bite. Hubris doesn’t pay. American car manufacturers had to learn that the hard way and they have never fully recovered. The record industry was decimated. Tower Records was toppled and Kodak was obliterated.

          One is never too big to fail.

          • Depends on the writer’s goals I think.

            If they’re trying to make a living at it you’re right — they need to treat it like a business (just as the publishers aren’t heartless — they’re just treating it like a business and getting as much as they can as quickly as they can — even if it means shafting their suppliers …)

            On the other hand if the writer isn’t sure or even understand that they ‘can’t’ make a living wage on their works — but would like as many readers to have a chance to read the story they produced, then pirates and used books will help spread the word. (Not that I care for pirates, but I do like Baen’s bit about being able to copy and share — just not selling their offerings.)

            I know one writer that has all his books on his website — no log in or fees required to read. He offers those same books as ebooks and PoD for those that would like to help ‘support the writer’. He gets a few sales each month (though I think he’d do better if they weren’t priced at trad-pub prices (over $10 for most of the ebooks …)

            • That is fair. But I was talking to a realtor friend of mine on Facebook. He read my post and had NO IDEA writers weren’t paid through these outlets…and I think that is actually quite common since where would an average person find this information? And we were talking about this example of used cars that people keep tossing up, which is a total non sequitur.

              I felt a better example was him as a realtor. It would be like him posting articles on Facebook about how to sell your home FSBO. How you could make SO much more profit without using a realtor. Now, for a regular person to share this link, no big deal. For a realtor by PROFESSION to share this link? That is INSANITY.

              Does this mean For Sale By Owner is illegal? No. Does it mean it is BAD? No. Does it discount that your Great Aunt Heloise had a WONDERFUL experience selling her own home? NO. Does it mean Congress should pass legislation demanding everyone BY LAW use realtors because they DESERVE TO BE PAID! Not at all.

              It would mean my realtor friend was a raging moron for promoting a venue that would eventually lead to his own starvation, especially if regular people were under the impression that he was paid in other ways.

      • Kirsten, I understood your post all too well, tend to agree with you, and don’t see why you’ve been challenged quite so ‘robustly’!I find that there are a lot of readers who genuinely don’t understand the first thing about how writers get paid. I love second hand bookstores, but whenever I use them, I try not to buy books that are still in print. And I also notice writers on social media ‘virtue signalling’ by slagging off Amazon while applauding used bookstores. I don’t understand it at all. I don’t care how cheap the download, if a reader buys one of my books on Amazon, it makes better business sense to me than if they buy it second or third or fourth hand in paperback. And I think the whole industry, at least here in the UK, vastly underestimates the second hand market. Wearing my other hat (as a dealer in antique textiles) I frequent charity shops and salerooms over here and know that books are recycled many times. Until Amazon came along I used to do it too. A single paperback copy might be passed around and read by half a dozen people. Voracious readers simply couldn’t afford to buy everything new. Now, if I can get a download at a reasonable price, that’s what I’ll do, in the knowledge that my fellow writer will get something out of it. But I also know that whenever I’ve politely pointed this out to groups of readers – I do a lot of talks – there is always a significant percentage of the group to whom it had never even occurred. They had been told ‘Amazon bad, bookshop good’ and they believed this applied to writers too.

        • Yes, it has become almost this weird mantra no one questions. Amazon=EVIL. Bookstore=GOOD. I have no idea why people are getting so pissed either. I have no problem with used books. But I do find it really fascinating how when other professions want to be paid, no one bats an eye, but when we do, we are asking for charity.

        • I don’t understand this mindset, either. No one is saying used bookstores are bad, or that we should discourage readers from using them, but sharing an article crowing over the resurgence of a business model that doesn’t pay us (set directly against the one that makes many of us 90% of the profits we use to pay our mortgages) seems rather strange.

      • “A book is not a mass produced car. It is a work of art and if you want books that read like something that came off a Ford assembly line then be my guest.”

        Unless a book has a first printing of one copy, it is a mass duplicated product. Except for limited editions from niche presses, books are not works of art; only the conent within can qualify as that.

