Another Topic I Get Lots of Questions About…

And again, this topic is so full of myths about sales and publishing, it will be impossible for me to do this justice here. But we are going to do a Pop-Up on this topic soon that will go into why this isn’t a problem and how to use second-hand sales to help your own sales.

Yeah, I know, crazy, but true.

So for this topic, I’m going to use second-hand sales to mean sales out of used bookstores or garage sales or other places where the writer or publisher makes no money from that exact sale.

To do a second-hand sale, of course the book must be in paper. That is the only place the copyright law allows for such sales under the First Sale Doctrine. It does not apply to electronic books or streaming audio. It does apply to audio books on a disk of some sort.

So a person buys a paper book. The author or publisher gets paid. Super. That person (buyer) then owns the artifact of that book, not the content. (The author still owns the content unless they sold their book to a traditional publisher, then the publisher owns the content.)

Under First Sale Doctrine, that person (buyer) can take that book and resell it, thus a second-hand sale.

First to deal with a myth. Selling a book second hand hurts the author and their book sales. This is a myth I hear all the time and is total and complete hogwash.

It does exactly the opposite, actually.

If a reader finds a book in a used bookstore or garage sale or library sale and reads it and likes it, in this new world the next thing a reader does is go to a computer or phone and look up the author to see if there are more books. And then the reader usually buys those books, thus making the author money.

A bunch of studies over decades show that a standard paperback book in its life will have between six and ten different readers on average. (A hardback between four and six.) That is why I have shouted right from the start of the indie movement for authors to get books into print.

You sell an electronic book, you have one reader. You sell a paper book, you could have ten different readers who will buy more of your work.

In other words, you want to encourage second-hand sales to build more audience and fans for your work.

Again, this will be much more explained in the Pop-Up, but let me tell you what Kris and I have done over the years. First, we have actively (at different times) sold signed books on ABE or eBay and places like that. We wanted the paper books into circulation inside of second-hand markets, which both of those are.

Where did we get the books? Often from our publishers who would send us cases of 40 or more copies in our contract. A ton of those are still in our warehouse. Thousands and thousands of them, actually. (We published a lot of books over the years.)

We also donate books to libraries. (Some young writers think libraries are bad. Same silliness. Libraries bring your fans.) Often the books we donate just go into the library sale which is great, because again it finds a reader who will buy more of our work if we did our jobs and told a good story.

I have gone on driving trips with many bags of our books in the trunk and traded them into used bookstores along the way. I never tell them I am the author. And with the credit I find other authors I want to read. Or collectable books to make even more money on.

When I go to a hotel, I leave books in the lobby. I leave books of mine on airlines. And so on.

I am after one reader at a time.

Again, remember, every paperback in circulation will have between 6 and 10 readers in its life.

So this is just a scratch along the surface of this large topic. Just wanted to take a stab at the myth of second-hand sales can be bad for you. In fact, it is the other way around.

Another way of looking at it, this is called advertising. But that is yet another topic, how little indie writers really understand about true advertising.

But enough fun for one night.