The Definition of Crazy

It’s back to school time, which means I’m back to yelling at my wall because I don’t like yelling at people.

Every August, as freshman start moving into dormitories, the last minute phone calls and e-mails from campus bookstores start flying into Black Irish Books.

Them: Do you have The War of Art available?

Us: Yes.

Them: What is the discount?

Us: Fifty-five percent off orders of ten copies or more.

Them: A professor wants six books for her class.

Us: It’s cheaper to buy ten books.

Them: She only needs six.

Us: I know, but you’d save money if you bought ten.

Them: I’m only authorized to buy what the professor orders.

Us: Six books it is.

I know I need to drop it. Their poor business practices shouldn’t bother me, but . . . Drives me up the wall.

Whenever I read about the rising costs of college tuition and the costs associated with running these centers for higher education, I want to scream.

The books that go along with the tuition would be less if the schools inspired better decision making. AND—this is a BIG AND—in addition to ensuring lower costs for students, the schools would ensure profits for themselves.

Here’s a breakdown of the costs related to purchasing one to ten copies of The War of Art. Note that the 55% bulk rate hits at the ten-book mark, which means it is cheaper to buy ten books than it is to buy five-to-nine books.

1 = $12.95
2 = $25.90
3 = $38.85
4 = $51.80
5 = $64.75
6 = $77.70
7 = $90.65
8 = $103.60
9 = $116.55
10 = $58.30

We don’t pay for shipping either, so the school stores have no way to run on the positive, unless they sell the book above the cover price—an act that would turn students running for alternate shopping locations.

I contacted the corporate office of one of the stores in the past, to let them know that they could save money. I was thanked for the information—and then the next semester rolled around and more of the same occurred.

It’s like being in the movie Ground Hog Day, except I’ve failed in the role of Phil. Each time he faced Crazy he tried a different strategy, until he finally hit upon something that worked. Every semester I’ve faced Crazy, Crazy shows up just as he did the semester before.

Stay tuned for next semester, when I complain about the professors who e-mail requests for free desk copies because their departments don’t have a budget for buying desk copies.

Rant over.

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  1. Joe Fusco on August 25, 2017 at 5:02 am

    I guess the good news is that they’re teaching “The War of Art.”

  2. Mary Doyle on August 25, 2017 at 5:37 am

    Love this rant Callie! What the bookstores also aren’t taking into account (no pun intended) is how many of the students will just order online anyway. And I agree with Joe – the good news is that they’re teaching “The War of Art.”

    • Paul Garrett on August 25, 2017 at 11:56 am

      In my experience college book stores are way overpriced. The column above gives some explanation. I wonder how badly online book sales cut into college book stores’ bottom lines. When my daughter was in college she bought her math book online for 35 cents and sold it to the bookstore at the end of the semester for something like $40.00

  3. Michael Beverly on August 25, 2017 at 6:23 am

    When spending other peoples money…what does cost matter?

    You’d think the Kindle edition would be considered…or used copies…since these are students.

    No worries, the money for education is free (seemingly).

    • Paul Garrett on August 25, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      When I went to college at a state school way back in the seventies, books were free. You checked them out at the beginning of the semester and turned them back in when the semester was over. What ever happened to that idea?

  4. Jeff Korhan on August 25, 2017 at 6:52 am

    This is why I left corporate America.

    Even at the executive level, you are not rewarded to win but to not screw up.

    It’s sad, but he or she made the right decision for their bureaucratic world.

  5. Mike Wagner on August 25, 2017 at 6:58 am

    Years ago I began to tell myself and share with others a simple sanity preserving phrase, “If it involves people, it doesn’t have to make sense.” Works for me. Hope it helps.

  6. Brian Nelson on August 25, 2017 at 7:49 am

    Most people need a good butt-chewing a few times in their life. It does a body good. This technique has been used for generations in the Army, but it only works when the yeller is acting.

    I saw a couple of professors at Costco yesterday (they are both sculptors…honestly I could barely believe the small campus of UW-Tacoma could support two sculpting professors) buying a flat-screen TV for an upcoming event. Way more than 6 copies of War of Art.

    I know one of them from the YMCA. Steve had just written about ‘chipping out the story’ like a sculptor on Wednesday, so I told them about this blog, War of Art, Black Irish Books, etc. They took notes.

    As frustrating as it is to read today’s blog, I think it is as rewarding to connect with a couple of artists with whom I share no professional context. The War of Art’s universal message resonates, and I know their lives will be richer once they read that and this blog.

  7. fjr on August 25, 2017 at 7:54 am

    Maybe, if you want them to save the students some money, you should tell them there are 150 used copies available right now from Amazon and to buy them that way if they want to rather than getting new copies directly from you.
    It won’t matter, though, because college students know this and will buy theirs from Amazon anyway!
    My son is a sophomore at a New England school, and I notice the bookstore there doesn’t even carry the books for most of his classes.

  8. Julie Murphy on August 25, 2017 at 8:45 am

    It’s encouraging to hear The War of Art is being taught. Thanks for the insights, Callie.

  9. Connie Taylor on August 25, 2017 at 9:00 am

    Interesting post. generally, I find professors ask for a free review copy and then when they select the book for their class, request a free desk copy. Then the book store orders one copy. All the students purchase from Amazon as that is where the sales come from.

  10. Renita on August 25, 2017 at 11:46 am

    I’m glad to see Steve’s book is out there. It’s cozy to feel connected through it.

  11. Paul Garrett on August 25, 2017 at 11:52 am

    I used to work in a small technical college. We didn’t have a reading program, our only English class was Composition, but once a year a large publishing house books sent us a folio of books selected for college reading programs. You could order free desk copies of up to six different books. I got some really interesting reading material from that deal. All you had to do was tell them the name of your school and how many freshmen you expected in the next year.

  12. Maria on August 26, 2017 at 8:26 am

    Great post! Loved it. So much truth it made me laugh (in a GOOD way)… Thank you. Great way to begin my morning.

  13. Scott on August 28, 2017 at 6:52 am


    Have you considered changing the pricing model to phase in the discount and eliminate the inflection point?

    My daughter started college last week. Part of her education is evaluating the various purchase (new/used/school/Amazon/other) and rent costs against likely number of semesters of use (she’s in a major where the books may be used in subsequent more advanced classes, unless of course a new edition comes out).

  14. Nik on August 30, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    Interesting that colleges are using The War of Art. Of course, if it weren’t for the Marines putting Gates of Fire on the commandant’s recommended reading list, I would have never heard of Steve either, so I think this stuff is invaluable for novelists to reach more people.

  15. Jack Fitzerald on October 14, 2020 at 4:54 am

    It was exciting to read this post! I think that e-mail requests for free desk copies are not appropriate at all. Also, I wanted to tell my story as school time was not an easy time because I could not get some help with all those numerous assignments. Thanks to such websites as this one I am able to get the best assignment solution in UK.

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