Releasing a Book into the Wild

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I’m not a big fan of used books, for obvious reasons (just in case it’s not obvious. . . neither author nor publisher makes money on the sale of a used book, and the only way an author will get a new contract is by making money for the publisher, and the only way readers will be able to continue reading their favorite authors is if those authors get new contracts). When books are out of print, though, I buy them used and love that the Internet has made that so easy to do. But this post is about used books that are not being sold. They’re being released into the wild for another reader to find. And last week, I found my very first wild book!

I’ve known about for years, but I never stumbled across a released book, which accounts for my excitement. I sat down in my favorite cushy chair at Starbucks. On the table next to me were three neatly stacked books, which I assumed someone had forgotten. Then I spotted a note on the front of one of the books. It read I am not lost, and I knew I’d found a Bookcrossing book. It had an identifying number inside, which I plugged into the appropriate page on the Bookcrossing website. Then I could see where my new book had been. It had only one owner before me, which explains why it looks so sparkling new. I had trouble deciding which of the three books to take; I wanted to leave a couple behind for the next lucky person. I decided on The Keep, by Jennifer Egan. It looked intriguing, but not like my usual fare. It was free, so why not give a new-to-me author a try? Which brings me to my next point.

There are authors who don’t like for the same reason they (and I) squirm when thinking about used book sales (I’ll probably be hearing from some of them. . . ). But I see it differently. It’s unlikely a book you stumble across is one you were planning to buy, and it may introduce you to a new-to-you author–one whose books you just may buy in the future if the one you picked up is good. And besides, it’s such a cool sociological experiment to follow a book as it travels the world ( is international).

The Keep is now in my ridiculously tall to-be-read pile. Once I’ve read it, I’ll take it back to Starbucks, where I’ll set it free for the next lucky reader to find.


  1. Gina on December 8, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Diane, I’ve been a member of Book Crossing for years and have never had anyone pickup any of my books that I left behind at Starbucks nor have I ever found any. I’m surprised to hear that you found not one but several! WOW! You hit the jackpot.
    I think Book Crossing is a wonderful way to share books.
    And tell me about it! My “to read” pile is getting high too. SO many books, too little time.

  2. Denise on December 9, 2008 at 2:04 am

    I understand your feelings about used books, Diane. I completely understand the logic. Alternatively, if we weren’t able to get used books, your newer readers would be robbed of the opportunity to read your out-of-print books…so that makes used books a good thing, right? Lol
    I just added a new Cathy Kelly promo to my growing stack of to-reads. It never ends!

  3. Nan G on December 9, 2008 at 5:29 am

    As an author, I’m with you on this. But what to do with used books? The country is full, overflowing. I say we ship them to underprivileged, English speaking, areas of the world. If that’s not possible, then used book dealers could be required to pay royalties on all in-print books sold.
    Okay, I’ll never get elected to Congress on this platform, but one or both of these could work.

  4. Diane Chamberlain on December 9, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Denise, I’m totally with you on the out-of-print books. I buy them on ebay when I can find them, and I send people to ebay for my out-of-print titles. I just saw my first book go for $195 on an ebay-type site! But you can also find it for 99 cents, so go figure. LOL.
    Nancy, I love your idea of shipping the books to people who’d enjoy them. I regularly send boxes of books to our soldiers overseas via one of my writer friends who handles that sort of thing. That’s another great use for them.
    I’m not sure why the ‘used book dealers paying a small royalty’ concept has never flown as a legitimate idea. I belong to Novelists, Inc, a great organization of published novelists, and this and other ideas has been explored, but for some reason found to be impossible. Authors are often accused of being greedy when they address this issue. I think many people don’t understand that writing is our livelihood as well as our passion–and that livelihood is shrinking. As anyone would do when their jobs are threatened, authors are trying to come with creative solutions to the problem.

  5. Margo on December 9, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Diane, I love that you send books overseas to our soldiers! Nan, I believe I’ve heard of an organization that accepts donated books and then ships them to underprivileged areas of the world…several years ago a friend mentioned it but I don’t think she new the name. I would gladly donate if I knew who they were.
    I have always believed in supporting authors and bookstores, therefore my dollars are spent for new books 1st, then for food, clothing etc. My mother taught me to love books as a child and she believed in supporting authors above all else so that has carried over to me. I do not visit used bookstores because of this but I completely understand people who must watch every dollar and cannot afford the price of a new book…
    Everyone, my ‘to read’ pile is HUGE, especially since I’ve discovered new authors thru Diane’s wonderful website. LOL, I think I’d be sad if I didn’t have this pile…I love knowing there’s another great book in the stack! (-:

  6. Margo on December 9, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Another way I support authors is by buying their books for gifts…and this year especially I am giving LOTS of books as Xmas presents to loved ones, friends and children in need. BEFORE THE STORM is the main book I’m giving this year. (-:

