Why Authors Should Get Royalties On Second-Hand Copies

When buying books, it’s easy to think that you’re supporting your favourite author, but that’s not always the case. When you buy books second hand, you’re only helping the seller, even if it is your local independent second-hand bookstore or a charity shop.

Authors don’t currently receive a share in the money made from second hand copies of their work, which means that the only way to truly help the writers you love is buy their books brand new. Even then, it’s not that simple- the books sold in supermarkets and in discount stores, although new, are cheap for a reason: writers don’t make as much on them.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy your books second hand, it just means that the system needs to change. Buying books second-hand is a great way to save the environment, as new books won’t be made and then languish on people’s bookshelves, unread and uncared about. 

Thankfully, things are slowly starting to change. To help struggling authors who work hard on their art, a collective of booksellers have set up a royalty scheme to compensate authors whenever their books are purchased through their sites.

The scheme is in its early stages, with a yearly maximum amount of royalties set and a limited number of retailers currently signed up to the project. However, it’s still a step in the right direction.

Acting as a fund, the scheme will pay authors from the kitty. It’s already being touted as a game changer by many organisations in the bookselling and writing community.

It would be great to see, in the future, booksellers making an effort to provide a section of the profits to authors, particularly those who are independent writers or who have fewer alternative sources of revenue, such as TV or film right options. It might be that they could do it for writers whose works are popular on the site- so instead of paying per book, these second hand booksellers, be they shops or websites, simply pay an annual fee to popular writers for the right to stock used copies of their back catalogue.

I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out- it’s safe to say that I have nothing in my life all worked out, least of all this! However, I think that the industry needs to make sweeping changes to account for the ever-increasing trade in used copies of printed books. Some sellers even make a lot of money out of particularly difficult to find titles, but not a penny of that currently goes to the book’s writers or their estates.

A change in the system needs to be made, and while this new fund is a great start, more is required. I’m neither a bookseller nor an author- although one day I will finish my novel! I’m simply a book lover and voracious reader who thinks that, in order to get new writers to focus on their writing and have the time to dedicate to creating amazing new works of fiction, we need to pay them properly. It’s the same as in every industry; we’re seeing it currently in hospitality, where an industry that previously undervalued and mistreated its workers is having to raise wages and think long and hard about how it treats them in order to survive. The same will eventually happen in literature, as good authors stop writing full-time because they simply can’t pay their bills. When this happens, the industry will be forced to change, so it’s better that it evolves now before the change becomes inevitable.

By supporting writers and giving them some of the royalties on their books, particularly valuable first editions or uncommon books that are out of print but still sought-after by readers, booksellers could help keep the writing industry thriving and improve diversity.

After all, there’s constantly a push for greater diversity in the writing world. But, when push comes to shove, the biggest barrier is always going to be a lack of funding. Many individuals simply don’t have the time to dedicate to unpaid work that doesn’t give them any security. Others don’t have the option to choose expensive self-publishing methods or pricey book publicity agents to arrange blog tours and book signings on their behalf.

With greater earning potential comes a greater chance that a more diverse range of voices will be heard in the writing community, particularly in the fiction market. I’ve already mentioned the need to increase diversity in school reading lists, but this simply isn’t possible or sustainable if every talented novelist isn’t able to get their voices heard. That means that we need to make fiction writing a viable career, and for many, that’s simply not the case right now.

At the same time, we also need to acknowledge that second hand books are an important part of the literary market. Not every book buyer can afford to pay the initial release price for a book. Also, they might enjoy the process of browsing for used books, which have character. I personally love my copy of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, which I bought at a charity shop and contains some amazing annotations from its previous owner.

Second hand books are also better for the environment, as they mean that books that were previously sat on shelves, unused, can go to a new home. Buying used books reduces the amount of waste in the publishing industry. New books are great, but they take a lot of energy and raw materials to produce, which means that buying used copies saves resources.

Therefore, the publishing industry needs to embrace new ways to benefit both the second hand book market and authors. This new scheme is an exciting step in the right direction, but more needs to be done in the future.

Overall, I think that this scheme is an amazing idea that, if developed properly, has the potential to become a game changer for the writing industry. Hopefully it will be picked up by more book retailers over the coming months and will evolve into a practice that remains in place throughout the coming years and changes the bookselling market for the better.

