Why You Shouldn’t Ask Authors for Free Copies of Their Books
Even though I haven’t had a new book come out since 2013, several times a month, I am contacted by people either through the Contact form on this blog or through my Facebook Page asking for a copy of any of my books so they can “review” them. They never provide links to previous reviews they’ve posted, nor do they provide their blog/website address with stats on how many viewers they have, how many comments they receive, or what other sites they review on (Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, etc.).
Serious reviewers typically know that to get a review copy of a book, they either need to follow authors and respond to calls for influencers from the authors, publishers, and/or publicists; or they’re signed up with services like Net Galley that work with publishers to get ARCs (advanced reading copies) out to established reviewers.
But for every two established, reputable reviewers who do actually have influence with readers to hopefully encourage book sales, there are fifteen or twenty, um, “fishers” like this:
This is the fisher who prompted me to write what has become my standard response that I now send out whenever I receive requests like this. Her last response, posted after I screen-captured the exchange above, was, “Well, thanks anyway.” And after much thought, writing, editing, rewriting, and consideration, I responded with this:
You know, the best way to support authors is to buy their books instead of asking for them for free. Most authors do not make a living with their writing, mainly because so many people now ask (and expect) to receive books for free instead of respecting and honoring the amount of work that authors put into writing the books—months, and sometimes years of work for a return that can net them less than a dollar per hour, if that much. If you truly want to help out authors, and you’re not just fishing for free books, consider buying books to review, not hitting up the people who can least afford to provide their work for free.
You wouldn’t walk into a spa and ask for a free manicure in exchange for a review, would you? You wouldn’t walk into a restaurant and expect them to give you a free meal because you’ve promised to post a review. So why expect professional writers to provide you with their work for free on the promise of a review that will be one of dozens (or more, hopefully) from people who did pay for the book?
One of the main reasons I’m no longer writing is because after four years of writing “full-time” (with the majority of my income coming from editing other people’s books for a few publishing houses) and eleven published novels, I almost had to declare bankruptcy and move in with my elderly parents at the age of 40 because I couldn’t make a living as a professional, published author. I now have a full-time career in higher education which, after three years, has helped me start digging myself out of the financial hole of taxes and medical expenses that came from being self-employed as an author brought about. But the truth of the matter is that if all of my books that were sent out or given away for free had actually been purchased by the readers, I might have been able to make a modest living and might still be writing.
I’m sure you mean well, but I just wanted to make sure you’re really thinking about and understanding what you’re doing when you go around asking authors for free copies of their books.
And, no, I don’t usually get a heartfelt, abject apology from these fishers, promising they’ll change their ways and never ask for free books again. I usually get a response along the lines of, “Well, if I could afford to buy books, I would.” or “Thanks, anyway.”
Yes, it’s nice to get free stuff. And yes, I do understand that people who want to read books can’t afford to buy all the books they want to read. I’m one of those people. But that’s why I check them out from the library (libraries purchase the books they lend). But I do purchase as many books as I can afford. And I do try to post reviews of them publicly (on Goodreads and occasionally here on the blog—although I’m way behind with that this year).
Maybe it’s just the kind of person I am, but I guess fishing requests like this really annoy me not just because of the reasons detailed above, but because I cannot fathom the thought-process that would go into someone thinking that this is something that’s okay to do. It’s a word that’s used a lot these days, but this sense of entitlement is just beyond my understanding.
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