Writer’s Retardidity (Used Books vs. Royalties)

16 01 2007

Every couple of weeks, this subject comes up on message boards I frequent and I spout the same rage that people can be so stupid.  I don’t know who keeps raising the arguments – if it’s just the uneducated, the spoil-sports, the narcs, or the authors themselves but this crap makes me so angry I could spit fire and save matches! (Yes, I am censoring myself which is very odd for me.)

You may be asking “what does this have to do with book liberation?”  Let me tell you – not everyone is philosophically similar to me.  I only save every book I’ve read because I am OCD and I have to keep every book in order to stay sane.  It’s not because I feel like I should worship the great authorship who wrote pretty prose that helped me escape for several hours of my existance.  It’s better than spending $40 a month on medication.  Seriously.  Books are cheaper, but not if I were to buy every book new.

Many people read a book and go “Hey, you should read this!  Have my copy!” When people hear CDs, they say “Hey, this is a great album! You should buy it! I listen to this one so much the laser on my CD player is going to go tits-up!” 

 Let’s examine the arguments that every post has in common:

1. Buying used books rob authors of royalties and trading books is the Napster of the book world

2. Giving away books violates copyrights

3. Writers will starve and lose their homes if you don’t buy their book brand new

4. If you keep trading books, publishers are going to stop putting books out, then we’re all screwed

 To these four points, I can only think “why open your mouth and prove you’re an idiot?”  Instead, I mention the following:

1.  Napster was illegal because people were downloading songs from their CDs and passing them to indiscriminate numbers of people without care.  If Napster made you delete the music from your life or buy another copy of the track for every time someone “mooched” it, it would be legal.  If book traders and used book buyers were scanning or photocopying every page of a book and then sending it out over the internet, that would be illegal too. 

But they aren’t!  You can give away any piece of property you want.  You can give it away any way you want.  If you want to leave your TV in a bathroom stall for someone to find, you can.  You can sell the box your XBox 360 came in on eBay.  If you own it, you can do anything you want with it other than sell an exact reproduction.  However, I think this is silliness because it doesn’t apply to car models, car kits, fashions that are similar, or other things that emulate the real thing closely.  Except for Porsche, no other car company “copyrights” their design and stock photos.  And have you seen a fashion company try to sue a knock-off?  It doesn’t work well. 

2.  Giving books away does not violate copyrights.  Copyrights apply to taking someone else’s work and passing it off as your own or reproducing media without the copyright holder’s permission.  It is not plaigarizing to sell a book in a yard sale!  Retard!

3.  Writers are most likely to starve and lose their homes if all they do is write and wait on royalty checks.  Ever hear of starving artists?  Starving authors is the same thing.  Most likely the average published author will never be a Dan Brown, Catherine Coulter, or John Grisham.   The chances go infinitely down if the author is self-published. 

Also, very few people in this wild world think they make enough money.  Hell, if my CEO were to walk up and say “Cyndi, do you get paid enough for the work you do?” what do you think I would say?  “Why yes sir, I think I make plenty enough to support my family on! In fact, I could take a 20% reduction and still be sitting pretty!”  Yeah right, folks.  Never gonna happen. 

I have a real corporate job AND I’m a published freelance author AND I do commission portraits AND I do freelance photography.  What pays me enough to eat on?  The corporate job.  Duh.  Get a job, starving authors.  Get off your ego.

4.  Authors ain’t gonna stop writing and Publishers ain’t gonna stop publishing.  The truth is that the largest new book stores in the United States (Borders and B&N) consistently show record profits and stock prices.  People <i>are</i> buying more and more new books every year.   Used book sales are up too.  So… what does this mean?  C’mon, you don’t have to have paid attention in high school economics to get this one.

Alright, I’ll clue in the denser of you.  People are buying new books at higher prices.  People are buying used books at lower prices.  People are trading used books for the cost of postage.  People are finding books for free. 

The only thing this has in common is: PEOPLE LIKE BOOKS! No matter the avenue, people are going to get their grubby hands on books and no one is suffering.  Book sales all over the globe are up.  More people are reading.  More people are buying books on books like 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die which generates – guess what – more book sales!

If authors aren’t making money, it’s because they signed shitty contracts.  It’s not because I spent $350 at the book exchange and only $200 at B&N in the last month.  I will not take the responsibility of taking food out of some poor author’s baby’s mouth.  It’s not my fault. 

If you signed a crappy contract – don’t bitch to me about your crappy royalties.  Either accept that only 200 people on the planet are going to buy your book and they’re all related to you, hire a press secretary and start making up fake names to give yourself glowing reviews on random blogs, or get a fricking lawyer to get you out of the contract. 

Coming soon… a bibliophile talks about the secret cults of book lovers (and how you’re part of it even if you don’t know it.)

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7 responses

16 01 2007
David Schleicher

Oh, Cyndi, you speak to my soul! As one of those novelists who also has a day-time (well, technically night-time, but you get the point) job in the corporate world, I couldn’t agree more with your many valid points. To me, as a writer, the point is getting people to read books. I don’t care how they get my book…buying it, stealing it, as a gift, a bribe, or begging me for a free copy…the point is my book is in someone elses hand and they are reading it. Though I think we all dream of being the next John Grisham or what have you, one has to remain practical and realistic (and pay the bills)…and take each small success with a grain of salt. I loved your rant and appreciated the sentiments!

16 01 2007
David Schleicher

Oh, and I also love your making up of a new word…retarditity! I LOVE IT!

30 07 2007
W C Greayer

When my book ‘The Tornado Struck at Midnight’ was published by Publish America, I soon discovered no bookstores would stock it because Publish America books were ‘non returnable’. As a local author, I was able to get my local “Border’s” to carry my book and the book vanished from the shelves almost overnight, but with only one store carrying my book it hardly made a dent in my royalty check and eventually it became too tedious to keep checking my local Borders to remind the manager it was time to re-stock my book. Recently I realized the book didn’t sell as rapidly on the various Internet outlets as it did on the Borders bookshelves and I was curious as to why this was so? I soon realized that my name is Greayer and my book is filed between Grafton and Grisham on the Borders bookshelves. A large number of browsers ‘happened upon’ my book, and the attractive cover caused them to browse the contents. Once they did, they were ‘hooked’ and they bought my book. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that my book would have been a ‘Bestseller’ had it been stocked on the shelves of more than one bookstore.
I also realize that Borders has no incentive to stock my book in many bookstores just to help me prove my point, but back in 2005 Publish America sent me an email with the enticing subject:
Sent: Wednesday, September 14, 2005 10:49 AM
Subject: PublishAmerica Makes All Books Returnable.
If that is so, apparently it wouldn’t cost you a dime to discover a NYTimes bestseller. The only reward I can offer is, ‘it’s a story you could tell your Grandchildren.’ What I’m wondering is: ‘Do books shelved near popular authors sell more books?’ Thanks for listening.

8 04 2009
ClarkKent

Extraordinarity: ,

4 11 2010
Headboard Light ·

there are many used books sale in our area and i frequently visit them to buy some _

9 02 2011
Used Books: The Royalty Controversy « Brew City Book Lovers

[…] However, many authors are unhappy with the fact that they earn no royalties from the re-sale of their books. To some, this is the Napster Limewire of the book world. […]

29 05 2013
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