  8. The fact is, if a reader does want to support an author, supporting used book stores instead of Amazon is not the way to do it. She got it right as far as I’m concerned. The post seemed pretty clear to me to be about the choice of authors to promote used book stores instead of retailers that pay the author.

    As a writer, I don’t promote used book stores over retail stores that sell books new, not because I don’t like them, but because it’s not good business sense for me to send customers to buy books from places that cut me out of the transaction. Used book stores are great and they’re useful to those who can’t afford books any other way, but I’d rather put my support behind retailers that pay me.

  9. I suppose I’m one of those writers this post doesn’t pertain to because I have a day job for the sole fact I understand it is tough to make money as a writer and I went a few years with no day job and relying on my writing to make me money and it was stressful. Now, that’s not saying I don’t want to make money, but if I did start making enough money to pay bills on my writing I’d probably keep the day job because who knows when the writing gravy train will end? Day job is a bit more stable.

    Anyways, my whole point in commenting is to quote Joe Konrath. “No one owes you a living.” It’d be awesome of readers always bought new books, but let’s face it, that’s not going to happen. People are trying to save money all the time and you can save a nice chunk of change with used books. (I did paperback swap when I had no job. I got books and saved up to 100$!) It just feels like a pointless thing to complain about. Even if this went viral and everyone knew authors didn’t get money from used book sales, there’d still be people going to used book stores.

  10. What she was complaining about was a) people mistakenly thinking that they were somehow supporting authors when they bought used books, and b) *writers* supporting the idea that used bookstores are better for authors than – *gasp* – Amazon.

    Used bookstores serve a segment of the market and can be great for discoverability. No one wants them to go away. But the original article definitely suffers from a certain amount of ADS, and Kristen’s post does help enlighten people who have zero idea how authors are actually paid.

    • Or to look at it another way, all readers of paper books have a budget (whether they can tell you what it is or not) to spend on paper books. In order to stay within their budget readers do the following. (Some are always in one category, some in all.)

      a) Buy new

      b) Buy new and sell some or all of their books to used bookstores to have more money to buy new.

      c) Buy used

      d) Buy used and sell them back to buy more.

      e) Borrow from library and friends.

      With the exception of readers that always buy new and/or borrow (the first and last on the list) the lack of used bookstores would cause less new books to be bought.

      Somewhere in the last week (maybe at TPV) I read a piece that talked about how the new paper book market supported prices that are inflated in value relative to the value of an ebook specifically because of the ability to loan a book or sell it after reading.

  11. Writers are paid for used books — the fact that the physical book has resale value is a portion of its initial price. One of the reasons buyers resent current Big 5 e-book pricing is because e-books cannot be resold. A healthy used book market supports the physical first sale book market.

  12. Most of the authors (romance, particularly), that I discovered in the 80s and 90s and then fanatically supported by buying just about everything they put out–I would not have discovered them had I not frequented used bookstores. Back then, not much income. Then, chronic illness meant no work. I couldn’t buy new books for years until hubby got a better job. Then I couldn’t wait for used books: I had to have those authors as soon as the books hit the shops.

    So, whether it was Garwood or Kinsale or Krentz or Coulter or Reavis or Spencer or Rivers or Stuart or whomever: I found them first in a used bookstore.

    Also, back then, if it was a series from Harlequin or Silhouette, if you didn’t get them while “fresh,” they simply weren’t in bookstores. You had no choice but to get the backlists used. Now, you can buy them for Kindle.

    • Beware, though, Mir. I ordered a couple of backlist titles by HQ for my Kindle, and they came in with so many typos and formatting glitches, I bailed on page three and deleted them unread. HQ simply scans them, apparently, and has no quality control or concern with what the customer gets at the end of the process.

      And I’ve left reviews to this effect. HQ is too big to care.

      • That’s pretty disrespectful toward the purchaser. Especially since the ones I saw weren’t like 99 cents or something (where one might excuse lack of quality control at a pro level). HQ better get their act together. A lot of that backlist is still good reading and they should offer a solid product.

  13. I was known by name at my local used bookstore. I still love it, and without it, I wouldn’t have discovered half the writers I adore, or been able to read much of anything in my leanest years.

