Book Business

The Secondary Market for Books: Friend or Foe?

Understandably, most artists want to earn the highest royalties for their hard work. Remember how Garth Brooks wanted a secondary royalty on his music, thereby kicking off a feud with secondary-market retailers? (See the article linked here.) 

So, as an author, do you feel that the secondary market is a friend or foe?

I think this market is our friend. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Discoverability: Readers may find an author’s book in a thrift store before seeing it in a retail store that may have limited shelf space. For instance, the “Religious Fiction” (not my favorite label) section in my local used bookstore seems to be about six or eight shelves high and goes on for at least forty feet. In comparison, the last time I visited a local brick-and-mortar retail store, Christian fiction titles occupied about eight shelves of two bookcases.
  2. Space: My store stacks books on their sides and behind each other. The customer must dig to find them all. A retail store displays books with a marketing eye. That means each title must readily be visible. The display is prettier; but, again, it limits how the retailer can use space.
  3. Price: Recently, I found a copy of Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers at my used bookstore for 25 cents. A reader new to an author’s work may risk 25 cents to read a book, then purchase more books by the same author. They may go back to the used bookstore or buy more books from retailers if they like the author enough.
  4. Serendipity: Though they are selective, used bookstores rely on haphazard incoming inventory. For instance, when I settled my parents’ estates, I sold biographies, car books, mystery novels, and dog books. I tend to buy and sell religious books, current bestsellers, biographies, history, and fashion books. Almost every book I purchase on the secondary market is a fun find. Readers can randomly discover your book this way too.
  5. Impatience: I make a list of books I want to buy secondhand before I venture to the store. Because the inventory is unpredictable, I seldom find the exact book I seek. Because I’m impatient, I’ll give up and order the book from a retailer. 

Regardless of how readers find your book, they’re reading it. And that’s a good thing!

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