Cheap, but not always cheerful

The books are cheap, but the authors are not necessarily always cheerful. And I’m your number one hypocrite.

Pure Dead covers and Tock's behind

When I noticed all six of Debi Gliori’s Pure Dead books in The Book People catalogue a few weeks ago, I saw red. But not as red as Debi herself did. Now, in one way it is very nice that readers can buy these lovely, wonderful books for a mere £7. But it’d be so nice too, particularly for Debi, if she was paid for her hard work. I don’t believe writing those books, complete with illustrations for each chapter, was done in one lunch break. Or even two.

Keeping warm

I have no idea how much money she has made from the six novels. (I trust I mentioned that they are really good?) It’s not considered polite to discuss income in Britain. (Funny. In Sweden you can look up how much income people declare. Which, of course, could be different from the truth. But let’s not go there.) Having inspected the Gliori abode reasonably thoroughly myself, it doesn’t look like Debi’s incredibly wealthy. She only has a plastic inflatable Tock, for goodness’ sake! And it has to live on a shelf above the door. Not a single moat in sight.

Homemade Waywoof car sticker

Checked to see if the big online bookshop still sells the PD series. It does. So do a number of private sellers, undercutting the big online company, presumably because they bought theirs from TBP.

This business of letting TBP print their own books, with no payment to the authors, reminds me of the annual Book Sale in Sweden where they regularly print special editions for The Sale. It will soon be upon us again, and I suppose that Swedes will yet again peruse catalogues and tick their choices and then get out of bed early in order not to miss a bargain.

The Book Sale starts on the 23rd of February this year, and luckily I will be there. I hope. Not at the sale as such, but close enough to witness the mayhem. (Almost called it the Mayhew, but that’s somebody else altogether.) It’ll be interesting to see what they are offering up as treasure this time.

Back to TBP. I can’t find it, but I know I had a blog post about them before and authors didn’t all agree. It is true that being able to buy cheap books means that an author gets read and might gain a new fan base. But then there’s the lack of payment, although  I feel no guilt about my Harry Potters from TBP. Nor my complete Famous Fives. And was total ignorance an excuse? Before, I mean.

Have to admit that I did provide Daughter with a short wish list for Christmas. One of the two items on it was Hilary McKay’s books about the Casson family. They were sold out, so no luck. I had compromised my high horses all for nothing.

10 responses to “Cheap, but not always cheerful

  1. Don’t know anything about The Book People, but I’ve just spent all week glued to the Casson family series…which are now some of my favourite books ever. Truly wonderful and I’m suffering a severe case of Author Envy. Just one more left to read!

  2. The problem with a free market is that after a while you start to feel foolish making a principle out of paying twice as much for a book you can get on Book People or Amazon for less. Especially if you buy a lot of books and aren’t rich. I noticed recently that Amazon is considerably cheaper than Book People on a good number of books. And the news today tells us Kindle books are selling 115:100 books in the US. Supposedly, every book that’s read (and liked) leads to seven more sales. It’s not simple. I buy the books I wouldn’t find at Book People at indies and Amazon. Mix it up?

  3. I spent a fortune on books at the local bookshop some years ago, just to show my support for a local and new indie. Felt a bit of an idiot, knowing amazon would have been so much cheaper, but wanted to show that ‘I could do it’. Now that they’ve suggested I don’t come into the shop anymore, it’s even a little hard for Daughter to spend her Christmas book token (specific to this shop).
    That’s life.

    And Keren, weren’t Hilary’s books a marvellous surprise? They were filed in my mind as pink and for (younger) girls. So glad I’m ‘younger’ now.

  4. To be honest, my daughter read them years ago and I avoided them because I hated the covers and thought they were for younger readers. Then the girl I help with reading turned up on Monday with Saffy’s Angel and I was completely hooked…have been reading them ever since. I almost don’t want to read the last one because I don’t want to finish them. Shame about the covers – I think they must put off a lot of potential readers.

  5. See that woodpile in the photo accompanying this post? Shrink it down to a mere waist-high stack of logs, position me in front of it with fiddle under my chin and hat on ground ( this writer will play for food ) and the tune for today is by the exceedingly great Ry Cooder , and it’s called
    ‘How can a poor man stand such times and live?’

    Enough said.

  6. Bookwitch, why on earth did your local indie shop ask you not to come back or can you not say? But back to the main point, are companies like Book People any good in terms of marketing and getting books out there? Is there any way authors could piggy back on companies like this for viral marketing?

  7. Which one was it you wanted, Bookwitch? I have a few left.
    You are so right about those covers- I wish my publishers could read your comments. I had TANTRUMS about those covers, for years and years and years. I am thankful to say that at last they have been rejacked in a more respectable form.

    I myself direct readers to the libraries rather than TBP carnivores. It has the double advantage of 1. Promoting libraries (without which I would not have survived childhood) and ensuring I get my 6p a loan. (Or 3p if illustrated). A payment comparable with a book club royalties, which in my last statement was 3.5% of publisher receipt per copy.

    It would be a good thing if people talked more about money. I don’t know why it is rude. I think it is interesting for people to know that in some situations an author for all their hard work gets 19 pence per copy sold (or three library loans). I am not grumbling about this, writing is (on the whole) a pleasant job, I chose it for myself, nobody made me, I think I get fairly paid (except for bookclubs) but it is no way to get rich. Children always ask ‘What do you earn?’ and get shushed by their teachers, but I am always very happy to say.

    So avert your eyes now if you are squeamish, because here is a summary of my last year’s accounts:

    £15,000 for the last Casson book (took me more than a year to write- I am very slow). £1,500 for the most recent school reader. £3,213 last half yearly royalites for entire list. PLR £6,600 .
    Looks like I still wouldn’t survive long without libraries.

    Do delete this if you feel you should, BW. I just think it is interesting, and useful, if somebody says.

  8. I only have the first one, which is why I felt that the full set from ‘those people’ was the sensible way to acquire the rest.
    Having just had an email from someone else on the hush-hush-ness of money (in a totally different way), I am pleased beyond belief that you have been open. The most I’ve ever heard from an author is how many copies sold, from which I’ve done my own mad arithmetic.
    And for author visits in schools many children have settled on the ‘what car do you drive’ way of seeing if someone is rich. (Chris Ryan has a nice car. I’ve ridden in it.)

  9. Am I allowed to repeat that it’s not simple? Here’s an example. I bought my first copy of The Hare With Amber Eyes at my local indie. I loved it to pieces and wanted to buy it for lots more people. So I checked it on Book People and Amazon, and Amazon was cheaper. I’ve now bought five copies of the book and recommended it to many many others. Some will take it out of the library. 6p. Some will buy it heavily discounted. 10p? Someone’s already borrowed my copy and probably won’t return it (as these things go!). But all who like it will talk about it, leading to more sales. I make only a fraction of the amount Hilary does on PLR. But as long as sales stay strong (including places like Book People), I’ll continue to be published. Everyone would like to sell 100,000 full price hardbacks, but it’s not the discounters who are preventing that. I buy lots of books on Book People or Red House that I wouldn’t normally buy and definitely wouldn’t pay full price for. But if I read them and like them, then yay! I’ve discovered a new author, and will recommend it, and buy more copies for the people I think will like them.

  10. Nothing is ever simple. My solution is for the Government to pay authors who don’t reach a minimum wage.
    Maybe I should suggest it to them…

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