many books of all literary genres for sale in a bookshop
Many books of all literary genres for sale in a book fair

That’s how it goes, folks! Those who read books want to unload their bookcases and give them away to a book fair for charity purposes! I recently attended a book fair where they also invited authors to offer their new books. That’s a great idea and an interesting way of looking at a book’s life cycle. With our backs against the wall, our tables displaying our books, we watched book lovers buy books by the cartloads that were “discarded,” all displayed on rows of tables. Except ours.

Browsing a book fair - books laid out on trestle tables
Browsing a book fair – books laid out on trestle tables

Nobody realized the cruelty of that scene: us staring at our graves!


George Vercessi and me

I only became aware of it later in the day when I decided to lower the price of my new books by half to compete with the penny-priced tons of dead books in front of me. Books by John Grisham, Danielle Steel, Joyce Carol Oates, so many others, lined-up majestically together, waiting to be carried to the books grave.

We did have a few buyers, though. But next year, would we find our books also dumped on those tables or decaying in carton boxes?

For readers, do you know how much goes into writing and publishing a book? It’s unbelievable how much time and money it takes! And then you sell it for $10-15 dollars a piece at a book-signing or a fair, or if you are lucky in a Barnes & Nobles store.

It often takes more than a year to write a book. Suppose it’s a “good” book, and that, after months of querying, you are lucky to find a good agent to represent it. Then it takes 18 months before it is published, after many edits and re-edits, and sweat, tears, and curses. By that time it’s an “old” book already. Also, it’s not even “your” book anymore. So many people other than the author have meddled with it: your writers group, your editor(s), the agent’s input, the publisher’s editor, an endless process.   Why would you even take the trouble to write?

Spell Check, word cloud concept on white background.

Well, that’s the quintessential question. So many do! Every day, thousands of new books arrive on the scene on Amazon.com. If you self-publish, you sell at between .99 cents and 2.99 dollars (remember my blog about the US 99 cents craze – July 2, 2016?), which seems to be the range where the “greedy readers” buy. If there is one example of reader price distortion, it’s on Amazon. I heard of one good writer who sold many e-books at 99 cts, but got only one penny royalty per e-book.  So if you sold 1000 books you earned 10 dollars royalty. Give me a break!

Still, as a writer, you want to get that story out, you must write that book. Maybe you have to say something that’s worth telling. Maybe it’s good therapy to get something off your chest that’s been bugging you all your life. Maybe it’s a character that has been spooking through your mind and imagination that spurs you to write about her. Or maybe you just like to scare the hell out of people (Stephen King, and he laughs all the way to the bank with it).



Old typewriter with sample text I LOVE YOU! Red words on white paper

Girl is strangled by hands coming out of a horror story
Horror Story


I know about industry because I worked a long time in trade and development economics. But the “writing industry” is a different cattle of fish. It’s not manufacturing or money lending. I realized that only after I decided to write myself. There are so many people learning to write, teaching to write, editing other people’s writing, writers conferences with hundreds of “speakers” about writing, advertisers, publicists, and booksellers, it’s huge. It has expanded exponentially since the first printer was invented in the mid-fifteenth century by the Dutchman Laurens Janszoon Koster. Of course, the Germans pretend that it was Johannes Gutenberg who was first, at about the same time. Let’s say both had a telepathic moment, to keep the peace and avoid a battle with and about Germans always saying Germany “uber alles.”


Laurens Koster in Haarlem – The Netherlands

I’m afraid we writers are the biggest suckers in all this. We pay for all those lend-a-hand services offered by the “eager providers,” the middlemen (or is it now middlepersons to be gender neutral?), with only a handful of us recovering our costs, and even fewer making a buck.

Poet and muse Schoolboy

Poor Writer and Rich Writer



Still, I want to write that book because otherwise, the character keeps bugging me, night and day. I want to get her off my back and start with another one. Like changing girlfriends (or boyfriends, depending). One advantage: no alimony payments.

Till next time.

John op Zonheuvel

By John Schwartz:

http://amzn.to/1LPFw5o: Enchanting The Swan

http://amzn.to/1QIL94B: Some Women I Have Known.


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