“Send me a copy of your book.”

amailSince 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!


16 thoughts on ““Send me a copy of your book.””

  1. Thank you, Rick, for your timely and insightful article. This happens far too often, in public forums like Facebook, and more privately, by way of email and private messages. “Requests” of this nature put authors in an awkward position: Send the book and get 0% royalties; don’t send the book and risk hurting the “requester’s” feelings. Personally? I don’t appreciate being the ‘meat’ in a no-win sandwich!

    1. Loree, there is also the chance that, if you send the book, they will mention it to friends along with, “Yeah, the author is a really nice friend of mine. Just write and ask if you want a copy too!” (Only halfway joking there. I have agreed to send a couple free ones that acquaintances requested, mainly because I understood they were young, inexperienced, and cash poor. But with each one I included a note telling the recipient not to tell anyone I sent it for free since each copy costs me real money and that I can’t afford to be giving them away.)

  2. Yes, that does put the writer who hasn’t offered a free copy in an awkward spot. It’s like when someone invites you to coffee and then says, “Oh, you can pay, right?”

    1. Awkward, yes. However, I’m glad to say I have yet to experience the coffee scenario you describe, Caleb. I guess my coffee-drinking friends are all high-class folks!

  3. When my family started publishing our magazine, someone requested a free issue before he decided if he would subscribe. He was a doctor. Did he offer free physicals so patients could decide if they wanted him to be their doctor? I don’t think so.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Terri. Sounds like the principle I described about books has many similar applications!

  4. I have a relative (younger one) still mad at me since I wouldn’t send him a freebie. I attempted to make him understand that it costs ME to do that. He snarkily asked how does the rest of the family have one. I told him they BOUGHT it. He still won’t talk to me. Not my loss.

    1. Sorry to hear about the family drama, Sandy. Seems like quite a petty reason for that relative to sulk. But people can be funny creatures.

  5. Excellent thoughts and oh so true, Rick. I can’t get over the number of
    people who think writers don’t have to pay for their books. They know nothing of the industry or how it works. I’ve chosen to gift some people
    books, and they’re always pleased, but not enough to ask about doing a review or buying one for a friend. It hurts. For promo’s I’m sticking to ebooks, and when I get a check for a paperback, they’ll get it in the mail! 🙂

  6. This is EXCELLENT! Another pet peeve of mine is when well-meaning individuals say, “I’m waiting till my library gets it,” which can often mean…I will never read your book. Or…”My friend said I can borrow hers when she’s done with it.” In other words…don’t expect me to buy a copy. Heavens! What am I, rich? Or…”My church library might get it in, and if they do I’ll put my name on the waiting list.” Worst, is when they say, “I’m waiting till it’s free on Kindle.” GRRRRRRR. Hear me roar?

  7. I also hate that our readers think we are automatically wealthy because we have several published books. Hahahaha. I’m laughing so hard my stomach hurts.

    1. Sharlene, you mean you haven’t had to move to a bigger bank so they could hold all your millions? LOL. Me neither. People have such misconceptions about writers. Fortunately, there are still thoughtful readers who realize an author’s food and lodging don’t materialize out of thin air and that we would need to stop writing if nobody actually purchased our books!

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