Love and a $10 Hooker

Did you know there are still plenty of places in this country where you can pick up a hooker for ten bucks? Only $2 more than a cheap paperback???

I love books. Love to read. Love to look at the shelves overflowing with titles. But the prices are just ridiculous. Today I was scanning reviews and came across a book that sounded pretty good – great characters, exciting plot, smokin’ hot sex. Thought I’d look for it next time I was out, then noticed the price. $15. For paper. Holy papyrus!

When I sold my first book to Silhouette, oh, so many years ago, the full retail price was $2.25. Today my Silhouettes sell for a cool five bucks. And the books are one-fourth shorter! And publishers wonder where our market has gone??

Sure, the Internet has cut into a lot of our reading time. Computer games, too – my kiddo used to be a big reader, but now he’s role-playing games with his buddies. Hobbies – in summer I spend way more time in the yard than I do reading. Playing with grandbabies. The list of alternate activities goes on.

When I do read, I hate getting books from the used bookstore. It’s the author in me that objects strenuously to store owners making money from selling my work without me getting a cut of it. It’s tough enough for most authors to make a living wage – last figures I saw put it at something like 2%. It’s frustrating as hell to watch my paychecks dwindle while used bookstore owners profit.

I also don’t like getting books from the library. I don’t like libraries, though, hey, that’s just me. Our library doesn’t have much of a selection of mass-market fiction, which is mostly what I read. I want to be able to read on my schedule, not someone else’s.

So I buy new. But for a few years now, price has been a major factor in the books I buy. I remember when single-titles went to $6. Pricey, I thought. Then they went to seven. Eight. Some of those funky size paper backs – bigger than mass market but smaller than trade paper – sell for ten. Trade paper runs anywhere from $12-18.

For a book. Something that I read within a few hours and, more often than not, never pick up again. I have my keepers, and I have my re-reading pile (funny how many keepers aren’t re-reading material for me), but the sad fact is, the majority of books I read aren’t either. I read them, then I give them to someone else.

At $8-12 a pop, it can be an expensive pastime. And at that price, I can’t check out new authors as much as I used to. For five bucks, I’d give someone I’d never read before a shot. At eight, it’s iffy. At twelve, it ain’t happenin’. If I’m spending that kind of money, I want to be pretty freaking sure I’m going to like the book.

The publishing industry is in a bigger mess than the economy (and longer-lasting, too). They’ve just about priced me out of the market. What’s a used-bookstore-resistant, library-hostile girl to do?

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4 thoughts on “Love and a $10 Hooker

  1. I try not to buy used. But occasionally, I do. And I have to agree with you guys, $15 is a lot to spend on a book. Especially as fast as I read. At that price it’s cheaper for me to see a movie, but I’d much rather read a book. I like the whole thing of curling up with a good book and a blanket and getting lost in another world.
    It helps me deal with my world, which sometimes I don’t like to think about. So as long as there is reality, I need a good book. 🙂
    Ashlynn

  2. It amazes me how much the price of books has risen. Just this morning on the Today show, a Sony E-reader was a featured techie toy. For those of us who’re published both in e-format as well as print, the national exposure is helpful. But, there’s nothing like the feel of a book in my hand, the portability–I took Marilyn’s book out today, sat behind the shop in the glorious sunshine & read. Hopefully, I ‘ll get to escape for another hour tomorrow afternoon.

    fSo, what can we do–as authors & as readers?

  3. Sister Suz, I think you read more than anyone else I know. Take some time off and write!! Tell your own stories first, then immerse yourself in somene else’s. (But thanks for all the books you’ve loaned me.)

    I’m not much of a moviegoer, Ash, so I’m definitely with you. Curling up with a book, a drink and a bit of chocolate is my definition of perfect. (If that curling-up were done on the beach in the shade of a palm — can’t get too much sun on my peaches and cream skin {snort} — so much the better.)

    I buy used books, too, on occasion. With the small print-runs publishers are doing, if a book even shows up in the stores here in town, if you don’t grab it then, you either have to order it online or get it used. I think used bookstores have their purpose — I just also think they should have pay royalties on the books they sell. And I much, much, much prefer new.

    Meg, is it a sign of our age that we prefer the actual bound-paper book? I love the feel of the covers and the paper and bending a corner down to mark my place. I love seeing shelves filled with books in my office and in the house. I like sticking one in my purse (which I do believe has exceeded twenty pounds at last!) and whipping it out whenever I have a few minutes.

    However, if it’s a choice between reading electronically or not reading, you know my choice. I may be stomping my stilettos and shrieking when I make the actual purchase, but I’m thinking a Kindle might be in my near future.

    What can we do? Your guess is as good as mine. The entire publishing industry needs to be revamped. They’ve got to stop the overprinting and the return process and the discounting process. Stores have got to stop letting customers return books they’ve obviously read for full refund. (Can you believe that??? Can you imagine taking an empty shampoo bottle back to the store and saying, “I used this and didn’t like it, so I want my money back”? And getting it??)

    Maybe the whole publishing industry as we know it needs to go into the crapper — no government bailout, please! — and then a new industry with new, logical, profitable practices can rise up in its place. One that recognizes it can’t exist without authors and treats/pays them accordingly.

    (You betcha I’m a dreamer.)

  4. Grody — exactly! And I don’t like the smell of book paper as it agesl It gets kinda musty.

    I’ve never returned a book, even if I get home and find it’s a reissue and I have the original, but I’ve known people who do and seen it happen a couple of times at chains. Some stores require that there be no creases on the spine, but some don’t. The first time I was in line behind a woman who said, “I bought this last week and read it and didn’t like it, so I want my money back,” my eyes about popped out. I waited for the clerk to say, “You idiot, we don’t give money back for that,” but instead he rang it up and gave her the refund.

    Rach rarely finds herself speechless, but she was that day. I did finally manage to unclench my jaws long enough to ask him what the hell kind of policy was that for a book store whose purpose is to SELL books, not loan them out like a library, and he shrugged and mumbled, “That’s our policy.”

    Grrr.

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