by Anna Bell
Authors need to sell books to make money. It’s not rocket science. It’s a fact of life. Like any profession, they need to be paid for the service or job they provide, so why do so many people want free books?
When Don’t Tell the Groom was released in paperback I was bowled over by the support of friends and family buying the book. It seemed everyone bought a copy, even people in my old sixth form – friends that I hadn’t spoken to in years. It was really touching to see people posting photos of their copies on my Facebook page. Yet, now I’m on book three, that has disappeared, and now only those who really enjoy the type of books I write keep buying.
My sister and I were off to a spa evening at the weekend, and before we left she text me to ask if I could bring a copy of my book for her to read. I told her that she could go and buy a copy for the bargain price of £3.85 at our local supermarket, but she turned up at the spa without one. I also saw my brother at the weekend, and he also hadn’t bought a copy. Luckily, my mum has purchased three copies, or else I’d feel a bit unsupported by my family!
So why won’t my own siblings buy my book? Well, there seems to be an expectation that they’ll get one for free as I’m their sister. And they’re not the only ones. Friends – and even friends of friends – often ask me for copies. It might surprise the freebie hunters to know that authors get very few free books; I get just ten with each release. Now, you might think that ten seems like quite a big number to have filling up your shelves, but I use those copies for special competition giveaways or to give to people that need to be thanked for helping with the book research. I also like to keep a few for posterity as you never know when a book will go out of print!
Yet, even if I got a hundred books for free, I still wouldn’t give them away to everyone, as surely your friends and family buying your book is a way for them to show their support? If I need a service that one of my friends or family provides in their own business, I always try to use them. Like an old school friend who makes cakes. It might be more expensive to buy from her, but I know that I am supporting her when I do so. I’m sure that people the world over, in any profession, that work for themselves, are asked for free services from their nearest and dearest.
An author relies so much on book sales and every book bought helps to secure them some royalties or a next book deal, and I think sometimes people forget that. For me, it isn’t just about the sales figures or the money, it’s that idea of supporting someone you know. If you think about it, my book in a supermarket costs about the same as a pint of beer in a pub, but that copy sitting on a friend’s bookshelf means the world to me.
Am I just becoming a grumpy old author? Should I be more generous with my free copies? Should I give my nearest and dearest copies of my books? Am I being unrealistic to expect everyone to buy each book I write?