Friday, June 21, 2013

Writing: Where Do Books Go To Die?

Kay and I were shopping in a local Christian bookstore last week--yes, we try to patronize them as often as we can--when we came upon two large cases labeled "Bargain Books." They were marked with colored tape on the spines, the colors indicating the price, which ranged from $5 down to $1 per book. I was immediately sad, as I saw familiar names, names of friends and colleagues, on the covers. Kay picked up half a dozen by some of her favorite authors, books that had come out years before and that she had missed. But I felt guilty as I paid the clerk. Not so much guilty at the bargain I'd found, but at the knowledge that my own books would be on that bargain table soon enough.

Some of you may be wondering what happens to books that no longer sell. Perhaps the book store bought too many, possibly the publisher was one that wouldn't take back unsold books (most will, but not signed ones--something I learned early on in writing; don't sign more copies than the bookstore tells you, they may wish to return the others if they don't sell). That's where the bargain table comes in.

Of course, in this day of e-publishing, all this changes. An e-book never really goes out of print. It doesn't take up warehouse space. And although it may have its price reduced, there's no "bargain table" humiliation for it.

I don't want to get into stripping (removal of covers from paperbacks for return to publishers, while the book itself is pulped and recycled) or remaindering (liquidation of a poorly selling book by the publisher at greatly reduced prices). I guess the point I wanted to make was that books have a life cycle, just as people do. I just hope that mine have a positive effect before they suffer whatever fate awaits them at the end of their lives.

Let me close with a poem that I learned about from fellow author James Scott Bell. It deals with an author who has just found that the book of his arch-enemy has been remaindered. Hope you enjoy reading it here. Hurry back.

(photo via

Late-breaking news: Word from my publisher that until June 24, by special arrangement with Barnes & Noble, when readers purchase 3 or more qualifying books from a huge list of Thomas Nelson books, the least expensive book is free. In order to take advantage of this offer, just place all 3 qualifying books in your Shopping Bag. Your credit for the least expensive product will appear at Checkout.  This offer is NOT valid at B&N retail stores, but only physical copies purchased at  NOOK books are not included.
   Here's the link.
(And, of course, Stress Test is included in this list).


Steve Hooley said...


Sad that what has taken so many hours and days and months of thought and work and creativity should end up so humbly in the bargain bin. Enough to make one publish only ebooks.

On the other hand, I have run into some patients who tell me their reading consists solely of books bought at such places. So I guess we have to accept the spectrum from hardcover, to paperback, to ebook, to discounted, to remaindered. If the reader reads our book and remembers us, looks for us at the next bargain bin, we have achieved some success.

Thanks for sharing the poem.


Richard Mabry said...

Thanks, Steve. I agree--maybe our work will continue to witness even after the books leave the regular shelves.
Appreciate your comment.