Friday, 21 August 2009

Royalties and hospitaliers

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.


Alan P said...

Hey Matt. I'm back in NY now, but we went back over to our hometown Edinburgh for a holiday. One day, we took the car to Carlisle, and when we were walking through the Lanes, I saw a bookshop. Books just sitting on the shelves, waiting to be browsed through. Then I saw the guys still working inside, and the sign on the glass telling me it wasn't open yet! Two weeks too early! Never mind, maybe next year.
I have to say though, hats off to you for giving the shop your time. Like you, I would buy books in charity shops when I was between jobs and couldn't afford to buy new, but when I started working again, I would buy brand new. And yes, I did buy your book from Barnes & Noble, so you got the royalties! I also bought your mate Sean Black's book Lock Down when I was over. It's on the TBR pile and it looks superb.
Again, well done Matt. It's nice to read about a published author who doesn't look down his nose at those less fortunate.

Matt Hilton said...

Hey, Alan, thanks for a brilliant comment, it's much appreciated. Isn't it a small world these days, when you happened to walk by the very shop I'm talking about having come from all the way across the Atlantic?
I've just read Sean's book and thoroughly enjoyed it so you've a treat to look forward to.
And who knows, next time you're in The Lanes we might just bump into each other. Stranger things happen!

Alan P said...

Hey Matt, you never know! And next year when we go back to the UK, my wife will definately want to go back there. She loves to shop. I'll say no more....

Clare said...

Matt, your humility shines through - that was a really thought-provoking post.
TBH, even if I didn't like your writing (and I do! :)) I would continue to follow your blog because your honesty, integrity and willingness to share with others (whether it be the way you help and inspire aspiring writers or your charity work) is inspirational.
You deserve every bit of your success - well done and thanks for sharing.

Matt Hilton said...

Hiya Clare. What a lovely thing to say. I'm honestly touched. Thank you.

Amit said...

I read something by Denzel Washington no less; give what you can. Some people give money, others give their time, others lend a listening ear.
Mr. Hilton not only gives us a damn good read, he gives us a humility we dont associate with famous folk and thats why i think (in my humble opinion) your blog is so great. Its also why i think you'll become more than just a "record breaking debut deal" and sustain an assurd longevity.

Matt Hilton said...

Wow! before I had a humble pride, now I'm just humbled. Thanks, Amit.