Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Hardbacks, Paperbacks, Authors, and Dollars

This post about hardbacks versus paperbacks and the bottom line for authors by Brandon Sanderson is getting a bit of discussion around the blogosphere and genre message boards. I found it to be a rather well done explanation of the typical author's situation (rather than the big-time sellers we can easily assume all authors are), and not preachy or pushy – he walked the line very well. I don't know if this will actually change my buying habits, but it is making me consider it.

Right now, I spend somewhere between $500 and $750 per year on books (yes, you read that correctly). I love books and I'm almost compulsive about buying them – combine that with the desire to keep my book budget to a 'reasonable' level, I often hold out for used, remaindered, or otherwise heavily discounted books (exceptions happen when my pseudo-collector personality kicks in). I can often find 4 used hardbacks in good shape for the price of 1 new one – gee what's a guy to do. But I do want to support authors – especially the newer authors who have a day job to support their writing habit. I may need to slightly alter my buying habits.

A main exception is gift season –my b-day and Christmas are within a week of each other and everyone knows to get me gift cards to bookstore (this year one was even to a local indie bookstore ). This is when I often catch up with new books (and I don't like mass market paperbacks, so it's either hardcover or trade paperback). This year was about $150 in gifts to bookstores, and with sales and coupons I was able to extend that to the equivalent of about $200. New hardbacks (and trade paperbacks) were the majority of the books I purchased.

On a related note, this reminds me of a blog I wrote last year - a rant about a 'letter to the reader' that a publisher put in the back of the book. It was similar to what Sanderson wrote, but done in a more inappropriate way, and it really pissed me off.

7 comments:

Race said...

I read the old blog entry, and that attitude expressed is crap! I buy a lot of books too, Many of the used, but used books arent automatically take money out of the authors pockets. Many used books are ones no longer in print. Or I'm trying a new author, I don't want to shell out $25 on an unknown, but $10 sure. If I like them then I will be buying their new books. Very short sighted outlook on their part.

Neth said...

Yes, very short-sighted.

I typically don't buy new hardbacks for a 'new to me' author. But, if I like that author, then I'm am much more likely to buy a new book by them.

The Wedge said...

Neth, I agree with you. If I like an author, I have no problem shelling out the cash.

Sanderson's blog was interesting knowing that if I buy at a discount that he and the publisher still get their full cut. His post will encourage me to seek out hardbacks, but not feel too bad if I buy the mmpb or read from a library. The attitude of just getting the material out there, whether HB, mmpb, library, or on the web, makes me like an author's work more, even if only subconciously.

Carl V. said...

Hey, thanks for posting the link to this one. Very interesting post. I agree with you that he walked that line very well. I was fascinated to learn about the money everyone makes, about the Amazon info, etc. These are often the questions one wants to ask authors yet feels embarrassed to. I actually have 2 Sanderson hardbacks but have yet to read them (the pile is too big). One I got from sci fi book club and the other I bought new simply because I love the Jon Foster cover art. I am curious as to what kind of money is made by the author and publisher on SFBC editions. Anyway, good stuff!

Neth said...

Well, it seems as with most things, this isn't the first time it's been done. Several people have mentioned a very similar essay by Gene Wolfe from about 20 years ago. In a short search, I couldn't find it on-line.

For those that are curious, there is this blog post by Tobias Buckell about author advances.

Carl V. said...

Would really enjoy reading the Gene Wolfe version. I'll check out the other one though.

Neth said...

I'm noticing a trend - whenever something interesting in the blogosphere like this pops up, it is often followed by a new comic from Greenhorn. This is the comic about this issue.

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