The rhetorical question was posed by a woman who attended my recent author talk at a council library. I was there spruiking about ‘the story behind the story’ of my latest release, The Scarlet Key, a crime mystery about death and tattoos.
A self-confessed reading addict, she congratulated me on a fascinating presentation and then apologised for not buying a copy of my book.
‘I’ve got that many books: entire series collected over a lifetime. And then I inherited hundreds more when my mother died. What do you do with all those books? Honestly, I can’t fit another one in the house.’
As an indie author trying to sell books, her question got me thinking.
The only time you actually notch up a payment for your writing effort is on the initial purchase. From there your book might be read once and then left to gather dust on a shelf, or it might be passed around between family and friends, or it might find its way into a second-hand bookstore or a charity sale, or it might simply end up as recycled paper or in landfill. While council libraries may purchase copies – and, if you’re lucky, you might get some royalties as compensation – they are but a small market for most writers.
So I started to examine my own book-buying behaviour.
Like many Baby Boomer women, I love reading and I also hate waste. There is nothing so lovely as the look and feel and smell of ink on paper. For the supreme reading experience, ebooks simply don’t cut it. However, for me it is a luxury to buy a brand new book from a bookstore. Instead, my books are swapped between friends, or borrowed from a library, or ‘rescued’ from cluttered tables at a Lifeline Bookfest.
As a result of what I do, the authors of most books I’ve read have earned exactly zilch.
Now, if you are like me, you write because you love writing. But, as an indie author, you expect to not only recover costs but to also get a few dollars for your hard work.
So, how do you overcome reader reluctance to buy new? I don’t have the answer.
What are your thoughts?