  7. ronnie on December 10, 2008 at 8:53 am

    I understand completely about supporting authors and it also transcends to all arts, including those who buy bootleg movies and borrow cd’s from friends to make their own copies. That I guess is a whole other topic for discussion.
    On a personal level, I love new books. It is my biggest vice. I have done for books what Imelda Marcos did for shoes. I buy more than I read. After I have a stash of read books I donate them to the public library. Everyone has their little idiosyncrasy and my is, I don’t like books where I don’t know where they have been. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a “germ-a-phobe” but have you guys ever taken a book out of the library or borrowed a book from a friend and there are all these stains on the pages? Do you know where they have been? I like reading in bed and I don’t want to bring who knows what into bed with me. A friend once let me borrow a very used copy of The Other Boleyn Girl. I was really enjoying it, till I read about 50 pages and there were these brown stains on the pages. I know my friend is a chocoholic(at least I hope that’s what it was), but I couldn’t get past it so I went out and bought my own copy. I really am not a certifiable lunatic, I am just slightly neurotic. I hope everyone enjoyed my little rant, I have to go and wash my hands now. (just kidding)
    By the way, instead of Ebay I ordered Diane’s earlier books directly from Diane. I treasure each one of them and thank you for taking the time to sign them so they will always be special.

  8. Denise on December 10, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Ronnie, it’s funny you’d mention ‘germs’ and not knowing where a book has been. I have that issue, too. Lol!!!

  9. Diane Chamberlain on December 10, 2008 at 10:10 am

    tee hee, you guys make me laugh. My long-time writer buddy, Patricia McLinn, wanted to start a national campaign against used books, using the slogan “Do You Know Where That Book Has Been?” I don’t think she thought about library books.
    Speaking of which, my ex-husband loved a particular author so much that he put a note in one of his books at the library, saying something like “If you love this author as much as I do and want to talk about his books, contact me at (phone number).” I thought that was so cute. He got one call, months later. He wasn’t home, so I spoke to the woman, who was in her seventies and who was charmed by the whimsy of his note.
    Ronnie, I love that I was able to send you the books you wanted!

  10. brenda on December 10, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    I donate my books to the library here or in my daughter’s community…they use them or sell them to make money for the library to buy more NEW BOOKS. As to the germs…I am a real germaphobic (teacher), but it does not bother me about library books-who knows who touched the new books by the time I buy them…I handle books in the book store, and I am sure many others do too…Used books-love them when I can get them…the suggestion: one way to try a new author and then get his/her NEW ones…I just plain love books. Had it not been for the BOOKMOBILE when I was a child, I would not have “visited” so many places…

  11. Gina on December 10, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    LOL on the book germs! That made me laugh. I actually DO think about that when I’m reading library books too. I thought I was the only one!

  12. Denise on December 10, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    I think old paperbacks look ‘germier’ (is that a word?) than hardcovers. I once had someone give me a bag of old paperbacks she’d bought at a garage sale. I didn’t want to touch them without gloves.
    Gosh, I didn’t realize I had this fetish until now…thanks, ladies!

  13. ronnie on December 11, 2008 at 8:40 am

    Diane, being true to form, I just figured out there are 3 books of yours that I haven’t owned/read so i just ordered them from your website: Cypress Point, The Courage Tree and The Escape Artist. Do you have a favorite of these three? I know it is like asking who is your favorite child……..

  14. Denise on December 11, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Ronnie, I loved all three of those books!

  15. Margo on December 11, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Ronnie, all 3 of Diane’s are wonderful but I have to say CYPRESS POINT is phenomenal! I quess I’m partial to that 1 since it takes place at the Big Sur area which I love…with an unforgettable story!
    You are all so funny with the fetish on used books…I’m the same way and I thought I was the only 1! I will buy a used book if there is 1 in particular I’m looking for and it’s out of print. Otherwise I buy new. When I 1st discovered Diane with KEEPER OF THE LIGHT 15 years ago I wanted to find SECRET LIVES which was out of print. I found an excellent hardbound edition in a very ‘clean’ bookstore and today it sits on my Diane shelf. By the way, SECRET LIVES is an incredible story if some of you haven’t read it. (-:

  16. brenda on December 11, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Ronnie-I loved all of those…Escape Artist one of my favorites…
    I hope I have all of Diane’s books…if I don’t, I will certainly be looking for them.
    I am breathing easily tonight. I have finished grades for both colleges…now the high school…I have one semester to do ONE JOB-full time–and get some projects accomplished-and some health issues handled. I will miss the classes I teach at one of the colleges-my therapy.
    I finished the Brady Girl book-quite surprising…
    Margo-what are you reading?
    I am going to throw in my GERM story…YUCK…I do not carry a purse to work-on brief case…but since I carry a purse everywhere else, I throw them out regularly-thus inexpensive purses. Rachel Ray had a show that presented the “germy” purses…I can’t stand to use one after a trip…I try to be careful but…Also, my backpacks-I also buy inexpensive ones and after a long trip, I get rid of it…when it sits in an airport, etc. So many restrooms do not have places to hang backpack/purse. (When I travel by air, I do not take a purse…
    So–sorry, but that is my big one. Germs stay on those things…

