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.