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.



Judy Vandiver said...

Thanks Terry. Good advice. Now, let me practice. "I'm sorry, I have exhausted all of my author copies now and have to buy them just like you do." Did I sound convincing?
Judy Vandiver

Terry Burns said...

By george, I think she's got it!

Timothy Fish said...

I don’t give family members free books. My mother refuses to accept free copies and if she can pay then so can everyone else. I have given a few copies to some libraries. The librarian at a theological seminary requested free copies, if I had them, but said they would pay if I didn’t. I give away copies if I think it might help to increase sales. I also give copies to people from who I receive free copies of other books through a blog contest or something similar. I don’t know what they do with them, but I hate receiving free books and figure my book for theirs is a fair trade.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Wow, I'd never considered some of these things, Terry. I appreciate your continual wisdom.

Doreen McGettigan said...

Very insightful..as a brand new just about to be author I have been wondering about this...

Loree Lough said...

Oh to have friends and family like Timothy's, who insist on BUYING books!

I believe the problem lies in the age-old perception that authors are wealthy, and live the posh lifestyle of those writers of the 20s and 30s. Well that, and people like me who haven't quite mastered that "line", as Judy has!

Thanks for reminding us, Terry, that ours is a product like any other, and should not be given away, willy-nilly. After all, if we don't respect what we do, why should anyone else, right! LOL

Praying you'll all learn to say "Sorry, I have to buy copies, same as you!" And say it often...and convincingly!

Big warm hugs,

Millie Samuelson said...

SUPERB pointers, Terry -- thanks! I give away books more freely than you, but I still have limits and follow them. I think being self-published so far makes it easier (and less expensive) to give away books. One note on Jesus in the Temple -- I don't think he whipped and drove out the sellers and money-changers because they were doing business, but because they were "thieves," cheating God's poor people. . . don't you think??