The Price of a Book

When I was a kid…I keep going back to those carefree days.

I was twelve years old when I bought my first paperback book.  The price was twenty-five cents.  For a quarter of a dollar (plus a penny for sales tax), I received a weeks worth of an exciting tale, taking me to places I never dreamed I may really go someday.

Not long after I started reading paperbacks, my dad got really sick.  He was in the hospital for a long time.  I did not know he liked to read but learned his favorite genre was Westerns.  So my twenty-six cents went to Zane Gray.

The author Zane Gray was a member of Penn's va...

The author Zane Gray was a member of Penn’s varsity baseball team in 1895 and 1896 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then one day I went to buy a book and they were up to fifty cents.  I had just enough money.  I planned to buy two.  That was okay, Dad was not working but was starting to get around.

By the time I graduated high school, paperbacks were up to seventy-five cents.  There was no money for college and my grades were not good enough to think of a scholarship.  The Vietnam war was raging, and I had a choice:  Get drafted and go straight to war or enlist.  I would get enough training to keep me alive.  So, enlist I did.

During those days of training, I learned that cold was not a totally bad thing and that an hour of sleep spread out over twenty-four was actually a lot.

Reading any type of novel was out of the question.

Some years later, I went past a drug store that had rows of paperbacks to buy.

My father passed away not long before.  So when I started looking at the books, my first tendency was toward the Westerns.  All the ones the store stocked I had already read.  It didn’t seem right to read Westerns any more.

I bought another book.  That cost me a dollar & twenty-five cents.

Since those days I have bought many books; a great many at used book stores where most were slightly discounted.

One day at a used book store in St. Louis, the owner and I were talking about what a new book would cost to publish.

He explained things simply:  A person takes a year of their life to write the book.  Then they spend money for the edit.  Perhaps, the person lands a literary agent who gets 15%.  Then if it gets sold to a publisher, they have the cost of cover design, printing, stocking and distribution.  For that they get 50% or a little more.  The book store that sells the book also gets a percentage.

At this point the poor author who thought he hit the mother lode is, for the time and energy to write and promote a part of his life, the recipient of the smallest amount from each sale.

On a twenty dollar paperback he makes maybe $5.00 per sale, but more like $3.00.

That made a great deal of sense.

Now I am an Indie author.  I pay those costs out of my own pocket.

I am lucky enough to have a wife who is not just a business manager but does as much as a creative consultant.  She did my cover design, as well as the book trailer.  Sandy stays up with what I have going and need to attend.  My wife designed the webpage and tends to it.

The Wolf Moon by Patrick Jones

My paperbacks sell for almost $17.00 per copy.  My e-book sells for $4.99.

I am not saying anything bad about a person selling their book for 0.99 cents, but ask yourself:  Would James Patterson or Stephen King?

Nope!

A Book Store…

When I was a kid, maybe fourteen, I walked from my home to Maplewood, MO.  It wasn’t far, just a couple of miles, but the walk was worth it.

Tucked away between the bar on the corner (that had the best Polish sausage with Miracle Whip sandwiches ever – of which I could do a blog just on them – maybe later), and the music store was a small book store.

English: myśkliwska, Polish sausage, kiełbasaMiracle Whip

Title: Shakespeare and Company Taken on: 2004-...

Title: Shakespeare and Company Taken on: 2004-09-19 11:11:16 Original source: Flickr.com – image description page (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was indeed small but the shelves went from the floor to the ceiling, with every genre of hard cover or paperback book.

There were new books, traded books and books that looked as though Shakespeare or Poe may have browsed the pages.

At first, I went there to get comic books.  They were, after all, only a dime.  The little grey-haired lady kept a close watch on me.  The thought of ever stealing a book never entered my mind.  Those books were the way the lady had money to feed herself.  I would pick the comic book I wanted, give her my dime, then leave the store.

In the coming months she grew to know me and her surveillance of me slowly disappeared as I graduated from Superman to Doc Savage.

Doc Savage

Then, the Mike Hammer books were the ones I wanted to read.

Mike Hammer (Robert Bray) beating up a thug na...

The grey-haired lady, at first, would not sell them to me.  She told me to wait a few years.

I really liked the lady so I said okay and settled on a Doc Savage I hadn’t read.

Winter came, and with working before and after school and going to school, the thoughts of going to a book store was furthest from my mind.

When the winter snows were over and school work dwindled down to a snail’s pace, I had a pocket full of money.  The bookstore with all those treasures of written words, awaited me.

My arrival to a corner of the world I felt reserved for me, I found the store closed.  Looking through the front window, where the new hard cover releases were displayed, I saw no books.  My gaze was met by empty shelves.

I went next door to the bar and asked Gus the bartender, where the little lady that owned the next store moved.

He looked at me with kind eyes and said, “Heaven.  She passed away a month ago.”

In the ensuing years, I found other places to buy my books.  Places like Borders and Barnes & Noble were there.

Borders is now gone and is being followed by Barnes & Noble.

The feel of a book is slowly but surely being replaced by electronic media.

I hope the little grey-haired lady, whose name I never got to know, has a huge bookstore in Heaven, not having to worry about kids stealing comic books.

Copyright © 2013 Patrick Jones, All Rights Reserved