Books All Georgians Should Read

Authors of the Month: December

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Paying for Author Events?

The New York Times recently discussed a new issue that’s arisen for independent bookstore owners all over the country and their customers: paid admissions. It’s something that no one seems entirely happy about, but it is a response to a growing problem. Here’s the background:

The independents, feeling sales pressure from online retailers like Amazon, have begun selling selling tickets or requiring a book purchase for customers who attend author readings and signings. “The entire independent bookstore model is based on selling books, but that model is changing because so many book sales are going online,” says one Manhattan bookseller, echoing what we hear regularly in Atlanta. Too many people show up for events having already purchased their book online for less money, they argue.

It’s hard to blame customers who want to buy books as cheaply as they can, and online sellers lacking brick-and-mortar stores can do just that. But how is it fair to the store that brings in authors, promotes and devotes its time, energy and money to the event? The solution for a growing number of booksellers — including here in Atlanta — is charging admission for the event or requiring a book purchase.

At the Center for the Book, we do well over 100 author programs each year, and we have independent booksellers at each one. At some of those events, particularly with very popular, prolific authors, we have joined with the bookstore in asking that anyone who wants to get theirbook signed agree to purchase it at the event. That has seemed like a fair compromise to us because it doesn’t bar anyone from attending the author’s talk. That remains free to one and all. To get your books signed, however, you’ll need to buy one at the program. It’s worked pretty well so far; we’ve had very few complaints.

Those few who have complained say they shouldn’t be prohibited from getting books signed because they spent money to buy it, whether online or not, just not at a particular store. In the old business model, they would probably get a little more sympathy. As it is, we feel that having a bookseller at our events offers a significant service for our audiences, as it also represents a major investment of time and money for the bookseller. 

And buying a book at the event seems to us an appropriate reponse to not just the bookseller but to the visiting author as well. Remember, in the case of the Georgia Center for the Book, a portion of your purchase at our events goes to help us grow our mission of spreading literature and literacy around the state of Georgia. Surely that’s worth a bit, isn’t it?

We welcome your views, as always. This is an issue that isn’t likely going away anytime soon.

3 Responses to “Paying for Author Events?”

  1. Murray Browne Says:

    Yes, I think it is reasonable to expect if you want a book signed at an author event (hosted in conjunction with a book seller) that you should buy the book at the venue. Buying tickets with the cost of the book included is a little more problematic, because if you go with a spouse or a significant other, you are paying for TWO books when you probably really only want one book in the household. (In this case, I’ve seen book sellers swap out another book by the author.)

  2. Judy Kriehn Says:

    I would hope that most “brick and mortar” booksellers hosting an author event would follow your model, and allow people to hear an author at no charge.

    Why? Earlier this spring, I bought an e-reader, and that thing has increased my reading immensely. (I often read while on my lunch break, and push a button to turn the page is waaaay easier than having a book propped open with silverware and ketchup bottles…) In any case, it’d be kind of hard for an author to sign a digital book, but that wouldn’t stop me from wanting to share airspace with a favorite author. (and yes, I know. Ebooks are a sort of kick in the gut for independent booksellers, but on the plus side, they have introduced a lot of people to lesser-known authors, as well as making the dream of publication a little more tangible for wannabe writers.)

    That said, I have no quibble whatsoever with “buy the book-to-be-signed from the store that brung ’em” rule o’ thumb. My former boss just retired to become a full-time author, and while I coulda bought my book directly from HIM, I chose to wait until one of his signing events, because (a) I felt it was important for the bookseller to see he has fans and (b) said fans have money and will buy his book(s).

    Thank you for asking! Wish I lived closer to Georgia, so I could join the fun at your library. (I live in the Dallas, TX area. Stumbled onto this site by accident while looking up Mary Kay Andrews/Kathy Hogan Trochek titles to add to my digital collection.)

  3. Marnie Paul Says:

    I attend a lot of author talks sponsored by the Georgia Center for the Book. They are always interesting. This past year I believe that I have seen fewer members of the audiences purchasing books after talks than in prior years. Often the booksellers offer only hardback copies of an author’s latest work which I don’t always want to buy but I might be interested in a paperback of an author’s earlier book. Would offering a paperback hurt the seller’s profit?

    What I would like to avoid is paid admission to the talks or for the podcasts. I don’t see how the Center could get audiences for writers who aren’t already best sellers. Even Ebook readers need to discover new authors.

    If you get desperate, ask for donations, have a fundraiser or offer only hard backs.

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