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    July 20, 2005


    Malcolm Campbell

    People come up to me all the time and say, "are you the guy who wrote that book?"

    After they establish that I am, for better or worse, the guy who wrote the book, they tell me they hope to buy it some day.

    I want to ask, "For Pete's sake, when?"

    Meanwhile, if an all-powerful genie appears on my doorstep and offers to answer one important question, it will be this: "Why do people who spend $30 a couple of times a week buying dinner at an outparcel chain restaurant without giving the amount a second thought, hem and haw and ponder when considering a $19.95 book that will last much longer than the meal?"



    Hi. I think there are many different kinds of individuals and many different kinds of readers. Some people, seemingly for various reasons (such as, they're poor, cheap, they'd rather spend on other stuff), just don't buy books--they WON'T buy them. Marketing to that kind is usually a wasted effort. And I think those I-won't-buy-books people are partly what libraries are for--if those readers use libraries, they can still be important readers because although they might not buy books, they might talk about them to others who do buy books. The I-won't-buy crowd can help a book's sales by word-of-mouth.

    I love libraries--I mean, if I had to be locked up somewhere forevermore, I'd wanna be locked up in the hugest, greatest library on earth. Libraries are so needed. I've tried to get the libraries near here to accept free copies of my work, but they won't--lots of snobbery built into some systems. (Okay, one accepted a copy once but never put it on the shelves and couldn't find what the hell happened to it.) They normally won't accept POD self-/"vanity"-published works (think it might have something to do with the Library of Congress too). That pisses me off, even though I've come to expect the we-judge-a-book's-contents-by-its-cover elitism that so many people unfortunately seem to practice. But I think having a book shelved in libraries can be a great thing; free reads of a book being available are important. Like many others I've heard say the same, I've often bought books after reading their library copies.

    Now, having said all that, it really can be very frustrating when people praise something you've written, or praise you as a writer, but refuse to put their money where their mouths are--yeah, "talk is cheap" is appropriate here. But life ain't cheap, and writers need to eat. I'm not sure how much free stuff a writer should offer, or how many freebie reads are acceptable before a particular writer is suffering from all those freebies floating around, but I still think freebies are important. I guess it all depends on the writer and on how big, small or medium-sized the writer's sales have been. But even with lots of library copies around--those still had to be purchased from publishers; royalties were still normally earned there. If most of the libraries in America, say, ordered a few copies each of a single book--that would probably add up to a lot of sales. So I think writers should focus on getting their books in libraries, if they can, especially for all those I-can't-or-won't-buy-books readers. It may pay off more in the end than many writers realize.

    (P.S. Frankly, I find so many people faddish. Do readers always buy books because "they sound good to them" personally? It seems to me that too many people will buy a particular book simply because everyone else seems to be buying that book, and it's supposed to be some hot new thing. This happens over and over and OVER again, and probably has to do with what I call "the rumor phenomenon," where something or someone is rumored to be this great thing, but often isn't, and practically everyone wants to jump on the rumor bandwagon because they want to be part of that popular crowd, which only feeds the rumor, which is often based on emptiness, on an "untruth." Some of these people may never actually look at that specific thing they're buying (or praising); they're just carried away on the rumor tide. It's unfortunate that so many readers seemingly buy books this way because it often means that other books of much greater quality remain ignored. But I think it's nevertheless a reality of the book market, or any market really. Many publishers may love this phenomenon, but it sucks for most writers...unless maybe their books become the next big rumored-to-be-great thing.)

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