Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Apparently 40% of the audience for the American NASCAR circuit are women and Harlequin have teamed up with the NASCAR racing people to produce a series of romances set in the motor racing world. Caroline Pardilla at The Driving Woman asks “Call me sceptical, but just many novels can you write that take place around a racetrack?” Well, golly, that’s so hard. How many women are working, watching, dreaming trackside? And – because let’s not be sexist about this, men fall in love, too -- how many men?


How many of you buy your romances from the local charity shop, or the local used book stall at your nearest market? We’ve all done it. I can’t pass a box of old Mills & Boons without checking to see if any of my favourite authors are there; once their brief “shelf life” is over, it’s that or the library (free to use and much recommended, btw!). I’ve even picked up books by authors I’ve heard of but never read. My first Susan Elizabeth Phillips It Had To Be You, was bought for 50p in the Tenovus charity shop in Ammanford; the next This Heart of Mine, was bought in Denver airport, after which I was totally hooked, bought her entire backlist from my local Borders and put her on my “must buy” list.

Buying used books from a small local outlet is one thing. Small local outlets are not going to harm the income of authors (and contrary to popular belief we don’t all earn millions!), publishers, booksellers. The used book business has however, changed out of recognition. Since the arrival of the internet in practically every home, you no longer have to rely on the small choice in your local charity shop – you have the whole world to shop in and sellers have not been slow to take advantage of that fact. It is now possible to buy “used” books before the “new” item has actually appeared in the shop. The market is huge; in one of the New York newspapers last year, books were placed on a list of things never to buy new.


Think about that. No author, publisher, distributor or High Street bookseller is going to earn one penny from a book sold “used” and you don’t have to be an economist to work out where that is going.


I’m sitting in the Snap & Scribble – scribbling away at my blog -- or at least I was until the RAF flew over at roof top height and I fell off my chair. My colleague, historical novelist Joanna Maitland, describes this as “…the sound of freedom…” Point taken, but do they have to be so loud


Pip said...

Hi Liz, I see you have a blog! Brave woman ...I expect they are addictive. I buy HMB from the library sales and the charity shops but I also pay 'proper money' for them from Amazon and WHSmith. In Fact your HWLB was the first one I ever bought and now the shelves are groaning with them...or should that be sighing in pleasure...

If no one paid for a book, how many people would write them? And we need to support bokshops - like Ottakars where my manager friend is under threat of redundancy.

PS I'm off to the Brum RNA meeting tomorrow - so if you are ever up here and want a Balti...

Liz Fielding said...

Addictive, Pip, time wasting, but just so much fun!

Used books are a tricky subject. They've been with us for as long as books have been sold and I'd rather someone read me used than not at all (wafting cherishing beeswax polish in the direction of your bookcase), but the figures involved are now totally astounding. I'll see if I can find them.

Enjoy the Brum meeting. Hope the snow doesn't spoil your fun. A balti ... ummm.