29 April 2013

Book Blogger Confessions: What Do We Owe Authors?

Hosted by For What It's Worth and Midnyte Reader, Book Blogger Confessions is a bi-weekly feature where bloggers confess all about blogging or bookish topics.

What do we owe authors? I read this interesting post the other day. An author had tweeted that if you get all your books from the library it deprives an author of income, another suggested using this fun little graphic to help readers spread the word about a book they love.

What are your thoughts on this? Do they have a point? Do they go too far in expecting readers to only buy their books at indie bookstores, avoid Amazon or expecting readers to go forth and publicize their book after a purchase?

If this wasn't a discussion post, I'd answer with one word - nothing. Expecting readers to only buy books through independent outlets is completely unrealistic, and some of us actually don't have any choice at all.

Where I live, there are very few booksellers who actually sell English language books, and the ones that do either don't sell the books I'm interested in (Karin Slaughter has made a mint selling books in train stations in this country, Sophie Kinsella gives her a run for her money though) or charge the same price for one book that I could use to get three from Amazon.

Yes, Amazon is the devil, tax cheats and bullies and all that shit, but if it wasn't for Amazon, I wouldn't be reading your books. And without Amazon, I wouldn't read a lot of independent authors, because I can't justify spending 18 Euros on a paperback that I may end up hating more than prawns (which I hate a lot, btw).

I did read all the articles, and what really annoyed me was that some authors seem to think libraries are doing them out of a living. Yeah, right. If someone is interested enough to take your book out from the library and read it, they're already doing something to promote that book - someone is carrying it around, talking about with their friends and perhaps even blogging about it. I've bought plenty of books based on reviews where the blogger/reviewer took the book out from the library. And if they hadn't, I probably wouldn't have either.

We're readers, we're not publicity machines.  Yes, some of us blog about books, but not everyone is going to run around Tweeting links, liking posts and telling everyone at the bus stop about that fabulous book they just read.  The book buyers are doing their bit, whether it's a brand new shiny hardcover at that posh bookshop (which scares me a little) or a paperback from discount website, and the readers are showing their love by buying books in second hand bookstores and taking them out from the library.

Yes, book sales are what keeps authors being able to write full-time, but we can't all buy brand new books all the time.  What's better, someone reading your book and loving it even though it's borrowed from the library, or no one reading it?


  1. I honestly don't mind how my readers come across my works. I'm just glad they're reading it! I do appreciate it when they purchase books WHEN THEY ARE ABLE. I've gone through very lean times where I couldn't afford to buy books at all. The library was definitely my favorite place to go back then. Later, when I had funds I bought books.

    That being said, a purchased book is a powerful way for readers to keep the careers of their favorite writers afloat. But I don't think a writer should strong arm readers into purchasing from a particular place, etc...etc...

    BTW, I love the new blog look.

    1. That's a very important point - sometimes people are just not in a situation to be able to buy every book they want to read, so they show their support in other ways. I'd buy every single book in the world if I could, but it's just not possible - nor practical!

  2. Agree that it's unrealistic to expect people to only buy books and in a certain way. libraries are awesome because they allow us to read and explore when we may not be able or may not want to buy a book. and I have definitely been turned on to an author after reading one of their books from the library. I've then gone on to buy their books.

    I think it's also important to remember that libraries are also a way for those who really cannot afford books to be able to read. without libraries, a lot of impoverished people might not have access to any books.

    I try to support authors when I can but I don't believe that I owe anyone anything. as long as I get the book by legal means, whether it be the library, purchasing, or borrowing from a friend, it is my choice on how of if I want to promote it.

    1. I don't use libraries any more, but when I was a teenager I practically lived in the local library, and when I loved a book I'd go and buy it, or something else by the same author.

      The only books I don't purchase are ARCs and review copies, but when I do purchase a book, I have to use the cheapest option - otherwise I wouldn't be able to buy as many as I do.

      As you say, as long as we are obtaining books by legal means, then we can promote (or not) however we see fit.

  3. Yes! I love your post on this. I think that the tweet was ridiculous and I love how you said "we're readers not publicity machines." Libraries are my thing. Being a broke student with limited space, I love to go to a library and pick books. Otherwise, I would never read them. Also, authors let me down sometimes and I'm not about to buy a book that I hated. Great points!

