Apr 3, 2011

Of Two Minds

by Marsha Ward

On my blog, Writer in the Pines, mixed in among my commentaries on life and writing, I post book reviews, interview authors, and participate in a lot of Blog Books Tours. Frequently, the tours--whether arranged by a blog tour promoter or the author him/herself--will feature some sort of added-value incentive for reading about the book, like a contest or drawing for a prize.

As a fellow author, I look forward to doing everything possible to drive readers to buy the authors' books.

So why is the prize often a copy of the book?

Not only does this puzzle me, but grates against the perceived purpose of the tours: to draw attention to and sell books. I've seen authors offer aprons, jewelry, dolls, and hand-thrown pottery as alternative prizes, instead of their books.

On the other hand, as a reader, I'm just as ready as the next gal to do whatever is asked of me to get my name "into the hat" for the book drawing.

Am I a hypocrite?

My real question is this: Do you think authors should give away their books on blog tours or other public appearances, or should they offer something else as a prize? Take either side. Be as expansive as you like in your comments. Thank you.


  1. I think it is all right to offer your book as a prize. If I love your book, I will suggest it as a good read to other friends, who in turn may suggest it to their friends, meaning the giving away of one book, might mean the sale of many more.

  2. I agree investing one book may pay off in a lot of word of mouth and sales.

  3. I would prefer something else. I'm there to buy the book, meet the author and pay my fan dues. I don't want the book as a gift for showing up. Something connecting the author and the book makes it more special, maybe a tad more personal. That's my take.

  4. I like the book give away personally. To me it is then a "gift" from the "giver" of the story. Add to that a signature and I am then an honored recipient. If I have already purchased a book for the signing, it will also be signed and then I now have an extra special treat to pass on to someone I think would love and appreciate the message of the book. To me, this is GOLD. A Win/Win for both me and the author! It makes spreading the word about the author more personal.

  5. Note: I wrote this last night before anyone but Stacy had commented, but Blogger wouldn't let me post it. It's written from the BUSINESS side of the equation.

    Stacy, I'm not saying you would do this and I thank you for that, but in my experience, LDS readers are more likely to loan a book they enjoyed to their friends than to recommend that they buy it.

    Right now, my church congregation has an organized book club that is in the midst of doing a round-robin exchange of books by LDS authors, specifically so readers will not have to buy so many books to enjoy reading them. I was asked to participate, but I didn't put any of my own novels into the mix. Sorry, but I want to encourage folks to buy them, not loan them out.

    Another factor in my reluctance to give away books is that each copy costs me from $11 to $13. I guess I'd be less reluctant if "my publisher" were footing the bill, or if the books cost me less. At this point in my career, a couple of giveaways a year wipes out any profit I may have made. I have to laugh anytime someone asks me if my novels are supporting me yet. That said, I DO allocate a certain number of copies for publicity purposes, including sending to reviewers.

    I'm not as chary with ebooks, though. They cost me labor and sweat, but not actual cash. An unethical person might pass them on, despite the request in the front not to do so, but it's not as easy to do as grabbing a pbook off the shelf and lending it to a friend.

    That's the opinion of my AUTHOR side on the dilemma I've posed.

  6. Since there are about 15 members of the book club in my branch, it means the authors are losing 14 sales each. Yeah, it's only about a dollar a copy in royalties (few novelists get rich), but is not the laborer worthy or his/her hire? $14 may not seem much, but this is only in one locality. Multiply this by thousands of other round robin book clubs, and the denial of sales for authors is quite significant. I believe readers don't think about the economic reality to the author of lending out a book several times. I'm here to help them think about it.

    Authors, feel free to chime in with your opinions, on either side.

  7. Can I sit on the fence here? I suppose most of us do. My book is about me, and my ego is such that I'd love to be able to just give it away to all my friends and relatives, but that is simply not feasible. I need to recoup publishing costs so I can publish another one. It os expensive to publish. I did give away a dozen or so books, and have been told that most of these have each been read by up to half a dozen people already. Maybe some of these readers will buy a copy to "have and to hold" but most probably will not. Yet, since this is my first book, shouldn't I be more interested in having more people know about it? The questions are much easier to pose than the answers.

    As long as I know the necessity of selling rather than giving, I lean that direction. Yet, I make not even the smallest judgment about which way my fellow writers decide to go.

    At my launch tonight, I'm giving away a hand-made item (crocheted bookmark as long as they last) and a cute chocolate favor. But, I'm charging for the fry bread. We'll see how many complaints we get. -- Or will we? I've found that most complaints are of the behind-the-back kind.

  8. I don't know you, but I have to buy each book I donate, send for a review or give away. So it does cut a lot into the earnings.
    I went to a school and the other authors said it was tradition to donate a book to the school. This is hard when I have ten schools presentation in which I stop everything else (that would make me money) to go and do a presentation that it isn't paid. On the other side it is a cheap form of advertising.
    Anna del C. Dye
    Author of "The Silent Warrior Trilogy"

  9. Since I have won a book once or twice, I would be a hypocrite if I said I didn't like it. I think it depends on the author. If she wantes to, why not?

