Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Second-Hand Sales and Libraries

I know I've talked about these subjects before, but they bear repeating. Each time a new round of baby writers enters the market they freak at seeing their paperbacks for sale at other bookstores.

Hell, even DH freaked out when he was perusing the internet a couple of years ago and saw my books for sale at a London bookshop's website.

First of all, did you hit the extended distribution button when you set up your books on Createspace and/or KDP Print? That means other bookstores can order your books to sell at their store. And yes, the proprietor can price your book however they desire. You already were paid when she ordered your book through Amazon at wholesale.

Now, let's say I bought your book through Amazon and read it, but it wasn't something to go on my keeper shelf. I can take it to my local used bookstore (if I had one nearby) and trade it for credit on another book I'd like to read. There's a legal tenet called First Sale Doctrine. The seller only gets the money for the sale of a physical object he/she makes. (This does not apply to e-books. I'll talk about that on Friday.)

The owner of the book does not have rights to the contents, but they have certain rights to the physical object. That means I can take it and resell it at a used bookstore. Or at my garage sale. Or I can even donate it to Goodwill or my local library.

That means the used bookstore can sell the physical book. (Psst: The used bookstore can even sell the used copy on Amazon!) The neighbor who bought my copy can sell it at her garage sale. Goodwill can sell it. And the local library can sell it. And this goes on and on until the physical book finds a permanent home or ends up in a landfill.

You, the writer, were not cheated. You got your money with the first sale.

Now, if you have your book in extended distribution, guess what? Not just bookstores can order your books, so can libraries! And unless you donated copies, the library paid for that physical copy. You got your money.

Here's the thing most new writers don't get: their books are out in the world where someone may find it in their hotel room or looking for someone new to try when they're on a limited budget. There's a ton of books on my keeper shelves that I discover through the library when I was a kid. Books I loved so much I searched out and bought once I had a grown-up job.

Never underestimate alternative venues for readers to discover your work.


  1. This seems to come up every few years. I guess with each crop of newbie writers? :/ Dean blogged about it recently too.

    I'm not sure where all the outrage comes from. If they have a physical copy of your book, then that book was purchased from wherever you've chosen to distribute your physical books. There you go.

    The thought of a writer being upset that their book is for sale in a bookstore has always struck me as bogglingly dumb.

    Hopefully this current wave will pass quickly.


    1. LOL Yeah, I saw Dean had bitched about the same thing after I posted this.

      I really don't get people entering into an industry and not understanding how it works. When I was FINALLY issuing paperbacks and DH saw the London bookshop's website, I had to explain that no, they are not reselling the e-book; no, they didn't actually have used copies; and if someone ordered my book from them, the London store could have it dropped shipped to the reader from the printer and pocket their share for making the sale while I and the printer still get our cuts.