  17. brenda on December 12, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Diane-thanks for telling us about LOVING FRANK…We are off today for ice/cold/snow (I was up and ready to go when I thought we had a two hour delay…oh well…) Dislike having the day off-will make it up at the end of the school year. Anyway, I love love love this book, and I suppose the reason I missed it last year-first book by this author, and my library did not have it. They did the borrowing thing from a branch. It is fantastic-Margo-you will like it. It is historical fiction which I enjoy…well written…an easy read…one wonders what is real and what is not. I hesitate to ask D. any questions in discussion as I know most of you will want to read it-hopefully. Let me know.

  18. Margo on December 12, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Hi Brenda…I hope next semester is a little easier on you. Glad you have a day off today to rest and read…our weather is bitter cold with light snow. I’m reading THE HOST which is very diff from TWILIGHT…very advanced writing and I’ll admit the first 30 pages were a little confusing but after that, it all makes sense…on page 60 and reading slow so I don’t miss anything…it’s diff from anything I’ve read before and so intriguing…I’m really loving it!…Brenda, you and Diane have me interested in LOVING FRANK…
    What is everyone else reading?
    Gina, I hope your enjoying BREAKING DAWN…I still miss those people (er, I mean vampires) (-O:

  19. DIane Chamberlain on December 12, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Hi all, I’m traveling right now with VERY iffy internet service (we’re in Long Island visiting John’s relatives; then Sunday, down to New Jersey to visit mine–I THINK I’ll have better access down there and can finally get a new blog post up).
    Anyway, to answer your question about which of those three books is my favorite, Ronnie, you’re right–it’s akin to asking a parent which child is her favorite. And I’ll give you the answer every good parent gives: I love them all equally, for different reasons. I love THE COURAGE TREE because I love the concept of the courage tree and the theme of sacrifice that emerges. I love CYPRESS POINT because it involves a wise older woman (are there any older women who have not become wise??), a fabulous setting, and some great twists. And I love THE ESCAPE ARTIST because it’s rather simply told (for a change) and involves a moral dilemma, my favorite kind (in fiction; not in my life!) THE ESCAPE ARTIST is the book of mine which came closest to being made into a movie, so Hollywood liked it, too.
    Brenda, believe it or not, I’m still reading LOVING FRANK. Or rather, listening to it. I can only get to it when I’m cooking or cleaning or in the car, and obviously, I don’t do those first two things too often, since I’m only about two thirds of the way through the book. I’m enjoying it, but I’m having trouble sympathizing with the main character. It’s hard for me to understand leaving your children. I’m trying, tho.
    Meanwhile, I’ve reached the halfway mark in the 700+ pages of THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED.

  20. Gina on December 12, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Margo, I finished Breaking Dawn last week. Forgot to tell you! It took me awhile to get through the book, I felt like she dragged it out a little too long. There was alot of filler in this one. But, I have to say, I definitely liked the ending. I don’t believe for a minute that it was her last book in the series. There are so many ways to continue with the story. I think I’m done with vampires for awhile though. I want to go back to “regular” people. LOL
    I’m reading The Given Day right now by Lehane. Loving it so far.
    Brenda, I have the Brady girl book on my Christmas list. I’d like to read that too. I grew up watching the Bradys. I heard she was very candid in her memoir. I’m anxious to read it.
    Diane, I hope you are still enjoying HIFB.
    Have a great weekend everyone.

  21. brenda on December 12, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Gina…I suggest reading the BRADY book from library, etc…not really worth reading over again…However…was interesting…nothing new that hasn’t been said before…
    Diane-LOVING FRANK…Just an example of how ONE choice changes so many lives…I agree with you-I so totally did not agree with the main character…This from a woman who took fertility drugs and stayed in bed for my pregnancies…

  22. Margo on December 12, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    I have a hard time understanding women who leave their children. Don’t know if I want to read LOVING FRANK now.
    Diane, how do you like THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED? I think there’s a Wally Lamb book for me under the
    X-mas tree which was recommended by you. Is this new 1 as good as the others?

  23. brenda on December 14, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Margo-don’t miss Loving Frank…a well written book…

  24. Denise on December 14, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    I’m currently reading KNIT TWO, the sequel to THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB, and am really enjoying it! I am not sure what I’ll read next but probably the new Cathy Kelly advanced copy I was fortunate enough to get at work. 🙂
    I’m dying to hear what Diane thinks of THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED after she’s finished.
    My (Borders) store manager told me recently that she heard Wally Lamb speak at one of the manager conferences. I asked what she thought of him. Her reply was: “Quirky.” Lol!