  10. When I was promoting my newest release, I gave away copies of my previous books, but I did not give away my latest. I did give it away in other settings, but for charities, etc, and once for a blog hop, but when I'm trying to sell a book, I won't give it away. Each author needs to decide for themselves what they'd like to do, though, and often what works for one person won't for another.

  11. I will usually allow the winner a choice between an e-book or a prize pack (bookmarks, keychains, etc) that way they can decide, and I lose no money on the book itself. Then, if they don't have a reader, they can go for the prize pack!

  12. I'm fine with offering a book as a prize. I think it can be a good way to introduce my work to a reader who hasn't read anything by me yet, or a fun prize for a fan. Maybe the winner will enjoy it and buy my next book, or tell their friends about my books. Other prizes can be fun too--I once won a pottery pitcher made by Carole Thayne Warburton--that was AWESOME!

    As far as book loaning, I feel that every time my book reaches a new reader, it's a good thing. Obviously, it would be nice if everyone bought my book, but any way they read it is a good thing, I think. Hopefully they'll remember me, tell people about the book, etc., all leading toward more buzz and eventually, more sales.

    Great thought-provoking post, Marsha!

  13. One of the reasons I give books away is to create a buzz for the book. I write for YA and a lot of my blog followers are book bloggers and librarians. It helps me to get the book into their hands because they, in turn, help me reach more readers.

    I also run frequent giveaways on my blog wherein other authors stop by for an interview and I highlight their book, which they give away (for the same reason.)

    Most of us do receive author copies from our publishers for promotional purposes, so that makes the giving easier. I'm all in favor of book giveaways.

  14. I do give away books hoping for the "word of mouth" factor. I know a lot of people lend books or get them at the library, but I figure if a person reads a loaned copy of my book and loves it (hope hope!), they'll go out and buy their own copy. That's what I would do, anyway. Also, since my books aren't LDS themed, I also give away copies hoping to expand my readership beyond an LDS audience. Does it actually pay off? I may never know. I do know that I give away copies of my first book because I can purchase giveaway copies cheaper than I do my second book which, as you say, is more expensive for me to get copies of. That makes a big difference, too.

  15. When contests, bloggers, organizations ask for a book donation to give away, they don't realize the author paid at least $10 for the book. Ouch! We can only hope the publicity pays off.

  16. My last book, HELLIE JONDOE, takes place in Pendleton, Oregon. Naturally, I went there to speak to the schools. I did several classes and raffled off one book in each class and made sure the library had two copies. It's the cost of finding new readers. But I would not give away books to adults or reading clubs. I also have to limit the number of books I give away for auctions and libraries whose requests seem to come in weekly.

  17. Since I've been giving away copies of my books at my Facebook sites, my sales and followers have increased, so it must be working. Anything a writer does to increase sales can't be a bad thing. :)

  18. How did we all get to this place where we have to give away something? That said, I do give away books sometimes and usually set out bookmarks to be taken if they want them. P.S. Nice pink color, Marsha.

  19. I believe in my books and therefore I give them away for advertising purposes. What better thing can I use that will really sell the book except the book itself? I've found that people not only share books, but they see other people reading them. And many ultimately buy them.

  20. Irene Bennett BrownApril 5, 2011 at 7:52 AM

    I'm a soft touch in some instances. I've always given away 20 to 25 copies of each new title to relatives. In other "special cases" I charge my cost plus postage to requests through the mail. But mostly I expect to be paid for my hard work and talent the same as any other professional. AND I AM A PROFESSIONAL WRITER. My published books are not the result of a rinky-dink hobby as some non-writers tend to think.

  21. Good topic, Marsha. Most of my friends think authors get their promotional copies for free. We do get a few for reviewing purposes, but as you've all said, we pay for the rest.

    My opinion on readers sharing books changed somewhat after reading another author's view. He felt even a shared book would increase an author's fan base and eventually draw in new readers.I still cringe a bit when my local book club swaps books rather than buys copies, but I hope they will write a nice review or tell a friend about the books they borrowed and loved.

    That said, I'm no longer offering a free book on sites where all a person has to do to enter is write something like , "follower" or "choose me." I'd like to at least have the entrants take a moment and read a review of my book, or comment on the cover--something that says they have taken a moment to notice the book behind the giveaway.

  22. I don't do book signings, as a rule, and when I do, I don't give my books away. However, I do run a monthly contest on my web page and I give away a book every month, although never my latest one. Since my publisher gives me 50 copies, the only expense to me is postage, which is only about $2.

  23. One of the commenters mentioned why the expectation of free books anyway. Until blogs came along, did we ever have the opportunity for so many free books? If I get a free book then that probably means I will take my money and use it to buy someone elses's book because I have yours.

    There is the word-of-mouth factor that is really hard to measure. If if I blog about your book, a bunch of people might hear about it that otherwise wouldn't. And they say if people hear your title 10 times, then they'll be inclined to pick it up.

  24. Nothing has been mentioned yet about the full tax write off for donating books. For example, say you pay $7.25 per book, but the price on the bar code is $16.99. You get to the point where it is more profitable to donate your book than to sell. I realize this may not work for some. Others, including myself have created our own LLC's and it all becomes part of the business.


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