Monday, 24 November 2014

The Price of Books

Photo by Wayne Cavanagh, 92.3 JACK FM
Money is tough to come by, these days. Everyone's feeling the pinch, and hard choices often have to be made between necessities and nice-to-haves. A warm house and food on the table must come first, and entertainment expenses must be carefully managed.

Christmas is traditionally a time when we try to loosen the purse strings a little. It's said that a book makes a great Christmas gift, and with that in mind I recently participated in the annual Christmas craft show at a local high school to sell my novels. The show turned out to be huge, apparently with more than twice the vendors from a year ago.

I love doing these events because they give me a chance to meet people and talk about what interests them. My books range in price from $14.95 to $19.95 for each paperback copy, and with the wallet in mind I've decided over the holidays to sell them at these shows for $15 a copy and $50 for the four-book mystery series, autograph included.

During this particular show, a woman came up to my table and delivered an incisive little rant on the high price of books. "How am I supposed to know what I'm getting for $15?" she said. "I may buy it and not even like it. That's a lot of money to spend on something I might end up throwing away."

There wasn't a thing she said that I haven't thought every time I stood behind a table trying to sell my books. It is a lot of money to ask, just on faith. I put a great deal of care and attention to detail into the design and appearance of the books, but what if I can't write a good story to save my life? I'm very grateful that The Rainy Day Killer was longlisted for the 2014 Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel in Canada, because it gives me something to say about the level of quality they'll hopefully discover when they get it home and start to read it. But still ..... fifteen bucks is a lot of money. I explained to her that people could visit my website and read an excerpt from each novel, to see if it might be something they'd like. I gave her one of my postcards advertising the series and told her I understood completely. She walked away, having spoken her piece.

She disappeared past the table next to me, where they were selling women's handbags for $35 a pop and cute tutus for little girls that were even more expensive. I don't know what people normally pay for that kind of stuff. I'm guessing it was reasonable, and I don't know how their sales were as the day wore on. However, I was selling like there was no tomorrow. It was a personal best for me that day. Books apparently do make an attractive Christmas gift!

And you know what? The woman who'd expressed her frustration about the high price of books returned to my table about twenty minutes later, my postcard still in her hand. She rapped her index finger on The Rainy Day Killer and said, "All right. I'll take that one."

Her concern about the price of books was obviously something she'd needed to get off her chest, and boy, I sympathize with her. Believe me. I signed the book, and as I gave it to her I held up crossed fingers and said, "I hope you like it."

"I'm sure I will," she said, and stormed off again.

Given how tight money is these days, I've still got those fingers crossed, ma'am.

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