The Marlow Murder Club Review: A Cosy Cryptic Mystery

It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally got round to sharing my thoughts on the popular cosy crime fiction novel The Marlow Murder Club. I’ve had the book on my TBR pile for a while, but I didn’t get around to checking it out until recently.

Written by Robert Thorogood, the creator of the longstanding TV series Death In Paradise, the book is a cute cosy crime novel. It fills ever aspect of the cosy crime fiction formula, giving you a feel-good read from start to finish.

It was published at around the same time as Richard Osman’s amazing book The Thursday Murder Club, and while the novels are similar, they’re unique in their settings and storytelling.

The Marlow Murder Club is set in a small town in Buckinghamshire, and tells the story of a eccentric old woman named Judith Potts. She lives in a mansion she inherited from her aunt, and sets crosswords as a job. She also loves to swim naked in the river wending its way behind her house, which is what she’s doing one day when she hears a scream coming from her neighbour Stefan’s house.

Then she hears a shot, which leads her to call the police. Despite the police visiting, it’s Judith herself who finds the body of her neighbour, who used to run a art gallery before he was brutally killed. He’s been shot and the police are quickly called back.

Judith isn’t taken seriously by the police, but she finds it hard to stop thinking about the crime. Then another murder takes place in the sleepy, small village, this time a local taxi driver, who is seemingly unconnected to Stefan. While investigating both crimes, Judith meets Becks, the wife of a local vicar, and Suzie, a dog walker who took care of the taxi driver’s Doberman.

At first, the dog walker is eager to join in on the fun while Becks tries desperately to stay out of it, but gradually the three unlikely friends start working together to solve the murders. Like in The Thursday Murder Club, there’s a local policewoman who just about tolerates the group enough to let them in on some of the information about the investigation.

There are plenty of similarities between the two books, including the age of the main characters, how their lives become entwined with the investigation as it continues, the fact that they all seem to know the ins and outs of everything that goes on in their small town and more.

At the same time, Thorogood’s novel is just different enough from Osman’s to make them both worth checking out; they’re definitely made to fit the same mould, but they’re also individual books. In that respect, they’re a lot like Death In Paradise: they follow a set formula but each book, as is the case with the show’s episodes, is slightly and clearly different. In that way, these novels are comforting for those of us who enjoy knowing that we’ll definitely enjoy reading a book without wanting to re-read an old favourite. We know what we’re in for, but we still get the benefit of checking out something new. It’s a win-win.

From the beginning, Thorogood gives both the reader and the main characters an obvious suspect: an obnoxious local auction house owner with a shady past who was seen fighting with Stefan a few weeks before his death. However, from the beginning both the readers and the group of characters that becomes the murder club are faced with the insurmountable issue of the character’s watertight alibis for each of the crimes.

The plot is as cryptic as the crosswords that the elderly, aristocratic protagonist Judith writes for national newspapers. She works with her two new friends to uncover the truth, and the group come up against everything from a sleazy lawyer who fakes his client’s will, through to cryptic clues, art fraud, theft and more. The group works together with the police, who after their initial apathy are eager for all the help they can get.

All the twists and turns are still predictable and comforting, making this a cosy book that’ll make you feel relaxed while still keeping you gripped. It’s like an episode of Death In Paradise, but without the vague colonial undertones and cheesy British actors who look about as out of place in the Caribbean as a Vulcan walking around a Tesco Metro.

In all, with a sequel in the works, it’s clear that The Marlow Murder Club was a hit, and while it’s probably not going to become an unforgettable classic, it’s still a great read. If you’re looking for something to read that’s cosy, comforting and uncomplicated, then this is a great choice. It’s surprisingly easy to read and delightfully entertaining, even if it’s not a hard-hitting read that will make you question humanity.

Five Inspirational Non-Fiction Books About Horses

After my recent post about the five pastoral books about birds of prey that I love reading, I thought I’d introduce my readers to five incredible books about horses.

Throughout the 2020 lockdown, I bought a lot of books about horses and their behaviour, because I adore these stunning animals. When I was younger, and I lived in Dorset, I spent a lot of time watching horses in the fields, and I also took some horse riding lessons.

