Since this hasn’t happened to me lately, I hope to address this topic without embarrassing anyone.
Recently I noticed a comment someone left on a writer-colleague’s Facebook page. Under a post my colleague left about the book she’s diligently writing, someone from her Friends list told her, “Send me a copy of your book” when it gets published.
Now, the commenter who made that (firm) request probably believed he was leaving a compliment: she was creating a story; he wanted the finished version. In reality, he was being rude and unthoughtful. Why? Because instructing a friend to mail you a freebie copy of a book (or anything else) is not appropriate.
Think about it. A writer sacrifices hours, weeks, months of his or her life to sit in front of a computer creating a story out of nothing. It’s a tough job. Sometimes the imagination runs dry. Sometimes the writer would rather be out with friends or even enjoying a movie. But a vision of the finished goal–a story so well crafted that readers will plunk down their hard-earned cash to buy a copy–keeps the writer motivated. Then, at last, the day comes when all the obstacles of writing, revising, editing are conquered and the dream becomes a reality… The book is born!
Then what happens? Most readers understand they must buy a copy if they want one. But occasionally someone blurts (or writes), “Send me a copy.” What this minority fails to understand is that authors don’t mystically receive printed and bound copies of their novels as boxed blessings that descend from the skies. No matter whether a book is produced via a traditional publishing house or independently by the author, even the author must pay something to receive copies of the finished project. Other than limited promo copies a publisher might provide, they’re certainly not free, not even to the author. So, instructing, “Send me your book” is about the same as saying, “I like you; buy me a gift that has cost you both time and money so I can enjoy it for free.”
Do people who create jewelry for income have friends who say, “I like your work; send me a necklace”? Or does a new restaurant owner have people sit down and say, “I’m proud of your hard work in becoming a business owner. Give me a free meal”? I hope not.
Of course, most or all of the authors I know do sometimes give away gratis copies of their books. Sometimes they provide them to well-known individuals who might influence others to buy a copy. Other times they gift a copy to special friends or new acquaintances just for fun. Each time, the gift costs the givers. But these writers count the cost and enjoy the chance to give away an unexpected “part of themselves” for nothing in return.
So, on behalf of authors everywhere, please never say to one, “Send me your book,” unless you make clear you’re ordering a copy like anyone else. Expecting one for free isn’t a compliment; it’s an imposition. Your compliment will be when you ask the author to sign it, or when you leave a glowing review online!