Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Books A Penny A Piece: I'm not quite sure if an author should be flattered or offended when their books appear in Amazon's 'New & Used' section for 1 penny?
On the positive side, those writer's familiar to me who have quite a number of 'penny listings,' like Jeremy Clarkson, Dan Brown, Stephen King and Julie Burchill, sold their books, originally, in their millions. So it would be flattering with regard to the size of their Royalty cheques on those tremendous sales figures, but offensive in that their literary output seems to be no more than a collection of 'read 'em and dump 'em' books, rather than those which are kept and saved as treasured items on the owner's bookshelf.
And I think it would be that last comment which would disappoint me. As a life-long collector of loads of different things from matchbox labels to Motorhead records, if a book has a charm or readability aspect which I like; I will probably make it something of a passion to track down and buy everything I can find by that particular author. This I have done with our good friend, Mick Farren, although not exclusively with his non-fiction. You see, Mick has been a clever writer, and over the years he has written quite a few of what are called in the trade, 'bread and butter' books. And titles like 'The Rolling Stones In Their Own Words,' 'Elvis And The Colonel' and 'The Hitch-hiker's Guide To Elvis' just keep on selling, and likewise, the Royalty cheques keep on dropping through the letter box; but they're not really my cup of tea; yet Elvis and Stones fans just snap them up.
Some of Mick's non-fiction, though, I have collected, like 'The Black Leather Jacket' (every MHB should own that one!) and 'Gene Vincent - There's One In Every Town,' amongst others, which are excellent.
But Mick is also the victim of being another 'penny listings' author, and some of his mass-market sci-fi paperbacks on the American market are listed as such. But, conversely, his 1975 'The Tale of Willy's Rats' paperback goes for, (when there is one on the market, which isn't often), around £100, even in fairly tatty condition.
But the biggest bugbear shared by authors and musicians alike is the fact that they only get a Royalty on the first sale of the book or record, but never on any subsequent sales. So the used book or record market can buy and sell a hundred times and for whatever price they wish, and neither the writer nor musician get a bean; whether it's sold for a penny or £1,000.
And although the percentage on a penny book sale would be so insignificant as not to matter, the seller has won some extra space on their bookshelf in a highly competitive marketplace, and usually made at least well over a quid when the change from the £2-50 postage charge is ringing in their till.