    These days, though, I can get many of those same authors as ebooks, which I prefer for health and portability, and am slowly replacing my paper copies with digital (I’m an inveterate re-reader). As I said in a comment on the original post – I’m happiest when I find those authors have gotten their rights back and self-pubbed the books themselves, so I know they’re getting a decent percentage from them. But at least they get something.

    Used bookstores are good things. And they serve The Good, for readers and authors, but if I can afford to get my book in such a way that the author sees a (relatively) direct payday, that’s good, too.

  14. Not all used book stores are the same. I do get paid for having my books in my local store!

    Most of the local used bookstores here in Texas belong to a chain called Half Price Books. They are the bookstores of your dreams, carrying everything from locked cabinets of first editions and expensive collectors items, to what’s termed nostalgia, to current new (not used) best sellers on racks near the registers. I love these stores for their variety: out of print copies of old mysteries, histories, sci fi, they’ve got it somewhere on packed shelves. The place can be a treasure hunt for a reader.

    The plus for me as an independent author is that they have a local author shelf where my books– new– can be purchased, and I get 60 percent of the proceeds. And they didn’t charge me for shelf space. Even better the contract between the author and the store is very straightforward. The stores also hold signing events and provide space for authors’ groups to meet. Don’t assume the used book stores are not supporting local authors.

  15. Kristen: Great article. We all need to be reminded to tell our readers that we need to be paid. This last month of 2015 provided me with my most profit for the year. Expenses take less than half. And, when I receive payments for the four new books I wrote this year, that’s very good, and I can actually celebrate. (Assuming I remember how.)

  16. A FAQ at Baen’s bar is “which way of purchasing X will get the most money to the author”

    Toni’s stock answer is “it doesn’t matter how you purchase it, recommending what you like to others is the best answer in the long run”

    • Baen has always been a big fan of the “pusher” model of book sales: the first hit’s free. They keep a fairly good selection of free books on their site.

      This goes back a long ways. Pre-ebook, they occasionally printed special edition paperbacks at a heavy discount for promotional purposes. I once bought one one these already discounted books used for half price. Baen certainly got their money back on the deal, though. I’ve since bought dozens of new books by that author.

  17. A used book still gets your name out there, though. Same with library borrowing. I don’t see what this woman is worried about with used books.

    • What I am “worried” about is that writers are not educating readers how we are paid and they are sending them to places where they make no money. Readers then feel they are supporting the author when they are not.

      THIS is our business. In business we are here to make money. We are not a charity. Charities get non-profit tax exemptions. We do not. We get taxed out the wazoo. So don’t get taxed like a small business and ACT like a charity.

      • Yes, but the problem is you shouldn’t be looking for your readers to worry about how you get paid. That is not how commerce works, and to me it makes an author look very unprofessional.

        Can you imagine a floor wax company saying, before you buy our product at Walmart or Amazon, think about how much we get paid for it, and maybe go to a smaller store that probably paid us more?

        What concerns me the most about the POV you express is it seems to me to be focused on something almost profoundly irrelevant. How many book sales do you think an author who promotes used bookstores actually loses because of that? Because the words mathematically indistinguishable from zero enter my mind.

        If you’re giving business advice to authors, do you really think this is a problem worth even thinking about? We’ve got lots of people out there who need to learn to write better, to understand their fans more, to get better covers and descriptions, to choose their sub-genres more carefully, to learn how to market effectively, etc. Do you really feel diverting attention to an irrelevancy is helping new or struggling writers?

        If there is one thing writers need to learn, it is how to look past nonsense, how to focus on what will truly impact their careers. I know a lot of authors who make mid-six and even seven figures. And almost to a man/woman, they are coldly professional, focused on what works, and not distracted by nonsense. And none of them worry about letting their readers know how they get paid.

        I’m not trying to give you a hard time, but there is a difference between expressing your own opinion and appearing to give advice to a class of professionals. And I’m particularly concerned that you seem to have resorted to the “books are different, books are special snowflakes” argument. Fiction books, the vast majority of them at least, are entertainment products, just like video games (also sold used), movie tickets, or tennis balls.

