Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why you shouldn't give everyone a book

Up until now, I've only mentioned my book casually on Facebook. I talk about it on my fan page, but not really on my personal page. These are people don't tune in to hear my marketing advice. My friends there are actual friends and family.

So Friday was a bit unusual. I shared the link to my blog post about giving away a free paperback. And then, whoa nelly, folks came out of the far left field.

Most of the responses I got were gracious and congratulatory. People excited for me and looking forward to reading the book.

Others, were...a bit more self-serving.

I was surprised at the number of blatant requests for books.

I imagine this is how lottery winners feel, when family and friends come out of the woodwork with a hand out. Friends who I've only exchanged pleasantries with since high school wanted to know if I could send them a book.

No, the answer is no.

Now here's the deal. I've made it clear that I have no problems sending my book out into the world at no charge. I sent it to tons of bloggers, made it available on netgalley, offered it to my newsletter subscribers...you get the picture. I do that with the understanding that those individuals at least have intentions of leaving a review or promoting the book, even if that doesn't happen.

I'm not saying you can't give your book to people without expecting anything in return. When I ordered my copies I made sure I had enough to be able to give them to several people who probably won't ever log on to Amazon and leave a review. And that's okay. These books are gifts. A way of saying thank you to these individuals for their help, support, love and friendship.

Yes, I want my book out there in the hands of lots of readers. But this is also a business. At some point I need people to actually buy it so I can recoup my investment and maybe make a buck or two. And the economics doesn't add up to give your book to non-readers.

How do I know these are non-readers? Because they didn't ask for a copy when Rite of Rejection only existed as an ebook. I had several friends make comments about looking forward to the release date so they could load their Kindles. I sent those friends copies. Many of them still pre-ordered a copy because they are awesome. But these newly interested Facebook friends didn't show up until there was a physical copy.

So what will these people do with a physical copy of my book? Put it on their shelf where they will sometimes point to it when they have company, mentioning that they are old friends with the author. They will not read it. They will not recommend it to others. It will become a nick-knack.

As an author, you would be out the cost of the copy, the cost to ship it to the friend, the cost of any revenue you might have made if you had been able to sell the copy and you lose out on any promotion you might have gotten even if you'd given the book away. It's a lose-lose for everyone except the person you barely remember from high school.

Should you give your book away? Yes, absolutely. Get that thing out there in all it's formats. But do it smartly and make sure it's worth the cost.

7 comments:

  1. I get a lot of requests from people I don't know at all. They aren't bloggers either. They just ask for free physical copies of my book. My answer is always a polite "I'm sorry but I don't have any free copies to give out" followed by "but I'm very honored that you're interested in my book" and sometimes a link to where they can purchase it. This is a business, and I wouldn't ask someone to come install my new kitchen for free. ;)

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    1. That's a very polite answer to what I consider a rude question. I can't image just emailing up an author and asking for free copies, especially a physical copy. But then, we know exactly all the work that went into those pages. :)

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  2. As a writer, I'm sure to give even a short review on any books I'm fortunate enough to win. Good to keep this in mind. Thanks, Sarah!

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  3. I actually had this exact thing happen to me yesterday! An acquaintance heard I was published and asked for a free copy of my stories. I told them I was pleased they were interested in reading my work and they were welcome to buy a copy ;) It's awkward, but at the same time I was a little shocked they'd just expect a free copy. Great post about the topic.

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  4. I'm grateful for a free copy, but I will always leave a great review if I enjoyed the book. If I absolutely loved the book, I will go ahead and repurchase an e-copy to support the author. Being a writer, I know how important it is to actually have people paying for your product. (And by the way, I pre-ordered my copy of Rite of Rejection!)

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  5. I totally agree. More than the money, I need the validation that someone is willing to pay for reading my novels. I gave my mother and sisters gift copies, but that's it. The only other free copies are given in hopes of publicity or reviews. When I receive a free copy from any author, I will leave a review on Amazon and on Goodreads... unless I don't like it, then I keep my mouth shut. Don't be afraid to ask for a review. Most people just don't know how important their comments can be.

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