Today I had the pleasure of opening a charity bookshop on behalf of Eden Valley Hospice, but I have to admit to having had second thoughts while driving to the location. I thought: 'Hang on a minute! If people are buying books from second hand bookshops then the author gets no royalties.' Instead of the one original sale, an infinite number of people could be reading the book whereby the author only ever gets one credit. The thought was always fleeting, but I have to be honest and say that it was there. I wasn't thinking in greedy terms, but in actual numbers.
Bestsellers are determined by how many books are purchased from stores that are on the 'Bookscan' system and it only then struck me that the figures mean not a damn thing in the real world. If I, say, sell 1,000 hardback copies of my book in a week, then it doesn't look like that big a hit, but then how many people will actually read the book once it is past between friends, family, work colleagues, and then onto second hand outlets where it may be purchased again, and then past round? I know there's no way of finding an exacting figure, but that 1,000 sales can easily become 10,000 readings of the book. If all of them were translated to 'sales' then the book would be considered a massive bestseller.
Now, I know of no way that we can possibly collate these figures, and I'm not suggesting that second hand shops go on book scan (the same could be said for any form of entertainment, DVD, CDs etc), but I wondered how many times my book would actually be read throughout the country (and world). Maybe some books that were never deemed bestsellers actually became best reads, without the knowledged of either the author or their publisher.
Anyway, back to my original thought. I said I wasn't thinking in terms of royalties, I wasn't and this is why:
When I was younger, and also up until the very recent times, I couldn't afford to fund my voracious reading appetite via the book shops. I used second hand shops to keep me going. But what I found was that if I discovered a book/author I enjoyed, I would then set out to scour all outlets for further books by that author. Invariably I would buy copies from the outlets with bookscan, therefore the author got royalties for those books. Without the introduction via the secondhand shop I may never have discovered the author in the first place.
Lastly, because as usual I realise I'm blathering:
I set out to write books to 1) entertain myself 2) get published 3) entertain the reader 4) make a living (yes there was obviously the attraction of money) 5) give my family a better life. Now I can add another thing to my short list 6) help people who are far less fortunate than I.
I never realised that by me sitting at a computer, writing thriller stories, that I could help to ease people's suffering by supporting a secondhand bookshop whose takings go to give aid to people suffering terminal illnesses.
The thought I began with disappeared in a flash, and now I write this with a humble pride that in some small way I will help someone through their pain.