        Whatever philosophical arguments we might like to have on what tiny percentage of books have true cultural impact, let’s be honest. The typical romance, space opera, potboiler, or cyberthriller is perceived, created, bought, and sold as an entertainment product pure and simple.

  18. “Writers are NOT PAID for the purchase of used copies. So while I LOVE used bookstores I want to make a point here. Writers MAKE NO MONEY.”

    Isn’t that because the writer was already paid? They already made the money. Now, a new reader is about to discover them and might buy their other works.

    My daughter found one copy in a series of an author recently at Half Price Books and asked for all the others. Being a subservient father, I bought the rest, new, on Amazon.

  19. By that way, THANK YOU for the shout out! It’s a fabulous honor and I very much appreciate it (((HUGS)))

  20. it’s an oddity in discussions that some who are not authors striving to earn their living through sales of their books, sometimes think amaz is ok as a biz, but good biz practices ought not be the same premise for authors. Also a few authors find amaz model of biz ok for amaz, but jeer at authors for holding to good biz practices.

    The writer of this piece is an artist and a business force. I’d say that striving is unique and worthy. The rest about how wonderful whichever corp is? Heard it over the decades about many corps. It’s ok. But I dont join the salaams or the screed often. Mainly because we all have to go our own ways. I know what works for us. And share it with others as/if they ask.

    shakes head

    goes to publish another book. as author. as business.

    despite all the many many shoals, some of which the writer of the article articulates clearly: I have to say, the rise from molehills into mountains re the underhandedness that has infiltrated ebooks/ ads run alongside pirated ebks, membership charges for ‘free’ downloading of pirated digitals… all for raising money for what most readers and authors likely would never support –and kavilling/praising such, is truly one of the best, and least noted, imo racketeering scams, with most readers, ‘users’ seemingly having little understanding of the persons and groups behind the curtain.

    Like i said: shakes head.

    Goes to publish another book. At the rate we’re going, allowing both corp and ‘p. p. pirates’ to eat away at the majority of authors/musicans/filmakers, the actual people who create, eventually all will be plowed under –or fight back. And some battalions will need to fight a few of their own who insist black is white and white is black.

    The new sop of ‘few ought expect to make a living’ and ‘oh theft, sucking the guts out of makers, hurts no one’ and ‘oh it works for me!!’ are empty words. That there are a handful who make a living out of millions trying, sounds exactly like big pub. Different model. Same outcome. Making nations full of hardworkers who are paid Depression Era pay, whilst others in the ‘flow’ take/steal, the lion’s share. A h of a b nation is being created.

    Shakes head. Goes to publish another book. Not sure how some get glued into a model of ONLY paying author once/ or ten times for their work is somehow required rote. Dont see it that way. Do what works. Slam it hard. Keep slamming through with everything in you. Do it on your terms. Listen to everyone. But frankly, follow not authors, including me, would be my advice. Follow the people at the top of the mountain who have the view, the 2.0 CEOs. They actually have far far more vista and insight than those who are merely in the foothills. They speak, and often about their ways and means, and all their succcesses [and not so great ones] can be utilized by us, in proportion.

    I sell tons of my own used books that I wrote. Where did I get such an idea? Bezos. I sell straight off my site with related items I did not make. Where did I get such an idea? Bezos. We run our own audio download with membership or stand alone. Where did we get the idea? Bezos. But not for 45% earning. For 100% minus shipping. Are we at amaz also? audacity which is owned by amaz also? sure. WHy not. But we dropship from places all over the states. Why not. Jeff does. We can too. Readers often make friendly support with artists. Bezos calls together select users every year. So do we. Why not?

    There are a millions of reasons why authors like or dont like certain practices of used/new/big pub/little pubs, etc. THere is no one size fits all. And though I wish it were a simple matter as some suggest of “youre on your own, take it up with your pub” … Id say the taunting rather than problemsolving is the least helpful way to view the ingrown issues. PG helps by warning and warning against entrapping contract clauses. Others help by showing ways through. Some just seem to like to mock. I dont get the latter. One would never mock a horse caught in the wire; one would work to free him, not by yelling at him, calling him names, telling him he’s stupid. But truly helping without causing more injury. My .02 only.

