Salon had an article recently addressing the post Kristen Lamb posted (that I also referenced) about used bookstores, their effect on authors (short story: authors don’t see a dime from the sale of their book in them), and how that can have long-term implications to an author’s livelihood.
…not so fast. The long-term implications aren’t dire. I touched on this before and stand by that post. For those who might be click averse, the point in that second post is that getting readers is what really matters.
Someone having a copy of your book–from a library, a used bookstore, borrowed from a friend–means that someone has a copy of your book! As a writer, you put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into those pages, and you just want someone to read it. Even better if they like it. (Gold medal if they love it, but hey, fair-to-middling emotions are just fine, too.)
From the Salon.com article:
“Used bookstores are not the end point to a reader’s journey, but often the starting point, not to mention that they are often treasure troves of out-of-print books, many of which might not exist in e-book or audiobook form.”
We readers (especially voracious readers) typically find an author we enjoy and the buy or check out of a library every book they have. When you find a writer whose style clicks with your way of reading, man, that’s the stuff. Once that book is done, you’re ready for the next one. Who cares how you find that author! Half Price Books led me to so many beloved authors, authors whose books I bought for myself, new, and still have on my shelf.
Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I’d like a writer’s style, so buying a partially beat up, dog-eared copy at HPB seemed less expensive of a gamble. And when it turned out that I really enjoyed it? Off to the “proper” bookstore to get my hands on everything. Sometimes. Sometimes I didn’t have the funds to get brand new, so if the library didn’t have a copy (or I didn’t want to wait for my turn to come around), I’d grab another battered copy from HPB.
To me, what’s important is that people are reading. Because if you as a writer can hook a reader, you’ll have a reader for life. I mean, it’s like the drug dealing analogy: you get them on the comeback. 😉
It’s important to remember that while yes, selling books is a business (and it’s not profitable unless you’re at the top, either in sales–your Stephen Kings, etc–or by being a big muckity-muck in the publishing world) it’s also an art. Art is meant to be shared. Books are meant to be read.
So let the readers read.
(And then readers? Reviews, mentions on social media, and shoving a copy in a friend’s hand and pointing at the words are about the best PR an author can get. We love you for it.)