  25. brenda on December 14, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Request for INFO…as you guys know, I have traveled most of US (I am old!!!!)…However, next year, I will be going to Washington and California-two states that have evaded me in my journey. My son will be doing another Ironman (three actually next year)…in Couer d’Alene, Idaho (I’ve been to Idaho). Anyway, we are staying in Spokane for a week-driving to Ironman. He has a great hotel already. I am flying on to San Francisco for a few days…alone…he has to get back to his work…any suggestions on hotel for me???? I will fly into San Francisco-short trip…stay about 3 nights…I want to stay near public transportation. I plan to do as I usually do in cities–take the bus tours…

  26. brenda on December 14, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Margo-are you enjoying your time off? I am back to school tomorrow until the 23rd…we work up until C’mas Eve-then family…yea!!!! My son will be here from the 24th until Jan 5!!!. My daughter and her family will be here from the 24th until sometime the next week…lots of Nana’s cooking…can’t wait…
    Just finished my latest Thomas Kinkade book (I get them each year.) This one-so so sad. Read the latest V.C. Andrews-what is with that–she died…and “they” are carrying on for her. However, I still think the best book I have read lately is LOVING FRANK–don’t agree with the woman-but the historical fiction was fantastic…first time novelist-go…

  27. Margo on December 14, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    Denise, what has Cathy Kelly written? I’m anxious to hear from Diane too…I believe she’s traveling to John’s family right now so that’s probably why I haven’t heard her reply on THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED. I’m sure she’ll answer soon on it.
    Brenda, I’m LOVING my time off!…have finished several paintings for clients in time for X-mas so now I can sit back and do whatever I want…I’ve stayed up late every nite watching movies and reading THE HOST which is really, really good!…I’m also sketching some new ideas for a few art projects I’ll begin after the first of the year. Not sure how everyone else’s weather is but ours has turned bitter, bitter cold and high wind gusts…and it’s starting to snow again so I’m curled up in front of the fire with a quilt, my hot cocoa and my book.
    Brenda, I’m really excited for you that all your family will be with you at X-mas…I’m sure your pretty anxious for the 23rd to get here! (-O:
    P.S…Brenda, I’ve been to San Francisco but it’s been quite awhile ago so can’t help much on the hotel.

  28. Diane Chamberlain on December 14, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    We’re in New Jersey now. I immediately had some Jersey food (Taylor Ham and Cheese sandwich) when we crossed the state line, and now we’ve settled into my sister’s house in beautiful Chatham. I love the little villages in this part of NJ–bustling NY suburbs, full of charm and good (if not good for you) food. We’ve seen four movies in the 24 hours since we arrived: THE VISITOR (rental; excellent); IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and WEST SIDE STORY on TV; and SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE recommended by my author friend, Alexandra Sokoloff. My sister Joann, John and I went to see it (jampacked theater) and it was so good, both in terms of subject matter and the storytelling and film-making perspectives. Some grisly, close-your-eyes stuff early on, but the ending put a lump in my throat (in a good way.)
    I love THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED, and will write more about it when I finish (still about 80 pages to go.
    Margo, congrats on all the paintings you’re completing! I know you love this month off. And Brenda, soon you’ll get to be with family, yourself. Take care everyone. I’m about to write a blog post. . .

  29. Denise on December 15, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Margo, one of Cathy Kelly’s most recent novels was PAST SECRETS. She has written a number of others. She is an Irish author. I suppose I’d classify her as “Irish chick lit.” Lol
    It sounds like you are having a great time, Diane! Thank you for the movie suggestions.

  30. Tracee on September 2, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    I understand that all authors want to get paid for their work. However, I also know that there are millions of authors out there and, realistically, not all of them are good. How do I select which books and authors on which to spend my time and money? Do I stick with the tried and true or gamble on someone else? A free or cheap (used) book makes me much more likely to take a chance on an unknown. If I enjoy that book, then I’ve just added someone to my “tried and true” list and am much more likely to purchase something from them. If I didn’t like it, maybe there is a reason for that. It might be my preferences … or it might not. I have been finding a lot of books lately that have clearly not been edited or proofread. Words are misspelled or the wrong word is used or the grammar is incorrect or the plot has major inconsistencies. For example, PUBLISHED WORKS will state that a character’s interest was “peaked” and they don’t mean that the character reached some apex! (It should be piqued, by the way). When I see that, I think the author didn’t care enough about their work why did I just waste my money on it? Money that could have been spent on another author. Authors who indulge in churning out substandard work have every reason to fear used book stores, libraries, and Quality authors, however, should not. Their work will stand on its own merits and will find an audience.
    PS. I am not stating anything about your merits – pro or con – as an author.

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