Now seems like a great time to talk about books regarding horses. As a new movie showcases the remarkable story of a horse born and raised on a Welsh allotment that goes on to become a world-renowned racehorse, I felt now was the time to share some of my favourite non-fiction books about these majestic creatures.

I’ve always loved horses, even though I’ve spent very little time in their company. I think it’s the way they’re portrayed and the fact that they have such a prominent place in literature.

Also, they’re incredibly beautiful animals, with complex personalities and amazing intellect.

If you’ve never really read a lot of pastoral, non-fiction books about horses, then here’s a list to get you started.

5. In Harmony With Your Horse: How to Build a Lasting Relationship: If you either own a horse or spend a lot of time with one, then you might want to consider reading this book to find out more about their behaviour and mind-set. Experienced horse rider and enthusiast Clare Albinson has founded a riding club and spent many years honing her skills at riding horses. In this book, she discusses how to strengthen your bond with your horse and understand their behaviour. Even if you don’t have a horse, it’s still worth a read. Albinson makes animal behaviour accessible and understandable, so it’s a great book to check out if you’re looking to understand animals and their motivations.

4. Chosen by a Horse: This unique memoir by Susan Richards reminds me of Helen Macdonald’s H Is For Hawk, in that they’re both stories about how animals changed the lives of broken and damaged women. In Chosen By A Horse, Richards shares the story of how, when she arrived to adopt a horse from an emaciated herd found by an animal shelter. While trying to catch another horse and take it, an emaciated mare and her foal get into her trailer, leaving Richards to take them instead of the horse she’d intended to adopt. The mare, named Lay Me Down, helps Richards to face her feelings and changes her life for the better, all while teaching her a lot about the relationship between people and horses. 

3. Wild Ride: The Rise and Tragic Fall of Calumet Farm, Inc., America’s Premier Racing Dynasty: If you’re searching for a book that’s part thriller, part non-fiction insight into working horses, and all true, then this could be the perfect read for you. Ann Hagedorn Auerbach takes an in-depth look into the rise and calamitous fall of one of America’s premier Thoroughbred racehorse breeders, Calumet Farm. For generations the farm bred and trained superstar racehorses that won some of the sport’s most prestigious awards and races. However, behind the scenes, financial skulduggery and dodgy dealings became the stable’s downfall and ultimately led to its destruction. The story’s almost too fantastic to be true, but if you’re a fan of horse racing then this is a great book that you should definitely check out.

2. Bill the Bastard: The Story of Australia’s Greatest War Horse: Frankly, I only really took any notice of this book because it has a swear word in the title, and that’s refreshing. I’m bloody glad I did pick it up and give it a read, because it’s an intriguing and unique portrait of an intriguing and unique horse. The book tells the story of Major Michael Shanahan, the only man who could ride a huge war horse sent from Australia to the Middle East to help fight in the light horse force. A combination of historical fact and fictionalised portrayal of how a huge, impressive but aloof horse was tamed and became a legend. By sharing the details of both the way that horses get treated during war and the relationship they have with their riders, this book is a great read for anyone who wants to learn and enjoy an unforgettable story about how man and horse can come together to do good.

1. The Horse: The Epic History of Our Noble Companion: Wendy William’s unique book combines her personal experiences caring for these beautiful animals and her extensive studies on their history. By travelling the world and interviewing a range of archaeologists and horse experts, Williams is able to present a complete overview of how horses came to partner with humans and why they’re still such a feature of our lives, even today, after technology has reduced our need to ride horses for transport. For anyone who wants a complete overview of the history of horses, from their initial descendants to their modern roles in sport and as working pets, this is an unforgettable read that you’ll struggle to put down.

Why Golden Age Crime Fiction Is A Great Choice For Summer

Despite what you might think, summer is a great time for reading. While you’re relaxing on the beach or making your way to a fun outing in the sun, you’ll need something fun to keep you occupied.

That’s why reading is a great pastime- in the summer, it’s easy to do and doesn’t require you to get sweaty or wear any fancy protective gear. It’s also a cheap and accessible way to spend your time. Whether the weather outside is frightful even in the summer (I live in the UK, so it usually is), or it’s finally giving us a blast of sunlight, you can enjoy a good book.

