Authors want people to buy their books. Even better is if people read those books and then write five-star reviews so more people will be inclined to buy a copy.
But what happens when the reader doesn’t want to keep that book? Many end up at used bookstores, thrift shops, or sold at garage sales for pennies on the dollar. I even thought it a good thing environmentally.
However, no money from that reselling of the book goes into the author’s wallet. It goes into the cash register of the seller.
Before becoming an author I never gave used bookstores much thought. I suppose I was looking for a deal, or something older. Long ago I stopped “needing” to buy new.
I also didn’t think much about borrowing or lending a book. When it came to sharing books I thought it was merely a nice thing to do. Same theory goes for using little free libraries in neighborhoods. I didn’t consider it taking money from the author.
I’m rethinking that philosophy now that I am an author. It’s a lot of work to write a book. I think that person should be paid for their efforts whether I like the book or not.
Authors only make money from that first sale.
They can be paid a few ways. When working with a publisher an advance is often paid. Royalties from actual books sold don’t come in until that advance is paid off, so to speak. It’s also possible to get a flat fee. Self-published authors get money each time a book is sold—this could be online or at a brick and mortar outlet. It all depends how the distribution has been set up.
But that $20 book isn’t $20 in the author’s pocket. It is much, much, much less. Publishers and retailers (including Amazon) take a big chunk. After all, they are in the business of making money, too.
For those who self-published, they also can (and should if it’s going to look professional) have the expense of the book being edited, covers designed, the book being formatted, and it being put on various platforms. So, it takes a lot of book sales to break even, let alone make a profit.
But it’s not so simple for me to say I will never read a used book or to tell someone not to. I’m too much of an advocate of reading to say that. Plus, I know plenty of people cannot afford new books, especially printed ones.
It just seems like the author ought to be able get a percentage of used book being sold. But then again, it’s not like Chrysler would benefit if/when I sell my Jeep to a private owner or trade it in to another dealer. Furniture manufacturers and the like haven’t gotten another dime when I’ve sold something on Craigslist or through Facebook Marketplace. I could sell artwork in my house that the creator would never benefit from. That list of items that can be resold without compensation to the originator is seemingly endless.
I don’t know the answer to the question of how to get the original creator of something compensation from the reselling of their product. That’s probably because there isn’t one. One and done. That’s how it is.
I suppose in the end I’m just happy people are reading, whether it’s a new or used book. It’s a heck of a lot better than burning or banning them.
This is also true of the music industry- only worse there. Those artists have been slammed by the big music giants who run streaming apps. The original artist gets pennies for their work now. It is truly sad. For this reason I will not subscribe to Spotify or one of the many others. I buy my music via iTunes song by song.
That said, books, artwork, furniture, all as you say. Resale never helps the artist.
What to do? (Still, please enjoy my art, however you bought it!)