    My Book Blogger Confessions

  4. Preach it, girl. You are a hundred percent right. I may not live in America and have more access to independent book stores, but I can't afford to buy all of my books there. I do pick up paperbacks from my local indie when I can, but hardbacks are too expensive to purchase from a physical book store. Amazon sells them at about half the cost, and either I'm buying there or I'll be waiting until it shows up at a used book store. So if an author really doesn't want me buying their book at amazon, I'll just not buy it at all or wait for the paperback. Is that better?

    Also, hating on a libraries is a sure way to get me to not want to read an author's books. I know I don't like to pay full price for any book by an unfamiliar author, because I might hate it more than mushrooms (which I hate a lot by the way). However, if I take a book out of the library and completely love it, I'll buy it later on. Just because someone got your book from the library doesn't mean they'll never buy it. I got Graceling and Fire from the library, and they're not in my personal collection.

  5. Agreed! I mean, I can understand authors wanting to be able to afford to keep writing, which means people need to buy their books. But they shouldn't push their books on people, or make others feel bad for obtaining that book in some other way.

    The library is my best friend! If it wasn't for the library I wouldn't have read lots of the books that I have. I'm an unemployed recent graduate with thousands in student loans! I'm not going to travel an hour to the closest indie bookstore and spends loads of money on every book I want to read. It's not going to happen.

    I go to the library and keep an eye out for Amazon deals. Sure some authors have issues with Amazon, but I honestly don't care. Amazon is affordable and I prefer reading on my Kindle, so it's not like I was going to order their shiny new hardcover anyway. At least I'm reading and blogging about the books, even if I'm not handing over much money.

  6. I love your short answer: Nothing. Spot on! Writer's became writers because they wanted to write. They wrote, they got published, we read. We'll promote your book sure, but let's not get crazy about it.

  7. Preach it and yes agree with you about not being a publicity machine..but a reader. I will let my friends know about the book , but don't go all crazy over promotional over it...that will lose readers too. cough cough marcus finch insurgent cough.

  8. Look, I know there are some (er, prob many) authors who write to make a living but isn't the REAL point of writing for people to actually READ, regardless of how they choose to read? So why would you complain about the methods in which they acquire those books? You're absolutely right, Kat. There is no way for them to know whether or not or how you're choosing to promote that book (short of you directly telling them so). Besides, part of being an author (for many) nowadays is being your own publicist. It's not our job as readers to do that for you. If we like your book then we'll recommend it and it'll snowball, giving you more readers/fans. I feel like this is one of those cases of authors behaving badly.

    This economy isn't exactly the best one for puchasing ALL THE BOOKS so at least a library is a good way to keep people reading. It's all about the bigger picture.

  9. I buy 100's of books per year but yes, I borrow some or trade with friends because I can't buy ALL the books! lol

    I know I've borrowed several and thought OMG and went out and bought whole series by that author. It made me a fan for life. They didn't lose anything.

    The fact is that I only have so much money so I need to choose what books and where I purchase them wisely. I order my favorite authors books from their local indie seller when I can but if I bought every book that way I just couldn't own as many books.

    Nothing is a spot on answer but I'm glad you discussed :-)

  10. Great post! I agree that as readers, we don't really owe authors. We either love their book or we don't, but we're not obligated to do any promotion or buy their books from a certain dealer. If it wasn't for libraries, I wouldn't have read half the books on my Read List! And the ones I really loved, I wound up buying, so no hating on libraries! *L*

    Terri @ Alexia's Books and Such...

  11. I don't know where I've been in the bookish internet news world lately because I've totally missed this whole sweep of articles and tweets about what readers owe authors. Having read the articles linked as well as your blog post, I completely agree. I don't owe any author any thing. I do read, review, post to Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Pinterest, Google+, and obviously my blog. But that's what I choose to do and not because I owe the author anything. Authors have always been around and always will be around.

    I imagine that authors such as Jane Austen and the other "classic" authors would be appalled at this idea because they wrote simply from a place of desiring to write and to tell their stories, not from a place of wanting to make tons of money. They couldn't have. And they didn't have the means for spreading the word that we do today.

    Really great post. Somewhere Only We Know

  12. Even though I buy a lot of books they're almost always from second hand shops because I hate spending so much on one book where I could buy as many as 5 used ones for the same price so I go to the library. I've had a library card since I was 3 and I always thought that authors loved libraries. Like you said we're walking advertisements when we carry the books around no matter where we get them we're still out their with YOUR books so no I don't think we owe authors anything other than a thank you for a job well done when we finish a book and like it.



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