Buying books for winter is a lot easier than for summer. When reading in the winter, you’re looking for something unique and gripping that will give you thrills. In the summer, however, you’re looking for something comforting and interesting, that will mean that you don’t have to think too much, especially when it’s hot and you don’t want to have to strain your brain.

If you’re looking for books to read in summer, then I’ve found the perfect solution: Golden Age crime fiction is the way to go. It’s the perfect blend of cosy fiction and instantly familiar stories.

As you might have guessed from my recent post about my favourite underrated characters from Agatha Christie novels, I’ve been on a bit of a Golden Age crime fiction binge lately. Primarily I’ve been re-reading old faves, but I’ve also checked out some exciting new books in this genre.

That’s because, as the sun finally starts to come out in the UK (it’s only June after all), I’ve found myself delving back into the arms of my old Golden Age crime favourites. I’ve enjoyed a lot of these books and stories in the past, and now I’m happy to be re-reading them now that the sun’s out.

For me, Golden Age crime fiction is the ultimate in summer reading. When you’re looking for comfort and something to cheer you up, a rip-roaring thriller is the ideal way to bring yourself out of your shell. As long as it’s not too gory, a police procedural or a modern thriller usually fits the bill for cheering me up.

When it comes to sunshine, I need something fun and calm, and I want something that’s set during a sunny period. Many Golden Age crime fiction writers wrote books and short stories set in sunny climates, so I can usually find something sunny and bright.

That’s particularly important when you live somewhere like England: where we get like four hours of sunshine every year, usually in bloody May. Right now, we’ve been very fortunate to have some nice weather, and I want to make the most of it by reading books that transport me to a sunny place, even in the evenings when it goes dark.

Still, I don’t want to read those awful romance books that some of my friends take on holiday with them. I want something that still interests me and is gripping, rather than just some soppy book that’s simply set in sunny climes.

That’s why I love reading Golden Age crime fiction during the summer, particularly when we get rare bouts of sunny weather in the UK, or if I travel to another country with decent weather. Books by classic authors from the period, including my old favourites Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers are great for taking on holiday, or a staycation, or to simply enjoy at home.

There are also Golden Age style novels, written today, that can give you the feel of traditional, quaint cosy crime fiction. One of my favourite modern series that feels like traditional Golden Age crime fiction is the Phryne Fisher novels by the amazing Kerry Greenwood. These amazing books are set in the 1920s, and feature an incredible female protagonist who’s unconventional detective style allows her to uncover the truth about a range of sordid crimes and murders.

If you want to check out something that feels familiar, then you could consider some reimagined version of your favourite Golden Age crime fiction serials. There’s plenty of incredible reimagined crime series out there, including Sophie Hannah’s amazingly authentic Poirot stories and Jill Paton Walsh’s version of the Lord Peter Wimsey books. Whatever you like, you’ll be able to find something that you love that extends your enjoyment of your favourite Golden Age book series this summer.

So, if you’re searching for a new book or a series of novels that will help you to enjoy the summer sunshine, then I think you should check out Golden Age crime fiction. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or you’ve never even read an Agatha Christie novel (how I don’t know, but I’m sure there must be at least one of you out there somewhere), you should try reading Golden Age crime fiction this summer.

The President’s Daughter Review: A Punchy Political Thriller That’s Ideal For Summer

Following the success of their first novel together, The President Is Missing, former U.S President Bill Clinton and internationally acclaimed thriller writer James Patterson have collaborated on another book, which is due to be published next week.

This new book is titled The President’s Daughter, and despite the similarities in the titles, it’s a standalone novel, not part of a series with the previous book. That means a whole new cast of characters and a completely new tale. It also means that you don’t have to have read The President Is Missing to enjoy this new novel.

It’s a book about the kidnapping of a teenage girl, who’s father is a former Navy SEAL who later served as the President of the U.S. With his daughter kidnapped by a former enemy, he’s left to use his skills to track down his little girl and get her back safely, a journey that takes him around the world and into dangerous situations.

The title of the book is slightly misleading: by the time she’s kidnapped, Mel Keating’s father Matt is an ex-president, and has been so for 2 years. He’s now living quietly in a small house in a small town in New Hampshire, while his wife is working on an archaeological dig in Boston.

