A genie offers a writer a choice. Would they rather have a million pounds, or a million people read their first book but for no money at all?
It’s an interesting question. Do we write to be able to keep writing, or do we write because we want to share the story?
To write solely for financial security is a mugs game.
If you have faith in your book, a million people reading it will produce enthusiasts. Say 5% of people who read it become fans. (By which I mean only someone who is super likely to buy your next book.) 50,000 fans is an excellent base for a career, you might become established.
Conversely, a million pounds frees you to do only that work you want to do.
Of course, in the real world you are not offered this choice.
This was prompted by news that my publisher has remaindered some of my paperbacks to The Works, a company which runs 450 discount shops across the country. You can currently buy a copy of Our Child of the Stars at £2, less than a coffee. Three books for a fiver.
It’s a common sense move to shift copies you won’t sell otherwise. I hope the Works sell all these copies to build fans of my work.
Many people think this is the devil, and that my publisher should burn unsold copies in their furnaces. Many book people want to go back to prices fixed by the publisher. Another debate for another time.
When you look behind this, there are other considerations.
For example, WH Smiths, the Works, and the supermarkets can reach people who rarely use bookshops.