Friday, October 16, 2015

Why Book Lovers Need to be Book Buyers



Most authors, sometime after they get published, will write a post explaining how readers can support authors. Invariably the point comes up "to show the most love, you can buy our books." In my first years of blogging, being a broke 18-year-old, I never paid much attention. That may have been more of a detriment than I thought.

Part of it is the homeschool culture I'm in. If we can borrow or buy used, we aren't likely to buy new. Money saving is important, and to some extent, always has been for us. My brother and I like to joke that having Dutch and Scottish heritage, there's no hope for us. Where some people pinch a penny to make a deal, we'll pinch them twice. New in my mind, especially a new book, was simply not a viable or necessary option for a long time.

A Goodreads group hosted a survey a while back, asking what was the highest amount consumers would pay for an ebook they were interested in. Most wouldn't go higher than $3.99. That's certainly true for me. In the fluctuations of work, books are mainly luxuries, and I picked them up used or for $1-2 on Amazon. Just this month I bought a brand new print copy at full bookstore price for maybe the first or second time in my life.

For many years, it was because I honestly didn't have the money. After starting a house help job last winter, I started to pay a little more for random books and treats. But I still kept it on the low side; $5 or $10 was about my limit. $15--the price of many new paperbacks--was out of the question.

Then, gradually, a new, more dominion-minded reason for being a book buyer gradually took form in my mind.

Last month I attended the ACFW conference in Dallas, Texas, where fiction writers get together to pitch their books to agents, learn about the craft of writing, and talk about their beloved and crazy characters in the hallways. But this time, one of the key things I took away from the conference wasn't the teaching, or any light bulb moments in my book. It was about the publishing industry.

In some instances, I've always struggled with finding things to read in the modern market. I take responsibility for that, but sometimes it's simply a personality difference with what's being published. There are guidelines and certain types of stories that are preferred by publishers--you have a female lead, a dash of romance, a tight action sequence, a conversion or spiritual awakening (in Christian fiction) all in about 90,000 words. The publishers have this formula because the majority of book purchases are 20-60 year old Christian women, and those readers prefer that writing style. They're going to market to their biggest audience. Because each run of books is a significant risk of $25,000 give or take to print, publishers want a guaranteed sell.  That means originality within certain limits. Original details or personalities within a tried-and-true plot line.

So the question I and many friends have asked is, if we don't like that type of story, where does that leave us? Most of us fix it by retreating to the classics and burying ourselves in Buchan and Tolstoy, with a dash of Tolkien on the side. But I think there's a better way, if we're willing to loosen up just a touch.

Here's the crux of the matter. If we as readers want a certain type of literature to be published, we have to put our money where our mouth is. Many of you who read this blog are homeschoolers; lots of you are classic lovers. A lot of you have expressed your concerns with the quality of modern literature, in Christian and secular fields alike.

But talking about it doesn't change anything. We can lament until the day we die, but ultimately, the publishers will keep publishing and the readers will keep reading. The buying power has the voice.

If you want to open up spots for diverse literature, you have to be a buying power.

If we really want to change things, we have to become a force to be reckoned with. A buying force that can be marketed to and pleased. That means getting out of the mindset of buying something the cheapest we can find it. It means paying the extra on Amazon, other websites, and especially in physical bookstores. It means buying more than just at Christmas and our birthday. It means enrolling in programs like Kindle Unlimited, and putting our pages read toward the authors we most like, respect, and want to see more of. It means spreading the news on blogs and social media, and getting friends to buy books we like. The more people, the more effective your preferences and requests are.

And to be honest, it means buying modern published books. You don't have to just buy anything. You don't have to lower your personal preferences and standards. But publishers aren't going to be convinced by you reading lots of Dickens books on Kindle Unlimited. Dickens is here to stay. If you want to see new books published in the same vein as classics you enjoy, you simply have to buy new books. There are lots of them out there. I'm finding more and more authors I enjoy in the modern world. There's plenty of quality stuff being published in every genre for readers to enjoy, and publishers will be more willing to listen to you if you partner with them with your time, money, and reviews.

Why do book lovers need to be book buyers? Because book buying gives you a voice in the selections being offered to you, your children, and your friends. Buying new books. The cheapest option always has a hidden cost--losing the ability to influence. It's a cost I never considered and one I'm not willing to pay. Frugality is not the only virtue. Paying full price always has more benefits than you can see up front.

The influencers are those that are not only willing to talk the talk, but also buy the book. I want to be an influencer. That means I'm going to have to start paying for the privilege.

