Note from Pari Noskin Taichert
I first saw this thought-provoking article on the Novelists Inc. listserv. The author, Susan Gable, gave everyone on that list permission to reprint the piece as needed. I believe the issue of used bookstores — their merit and economic impact — is something that authors and readers will increasingly debate. I look forward to the discussion we’ll have here.
by Susan Gable
The recent demise of yet another Harlequin line, this time the kick-butt heroine line Bombshell, got me to thinking, which, as anyone who knows me will tell you is always a dangerous thing. I heard from a number of readers who were surprised by the closing, because they had friends who just "loved that line!"
I’ve also heard things like this: "I can’t believe they closed that line. I loved that line. I read those books every month at my library."
Before I go any farther with this discussion, I have to offer up a disclaimer. I love libraries. Especially as a child with a voracious appetite for story, I borrowed armloads of books from my local library. I love bargains, too. I shop like men hunt or play sports. It’s a victory when I score a bargain. (New black cocktail dress, originally $79, marked down to only $16. SCORE!) Used books are great bargains. Swapping books, another great bargain. The new websites on-line, where you can "rent" a book, in a system similar to NetFlix, are also an interesting bargain. Good grief, even the airports these days have a program where you can buy a book, read it, then sell it back to them. What a bargain!
But did you realize that those bargains could be putting your favorite line or your favorite author out of business?
It’s a difficult, touchy subject for authors to discuss. We don’t want to appear anti-used books (’cause we’re not — not entirely, anyway), or make readers think we’re money-grubbers, always harping on them to buy our books. We all know (believe me, we KNOW — most writers don’t make anywhere close to as much money as people think we do) how tight money can be sometimes, especially with the rising costs of gas and heating fuel, and food, and taxes, and, well, you know. Everything.
We’ve been known ourselves to sometimes borrow and trade books, or buy used. Or go to the library.
But publishing these days is a strictly-by-the-numbers business, which means if the numbers don’t live up to the publisher’s expectations, a writer can kiss her slot/line/future contracts good-bye.
"Where’s SoAndSo’s latest book? How come she hasn’t published another story in that series that I love so much?" If you find yourself asking that question, it could be that your favorite, SoAndSo, got cut loose because the numbers of that last book in the series didn’t do as well as the one before that. How did you get your hands on that last book? Did you buy it new, contributing to the continuation of the series, or did you bargain read it? Bargain reads don’t count towards our numbers.
Writers, especially those of us at the "lower echelons" of the publishing world, need our readers more than ever. Without you, there would be no point in what we do. (Well, okay, there’s a certain satisfaction in telling yourself a story, but it’s the audience that makes it truly special. It’s a shared dream.) But now, because of numbers, we need your support even more.
Our careers, our lines, even our publishers, live and die by the numbers.
So please, where and when you can, save a writer. Buy a new book. We’ll all thank you for it. And that way, you’ll have more choices of books in the future.
Susan Gable thanks her fans for buying her books. Her latest book, THE PREGNANCY TEST, sold well, thanks to them. It was also awarded the National Readers’ Choice Award for Best Long Contemporary.