March 12th, 2014 by Bob Bly
The other day, I got a letter from the town librarian welcoming
me as a new resident (we just moved here a few months ago).
Then the coup de grace: she knew I was an author and suggested
how nice it would be for me to donate some of the books I had
written to the library.
I felt like writing her back and saying: “So I should spend my
days writing stuff, and then give it away for free? What a great
business model! Why didn’t I think of it first?”
I also wanted to ask her whether she would donate some of her
time to the town library by foregoing her paycheck for a week or
(I have no problem being sarcastic.)
In her letter, she pointed out that as a published author and
new resident, donating my books would be a nice way for me to
support my local library.
I felt like reminding her that I already support my local
library with a donation every 3 months. It’s called “property
What would have been even nicer than me donating my books would
have been for her to offer to BUY one of my books from the
publisher for the library – heaven forbid.
If she bought one of my books for $10 and I got my usual 8%
royalty, I would in a few months get an 80 cent check from the
publisher and be able to retire.
Look, if you are a regular reader of these e-mails, you know by
now that I am a cranky old curmudgeon.
And a sore point with me is people assuming that writers –
unlike nearly every other profession – should not be paid for
the fruits of their labor.
I am sure when my next-door neighbor the car dealer moved here
many years ago, the mayor did not ask him to donate a new Buick
to the town for city officials to use.
But why should a writer be paid for work it took him months to
complete? Give it away for free? Sure! That’s the American way!
I tore the librarian’s letter up, threw it in my waste basket,
and kept my books on the shelves.
They are still there, waiting for her to pick them up. All she
has to bring is ten dollars apiece.
Some days it doesn’t pay to get out of bed….
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