Grimoire Availability

Balkan’s Arcane Bindings has put up a discussion on the high resale prices on limited edition recent occult books, along with some possible solutions.

In my experience, dealing with both occult and gaming publishing, you can distinguish between two groups of buyers for such books.  One is the collectors of first editions and rare works, who will pay high prices for particular print runs and bindings.  The second is the readers interested in the contents themselves.  The first group might find the second-hand prices for some releases expensive, but they’ve already committed to that via choosing to collect.   The second group is usually the ones that suffer under the present program of reselling.

Considering this, the best way to handle high reseller prices is for the authors and publishers to take steps to keep the material therein available in one form or another.  The book could be released in another (possibly cheaper) edition, but sometimes economies of scale make that more difficult.  As such, authors should ask the publisher to either explore other options for distribution (print on demand, e-book, etc.), or to revert the rights so they can be used elsewhere. This usually has little impact on the publisher, who has already gained much of their profit up front, and reaps rewards for the author and readers.

As for the reseller market, it must lower prices when the book is available in another edition, as those who want the content have what they want.  For example, a hardcover Necronomicon Files was running over $250 on the second-hand market before the Weiser reprint, and now it seems to have settled around $60.  This isn’t so great for those sellers, of course, but it does reap benefits for the buyer.

To qualify this:  I still believe that having printed copies of books available through traditional distributors is the best way to get widespread dissemination, and I’d encourage new authors not to pursue self-publishing or e-books as their first option for their works.  Nonetheless, these services  can perform a valuable function of keeping books that are no longer profitable on their own available.

For my part, I might be working to issue some limited edition books on magic in the near future.  With that in mind, I’ll be talking with the publisher and the rights holders about what to do after the initial print runs are sold.  I’ll see what happens.

(I might add that this is not to push all of the problem on the booksellers.  There’s at least one esoteric press that keeps its books largely unavailable as it sees paying large prices for them on the second-hand market as a sort of initiatory procedure ensuring that only the “worthy” find them.  In that case, contacting the publisher and the authors might still be of use, though likely to do much.)

Published in: on February 16, 2012 at 12:12 pm  Comments (3)  

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  2. Ideally, I think this is where a kickstarter/subscription service would be ideal. In the old days, when a book was too expensive for the publisher to print and hope to sell, they would set up a subscription (pre-orders, basically) and round up the dough that way, then print the run, hand out the copies, and everyone’s happy. You could do the same type of funding for a limited print run over the web using kickstarter: if you have enough people interested and they put enough money forward to cover the cost of printing, all is well. If there isn’t enough interest, the money is refunded and life goes on.

  3. Mmmaybe the presses should be pricing their “limited editions” a lot higher in the first place, which would also sweeten them to the idea of a cheaper “unlimited edition” later on and drive the scalpers’ profit margins down. Something tells me they wouldn’t be expressing such holier-than-thou outrage if they were the one netting the prices the middlemen are getting.

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