A new book-of-the-month plan?

19 Aug


I nearly fell out of my chair earlier this month when I saw this cartoon (FREE RANGE by Bill Whitehead ©2015, distributed by Creators.com) in our local paper. Why? It brought back the memory of a letter I wrote in June, 2001. (Yes, 2001.) Before the ubiquitous cell phone and/or e-book/reader, etc., proliferated to the point that many people have multiple devices at hand on which they can read a book, listen to music or watch TV or even a movie! Obviously some things have changed: some have not. My sentiments have not changed in any way. I meant it then and I still mean it today.

This particular letter came about because of a dispute between The Association of American Publishers (to which it was sent) and public libraries regarding the copying of copyrighted materials.  But at least libraries pay for the material they acquire. If anyone is concerned about copying material, then all copying devices of whatever variety—book, audio/video cassettes or any other facsimile—should immediately be outlawed.

Back then, I was on my high horse about the abundance of Used Book Stores – the kind that advertised a book for sale as used, the very day it was released by the publisher. Or maybe even the day before! My campaign at that time (which I still propose, by the way) is that no book should be sold as ‘used’ before it’s at least a year old. Why?

Simple. People seem to lose sight of the fact that the author/writer(s) of the book, who have literally exuded blood, sweat and tears plus sleepless nights over the production of their progeny make not one penny on the sale of a used book, in the United States. Other countries are more protective of their creative artists, and ensure that at least a token payment is granted to the creator of the sold item.  In addition, in the UK, for instance, authors earn a royalty from every book borrowed from a library.  Imagine that! Why can’t we do something like that in this country? Don’t tell me that it’s too hard to keep track of things. Believe me, there’s a computer program for EVERYTHING imaginable. Or maybe it’s an App. Who knows?  I refuse to believe that one or other of these so-called Smart Phones couldn’t do this, with one hand tied behind it’s back!

I just really think the author should be entitled to his/her share of the book sales at least until the book has its first birthday. After that it will probably not sell enough copies to be harmful.  After all,  just consider please – without authors, there would be NO NEED for publishers, editors, cover artists,  publicists and the myriad other employee categories created to share the author’s work with the rest of the world.

Well, that was then. This is now, and not everything has changed.

Of course, publishers also suffered through that ‘used book’ craze. And the publishers would have been right to protest. But they didn’t. They went in another direction. In order to jack up the sales, they started paying mega-bucks as an advance, and higher royalties, thus making it even more difficult for the author to earn out.

If this practice is allowed to continue, here is a little peek into the future. Let’s say it’s now June, 2010.  (Sorry, I was a bit ahead of myself with that date!) The new load of book is now available at the bookstore. Yes, that is book. Singular. So which author is the author for this month? It is certain to be one of these or the newer version thereof; Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, Sue Grafton, Danielle Steele, John Gresham, and others of that ilk. There will, of course, will be only one publisher, publishing one (paper, not e-type) book per month. Genres will take turns: one month, mystery; the next suspense, etc. One month of the year might be devoted to non-fiction, such as biography. All of these will naturally be in hardcover.

The price for this book will be a minimum of $100. (US) of which the author may get a whopping $2.50, because, of course, the distributor for these books will demand a discount of 75% off the cover price, leaving the publisher the pitiful balance, out of which must be paid the acquiring editor, who will probably be the publisher, himself. There will, of necessity, be no editing or proofing done, as it isn’t cost-effective to do so. Disgusting, to put it mildly. Since there will be only one book per month, there is no need for cover artists or promotional staff. The text will go straight from the author’s computer to the type-setting computer, thus eliminating several more persons from the chain. There is probably no need for bookstores either. Libraries will, however, still function, and still be buying books, probably hundreds or more copies of each title, to satisfy those readers that are still left out there, but who can’t afford to actually buy a book. Imagine the waiting lists!  Eegads.

But. Out of the ashes of this fiasco, there are sure to be rebels who will fight and resist and go back to doing things the old way. The old way, in which the reader was the most important element in the process. Books are published for readers, after all. Aren’t they? Wouldn’t it be great if all these organizations found their way back to reality? And treated authors with the respect they deserve? After all—no authors equals no new books. What an awful world that would be!

And finally, I would be very wrong to not mention the Kindle Library that is available through Amazon.com.  When you publish your book as an exclusive Kindle e-book, and allow them to put it in their library system, you will earn royalties as people borrow your book to read. This is as close to the UK library system as anything I’ve seen in the last few years, and I freely admit, I’m all in favor of it.  Now, if only Amazon would stop with the used print books before their time, I’d be almost entirely happy with the behemoth.

Comments, quibbles or questions?  Please write to me at  bookmechanic AT gmail.com


2 Responses to “A new book-of-the-month plan?”

  1. Betty Kaiser August 19, 2015 at 12:32 am #

    I totally agree with your ideas about royalties. Writers should be able to earn from their writings at least, in some measure, what efforts they put into work. Except for the writers of blockbusters, most writers like teachers don’t get their “propers”

    • Site Admin August 19, 2015 at 12:34 am #

      Thank you! I’m so glad you agree! We’ll keep fighting! Kelly

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