I hope you can answer that question, and I hope it wasn’t too long ago.

We’re all writers here, aren’t we?

We all either depend on book royalties or hope to depend on book royalties for at least some portion of our income, don’t we?

Though we do get royalties when libraries buy our books, we need actual individual people to do the same if we’re hoping to cover more than a trip to the grocery store every year.

We’re all readers, too, aren’t we?

We better be. Though I’ve also said you shouldn’t limit yourself to only books, I’ve joined any number of other authors and editors (including Stephen King in his book On Writing) who’ll tell you that if you want to write, you better damn well be reading, too.

My daughter is finishing up her last few weeks of college, which has been a drain on our finances over the last few years—believe me—and for a few other reasons I’ve been trying to be more frugal lately, trying not to overspend, trying to manage my personal finances in smart ways, and so on.

For a while there I was spending as much as $100 a week—at least $50—on books. Yes, you heard that right. Going to bookstores, browsing, and buying, was my number one hobby. Until, that is, I started tracking my spending better and realized, yeah, while we transition from full time employee to full time freelancer/consultant, we can’t really keep doing that.

The good news for my reading time is that during that period I collected a crap-ton of books. I have at least a couple thousand at home that I have not yet read. With time for anything in short supply these days, I read for pleasure as much as I can but still might read only, maybe, thirty books a year or so, which means during those careless, wild book-buying spree years I socked away a 67-year supply of reading material. I should be good until the age of 118.


I need to read more. If I can get that to an average of a book a week, I can get through my library just before my 90th birthday.


You don’t have to own that many books, even if you read more in a year than I manage.

Still, though that $50-$100/week in books has trickled away, I still buy books and have a huge Amazon whish list. I hang out at bookstores, just not nearly as often as I used to, and frankly, not often enough.

A little while ago I mused over the fact that I’m not keeping current, and gave myself a challenge to read more recently-published books along with the classics and obscure old science fiction, and this is also a challenge to buy books a little more often.

There has to be a sweet spot somewhere between $100/week and never.

How much can you afford to spend?

If your budget is tight, borrow books from the library or from friends. I shop at used bookstores and don’t get the slightest bit upset when I see one of my own books there. My kids ran across a copy of Annihilation in a Half Price Books store that had been stamped DISCARDED across the cover for some reason. They thought that was hilarious. But hopefully someone rescued it for half price and enjoyed it.

Can’t wait for the new book by your favorite author and need to shell out full price for the hardcover? Great. Like eBooks and have it shot right from Amazon (or wherever) to your favorite device? Fantastic.

But come on, us. If we don’t buy books, who the heck will? And how can we ask other people to do the same?


I tried valiantly to get National Buy a Book Day up and running but just couldn’t manage the commitment. Let’s say that any day you have the money to spend and a book you find interesting is International Buy a Book Day. But if you like the idea of a community like that, I’ll remind you that April 30th is Independent Bookstore Day. I genuinely hope you can find an independent bookstore in your area. If you can, go there and buy a book or you will very soon find yourself among the increasing population of people who can’t find an independent bookstore in their area.

Then please venture back out on May 7 for Free Comic Book Day. And while you’re there, buy a comic book.

Comic books are cool, too.


—Philip Athans


About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
This entry was posted in Books, comic books, E-Books, horror novels, how to write fantasy, how to write fiction, how to write horror, how to write science fiction, indie publishing, POD, Publishing Business, Pulp Fiction, Romance Novels, Science Fiction & Fantasy Novels, SF and Fantasy Authors, transmedia, Writing, writing advice, writing fantasy, writing horror, writing science fiction, Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Mark says:

    If I cant bring a book I search all over the net and read some stories. Fantasy is not really a break from the real world. It’s a method of getting it.

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