Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Supporting Our Craft

Do you support the craft of writing? 

Recently I attended a writer’s conference where an agent suggested a writer should buy books. Buy books for birthdays and anniversaries, for special occasions and for pleasure or research. Buy books for the fun of it or to read to your children. She said we should walk into a bookstore and purchase the several-hundred-page vestiges…ones you can hold in your hand…that have pages you can actually turn. She and the other agents and authors on the panel hinted that we should avoid the new Kindles and ban the ease and cost-saving effectiveness of Amazon and other online bookstores. “Bookstores are closing all over the country and that should strike fear in all writers’ hearts,” they said. I left the conference concerned for the future of our industry and feeling a little guilty for patronizing such establishments. 

Should writers fret over the redirection of buying entertainment? Should we run out and purchase half the bookstore and frown at our children for investing in the newest technology? Could the wave of automated purchasing in our bathrobe and slippers be just as lucrative for a writer as buying books in a bookstore? People still have to buy the downloads they read on their Kindles, right? They still have to purchase the online copies they have sent to their homes. Unfortunately, there are more disadvantages to a writer in the impending wave of book buying than one would expect.

E-Book Publishing:
Sell self-published books. More and more authors these days are gravitating to the self publishing market. All a writer needs to do is create a website, format and pre-publish the book, and then put it up on his website, right? Well, that’s not all this form of publishing requires. If a writer desires to present a quality product, he’d have to hire an editor, a cover designer, and then spend a certain amount to market his book. Do you know how to format a website? If not, add the cost of a website designer and a person to maintain the site. Pay Pal also requires a fee to collect the money. 

Sell through one of the booksellers such as Amazon: In this method you would have to pay the costs of producing the digital book as well as pay the bookseller for storing and selling your book. The bookseller will then pay only once per month whatever is left over…that is, only if you've sold enough.

Sell through a traditional publisher: the third method of publishing a digital book is through a traditional publisher. A publisher assumes most of the risks and the costs of publication therefore rewards its efforts with a greater percentage of the proceeds. A writer would receive an advance on his royalties and then a small amount for each book the publisher sold. 

Online Dangers:
What about the Library e-book checkout programs? This is an online check-out program similar to purchasing a book from Amazon.com. However, the reader can check out the book they want to read, minus the charge. What does the author get from that? Zilch, Zero. Nada.  The UK has it right. They passed the Public Lending Rights Act  mandating that authors receive a royalty every time someone checks their book out of a public library. 

Then there’s piracy and the numerous ways the public can read an author’s work online without paying for the privilege. Considering the hours and blood it takes to right a book, I have to ask, does this seem fair to you?  Maybe instead of fighting the inevitable, authors should spend their energy finding ways to make online purchasing more advantageous or invoke online protection and penalties for unlawful access. Weaknesses in any system can be turned around for the benefit of all. At least I like to think so. 

The payment process is far more complicated than I have explained here, but you get the gist of what I’m trying to say. Buying books at a bookstore far exceeds the benefits of buying them online. And either we accept the way the trend is headed or we can change that process and find a way to make it work for us.  

Call me a dinosaur; I’ll still buy books from the bookstore. A Kindle isn’t research-friendly, and I like the feel of turning pages, the smoothness of a paperback, not hard plastic, nudging the side of my nose when I wake up in the morning and discover I lost consciousness sometime during the night. And I don’t like the inconvenience of having to recharge devices. A book is self-contained, easy to store. Besides, purchasing books supports my craft and that has to be a good thing.

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