    Shakes head. Goes to publish another book. And more.

  21. All the characteristics that physical books possess as tangible items have remained since the invention of the printing press and are factors in a customer’s decision to purchase a book. That includes in addition to the right to read the first time; to re-read; to fondle, smell, and burn — the ability to lend and to resell. These are features that the customer expects and that the customer pays for and for which the writer is compensated.

    Writers make money off used books and writers make money off loaned books because those are features that support the current price of the book in an informed marketplace. Writers who attempt to shame or discourage purchasers of used books are basically making the argument that the price of books should be lowered to reflect their restricted usage… Like the digitally locked e-books that can neither be loaned nor sold.

    If writers want a fairer deal from publishers, take it up with them. Posting an incorrect argument in all caps does not make it true. It is the publishers undercutting both the e-book and first-purchase book market by pricing e-books too high and driving customers to make the rational choice of buying used books. If writers continue to make the inferior business decision of giving a percentage of their earnings to the party actually undercutting their earning by distorting the pricing, that’s their choice; readers are under no obligation to help writers prop up the legacy publishers.

    • Not to mention there’s more than a little chance the reader who sold a bunch of books to a used book store used the money to buy new books.

  22. The funny thing is, writers who promote used-book stores often have good reasons. At least as good reasons as Lamb has for decrying them.

  23. There was a young girl once, poorly dressed, poorly fed, hardly loved at all. She found a refuge in books, mainly from the library, but later she saved her lunch money, and any chance bits of change she came across, which were pitifully few, to buy used books.

    The world she could explore and learn about fed her own desire to become a writer, for it seemed the most wonderful job in the world, to be able to put down such inspiring words.

    There were many times the young girl would have given up, would have fallen into drugs, or even suicide, had she not had books.

    But, hey, no author ever got paid for those books, so let’s just kill that dream. Who cares if some poor, rejected little girl dies inside because she has no map to a different life.

    You know, 2016 was going to see me focusing like a laser on the business of writing. Still going to do that, but one blog has been cleared from my reading list. I guess thanks are in order, because my time is limited.

    • I didn’t think the blog article author said that buying from used bookstores was wrong. I thought all she said was that she didn’t think it was wise to promote a business model that didn’t include compensation for the author as part of it, while at the same time ripping on one that does provide money to the author.

      Did I miss something?

      I used to buy from a used bookstore. Now I just buy ebooks. They aren’t more expensive than the used books, and they don’t take up room that I don’t have. As a reader, and as a wanna-be writer, I promote ebooks to my friends and acquaintances. Someday I hope one can find my books at a used bookstore, because it means I sold at least enough to start filtering to that level of sales…

  24. I understand the point. To me, it’s a matter of the crazy Amazon hate that seems to go along with some of my writer colleagues. Even a used bookstore is better, in their eyes, than the evil Amazon.

    I don’t get it. I know that Amazon won’t always make decisions that work best for me. They are a corporation, and I am not their chief concern. But they offer me a method to reach readers that I didn’t have before, and for the time being, it is great for me. So I work with them, within their guidelines. They’re not perfect.

    That’s not enough for me to get on the “anyone-but-Amazon” train. I don’t understand those who do.

    As for used bookstores, I love them. I buy from them, and then I go to my Kindle and buy more books from the author. It allows me to find new authors. But Amazon is better for my career than a used bookstore. That’s just facts.

  25. While I agree with the whole “pay the author” concept, what bothers me most about this post is how self-centered and self-serving I perceive it to be. For most authors, writing books is born from a passion for the written word, reading and storytelling. There is an amazing community of writers and readers (and bloggers and reviewers and booksellers and publishers and editors and agents)connected by this shared passion. Why shouldn’t authors promote used bookstores, new bookstores, or any group that fosters, supports, nurtures and contributes to the joy of reading?

  26. If this blog post has done nothing else, it’s certainly enabled me to decide whose work I’m never going to buy in future, from Amazon OR a used book shop.

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