Mel was out hiking when she’s abruptly snatched from the trail and her boyfriend is shot dead in front of her. Now, she’s in the hands of a dangerous terrorist: a man whose own daughters, along with his wife, were killed while Keating’s men were exploring his compound during his presidency.  

Now, this terrorist is out for revenge, and he has the former President’s daughter in his clutches. Emotions run high as the former President and his wife watch in horror as the current administration, which already betrayed them politically, now fails them in trying to recover their precious daughter.

Switching between different perspectives, including Matt Keating, his wife, his daughter and the terrorists who hold her captive, the new President, the secret service agents working with Keating to find his daughter, and various international diplomats, the two authors create a varied and intense narrative. By withholding information from the reading, and showing us the initial, horrified reactions of a variety of characters, the writers turn even simple plot points into thrilling passages.

One of the downsides to this technique is that it does make the book much longer. The President’s Daughter is an immense volume with over 100 chapters split into 5 parts, plus en epilogue. Despite this extraordinary length, the book is surprisingly easy to read.

Clinton and Patterson do a good job of creating tension and making Matt Keating, the former POTUS protagonist, realistic and believable. We can really feel his pain and empathise with his feelings of impotence and inadequacy as he watches the hostage situation unfold. He feels powerless, until he decides to go off-script, in true action hero fashion, and take matters into is own hands.

Armed with a selection of weapons he understands from his days as a Navy SEAL, his grief, and a handful of security operatives and high-level contacts that he can trust, Matt Keating sets out to take down the terrorist who took his little girl. All the while, the truth is obscured and it’s unclear as to who Keating, or the reader, can trust.

While the pair are both clearly very good at writing powerful male characters, they fall seriously short when it comes to portraying women. Despite the sheer volume of female characters, the novel is very clearly written by men. The female characters are almost entirely either women who behave like the male characters and are almost indistinguishable from them, as is the case with the female secret agents, or they’re entirely controlled by men.

That’s the case with the new President, Pamela Barnes. She is married to a former cowboy, who’s now her chief of staff and who controls her. He literally makes decisions on her behalf. Her character is a caricature of what the first female President of America might look like, which is frankly shocking from the husband of a woman who stood a decent chance of becoming the first real life female POTUS if it wasn’t for America’s overwhelming racism and bigotry. Even when Pamela Barnes does eventually wise up to her husband’s debauchery and ditch him, she’s still facing the fallout from his past decision making.

Also, Clinton and Patterson both miss out on the irony of the female characters, particularly the secret service and FBI operatives, being constantly mansplained at and being overlooked for top jobs by incompetent men. There are plenty of male characters in this book who are clearly completely useless at their roles, but meanwhile women are running around cleaning up their messes and generally just doing their jobs for them.

For me, it’s characters and writing like this that makes me wish for more inclusivity and female perspectives in the crime fiction and thriller market. The women in The President’s Daughter have all accepted their fates as helpless and waiting for rescue, puppets or tokens. It’s such a shame that neither of the writers could take the time to consult with a woman, or research real women in power, before they put this book together.

The same goes for the foreign characters, many of whom appear to be a string of stereotypes clustered together. There are a few redeeming paragraphs which show some small international cooperation and appear to suggest that not all foreigners are bad, but for the most part the novel is incredibly regressive and filled with out-dated values. It’s hardly inclusivity if you include diverse characters but write them from your own, ignorant perspective.

This is the biggest let down the novel has, but if you can look beyond the lack of real diversity and the weird characterisation of everyone other than the ex-Navy SEAL turned former POTUS and his male security detail, then this is an interesting read. Patterson has written hundreds of books over the years, many of which have become international bestsellers. Combined with Clinton’s knowledge of the U.S political system, and you’ve got an interesting read that can help make your staycation feel like a really relaxing break. There’s not a lot of complicated plot points or information to absorb, so you can just sit back and enjoy the ride through this action-packed book.

Overall, if you enjoy fast-paced thrillers then you could find that The President’s Daughter is right up your street. Written by a former President and a master of popular thrillers, the book is a well-researched page-turner. It’ll be a great read for the summer. If you’re looking for a book with substances and a social conscience, then this isn’t the novel for you, but it’s still a great way to pass the time. It might be a hefty book, but it’ll fly by and you’ll be shocked by how quickly you finish it thanks to Patterson’s narrative skills.