Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Free books? by Terry Burns
It is a good idea to think it through and decide what our free book policy should be. I did think it through and came up with one before I had books to give and made it known. That’s easier than trying to change policy midstream.
I do give copies to immediate family, mom and kids, although one or two like to have a collection of them but rarely if ever read them.
Traditionally one is given to whoever the book is dedicated to.
To other family and friends I make it clear that I get a limited number of author copies and once they are exhausted have to buy books to have personal stock so I expect people to buy them. I have a local bookstore that I consider my ‘home store’ and keeps my books in stock. I apologize for being out of author copies and refer family and friends there to get them. I also count on family members to come to book signings in their area and to help turn out a crowd. It is a key factor for a decent book signing to have someone who will assume a personal responsibility to have people there and make phone calls to make that happen. Family are the most likely candidates if that role is made clear to them.
Blog tours and reviewers plus any that might be given away with an interview I don’t consider giveaways but advertising and they show up on my income tax just that way. It’s hard to quantify what sort of impact these have on book sales but all contribute to the ‘word of mouth’ promotion that everyone agrees is the most important of all of the strategies for book promotion. There are some reviewers that have to be done in advance of the release of the book and often these have to be done by the publisher rather than the author. These are the critical reviews, the ones that book buyers for libraries and bookstores count on for selecting products they will acquire since they obviously cannot read all the books.
At church I will often give signed books if they will put an appropriate amount or more in the building fund in my name, then I deduct that amount from what I give to the building fund. That means I am putting the amount in the building fund I intended to give and putting a few books out in the process. That also makes me feel less like one of the ‘sellers in the temple’ where Jesus overturned their tables and tossed them out. That’s not company I want to be in.
The point is, the smart thing to do is to think it through before the process starts in order to be able to articulate just what the policy is. The most important phrase for those family and friends that think they should get a free copy is “I’m sorry, I have exhausted all of my author copies now and have to buy them just like you do.” But be careful about exceptions, exceptions lead to more exceptions.
I'll be interested to see your further thoughts on giving away free books.