20 comments:

  1. Wow. I never really thought about it that way before. As one who often does buy new books, even, I hadn't really thought about the repercussions of my choice of how or where I buy a book actually having any sort of influence over what gets published or not. But you are very right.

    I love the way you think. I don't comment often, because of time constraints, but I really enjoy your blog.

    May I share this post?

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    1. I've been doing some deep thinking about the industry lately, and I'm glad you find it inspiring too! It's like, instead of giving up and then complaining, looking for action steps to help change things. Keeps us from becoming bitter, especially authors or author-wanna-bes.

      Aw, thanks for the encouragement! I totally understand time constraints, but I always love seeing your name when I check for comments!

      Of course--I'd be thrilled if you shared it! :)

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  2. Guilty as charged. I live a good bargain and rarely pay full price for a book, unless it's something I'm really in love with.
    But as an author, I need people to buy my books, but if I'm not willing to pay other authors for their books, how can I expect readers to buy mine?
    Great thoughts.

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    1. You and me both, Lauren. :) I'm trying to become more generous with purchasing and social media. It's a building process, but it sure is fun to buy new books, too!

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  3. I'm definitely more on the "I'll save money any way I can" side, but I had never thought about it this way before! This is definitely something to consider.

    You are such an inspiration to me! I love all of your posts and how everything you put on here is so high-quality and thought out so well.

    -Grace (trueandpure.wordpress.com)

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    1. Glad it gave you food for thought! Sometimes you have to tighten your belt due to expenses, but sometimes when the money is there, it's really nice to be generous with it!

      Aw, thanks for sharing those kind words. They encouraged me today! <3

      ~Schuyler

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  4. Great thoughts - your reasoning definitely rings true. I've been thinking about this recently too, and I'm planning to save up and buy new the books I really want to support the authors I appreciate. It's hard for me to part with a dollar, and my favourite place to buy books is op shops, but when I look at it in the light of helping authors, particularly young beginning authors, it makes spending a little more worth it.
    And your point that if we want quality modern literature we have to create demand for it, is a spot on too. I'd never thought of it that way before. So, thank-you!

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    1. Your country can be harder to get books in I've heard, due to shipping costs. Good for you for still wanting to support the industry! After all, you're creating a demand not only in the industry at large, but in your particular region for good books by buying and telling friends about them. :)

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  5. When I read this yesterday, the only think I could say was "wow". I've been mulling over this issue for a while--that is, how to change the mind of a publishing industry that thinks romance (or thriller/mystery mixed with romance) is the sole interest of the Christian fiction reading market. This makes so much sense.
    Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. You are most welcome. A thing niggles at me until I can put it into cohesive article form, and I was so happy with the way this one turned out. It addresses an issue while creating an action step. I'm glad you liked it!

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  6. Wow, I've never really thought about buying power being an influence on the market. Definitely thoughts to consider. Putting your "money where your mouth is" is so important in a lot of things, I think, but easy to forget about. Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. You bet! It's an intentional thing, for sure. Glad it gave you food for thought! :)

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  7. Good thoughts!
    Though, as a reader, it can be hard to tell if you're going to like a book, and buying a book that you end up NOT liking would be reversing the process, right? ;-) Just checking... :-)

    I'm glad you're looking at the big picture, it's something we all need to do and then consider on!

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    1. Yeah, definitely. I liked what Stephanie said--using libraries to check out new authors. Then after you get comfortable with an author you can buy them without reading them first. If you get a bad book, you're still supporting an author you like, so it's a win-win. :)

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  8. Wonderful post, Schuyler--this definitely makes a lot of sense. Sadly, my finances can't support good authors like this just at the moment--so I do my best to get review copies and spread the word.

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    1. Review copies are a great way to pay back, and using social media to help spread the word to others about them/their work. :)

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  9. PS. Another way you can support worthy books, even when you don't have the funds to buy them personally, would be to put in a request for them at your local library. Most libraries will be happy to purchase books requested by members - in Australia at any rate.

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    1. Good point! Something I used to do a lot and haven't done as much since my finances got better. I need to get back into that. ;)

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  10. This is a really neat perspective. I try to buy new books directly from the author or from Amazon to help support them but I hadn't thought of using it as a way to influence the market. Thanks for sharing. ^ ^

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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  11. Wow, this was really good. ^_^ I really liked your points on how we must be the buying power, which includes also buying the newly published. I'd be curious as to what this looks like practically--a lot of people would need to do this for it to make a difference in the industry. Thoughts? :)

    You have great posts. <3

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