Authors have never earned royalties on second hand books. I mean how do you keep track of such books that are exchanged for money? There are a scattering of secondhand bookshops throughout the world and lets face it, tracking down authors to pay royalties to can be a time consuming job.
But it seems it can now be done, at least to a partial extent. William Pryer is the founder of Bookbarn International based in Somerset. I used to visit the main site, which was literally a large barn full of secondhand books. It was an Aladdin’s cave to a bookworm like me.
In 2015 he came up with the idea of paying authors royalties on secondhand books, but could not go it alone. Now in partnership with the The World of Books group, he has come up with AuthorSHARE. Authors will be paid each time one of their books is bought directly from the World of Books and Bookbarn International websites, up to a cap of £1,000 a year.
This initiative will certainly be welcome by many authors, especially the majority whose income do not meet their basic living costs and have to have what is called ‘a day job’ to make up the deficit.
But going back to the times I visited Bookbarn, one thing was very noticeable. The proportion of science fiction books for sale was not in line with the numbers for sale in bookshops. It was much lower. It seemed that science fiction readers held on to their books much longer than readers of other genres.
Similarly if I look along the book selection for sale in charity shops today, science fiction is noticeable by its absence. I really do mean absence.
I also remember a chap coming round my house when I was clearing things out for personal reasons. His eyes lit up on seeing my then paltry collection of science fiction novels (it has grown since then). Those he could sell, and I mean they would quickly find a home a relatively high prices.
All this circumstantial evidence points to a thirst for science fiction that is not being as satisfied compared with other genres.
I’m not sure why this is happening. I can speculate endlessly on its causes, but it would be just that, speculation.
Contributory factors may include: it takes longer to write a science fiction story because of the extensive world building involved; and science fiction has more scope for variety than in many other genres and therefore has more bandwidth for risk that publishers are adverse to.