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Why You Shouldn’t Ask Authors for Free Copies of Their Books

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Fishing 2It’s unfortunate that I get asked this so often that I actually have a “canned” response now.

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:

Fishing

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.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Wendy Marple permalink
    Saturday, June 6, 2015 3:09 pm

    I love the books you have written. I wish you would write again. Maybe you will. I don’t comment very often but I do read your blog. I can relate to you and i enjoy your honesty.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Saturday, June 6, 2015 3:17 pm

    I will say that I am in heartfelt agreement! But be of good cheer, things will turn around for you. Your books were what made me venture back into reading romance. Sometimes our steps back are needed in order to go forward.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Saturday, June 6, 2015 4:06 pm

    I’m so glad you’ve spoken up on this subject. It’s just as you say.
    I will accept a freebee when offered but mostly, I will purchase an author’s newest release–especially if one of my writing friends–and write my review after reading the book. This is really the best and fairest way, since the bottom line IS for an author’s work to be SOLD.

    Gotta tell ya–I love your craft articles and info. I’ve been helped so much by your posts.
    Many thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Saturday, June 6, 2015 8:38 pm

    “Do you have any out in the past I could review?”

    Yeah, because that information is so hard to find. A genuine fan would already know that (or would at least know to check on Amazon or your website). A genuine reviewer would be on Net Galley, or–like you say–would be following you and would then be ready to respond when you asked for influencers.

    Quite honestly, between NetGalley, book blogger programmes and my website, I get offered more than enough books to read and review. I don’t need to ask.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wednesday, June 10, 2015 11:09 am

    Sharing this on my FB page. Thanks for writing it. đŸ™‚

    Like

  6. Kelsey P. permalink
    Wednesday, June 10, 2015 1:42 pm

    Thank you, I didn’t realize I was fishing. I will make sure and post links to past reviews and such if I decide to request a free copy outside of the usual channels in the future. I’m sad you aren’t writing anymore, I enjoy your novels.

    Like

  7. June permalink
    Thursday, June 11, 2015 1:37 am

    I too have really loved your books (and read them more than once!) and have missed not having new ones. I’m always amazed at how many books authors do give away! I’ve been known to buy an ebook copy or an audiobook copy (or both!!) of the ones I have received for free, just because I want the author to get something!! I love your example of the spa or restaurant!!! It was perfect!

    If you do get to write more books, it will be awesome to read them. If not, thank you for the reading pleasure you have provided in the past! God bless you!

    Like

  8. Saturday, June 20, 2015 1:41 pm

    I am just starting to review books on my personal blog. I seem to be doing reviews for more indie than established authors, but I flat out tell people I will buy their book. Even if I hate it, as a fellow writer, I know the work people put into these books, and they should be compensated.

    I do belong to several groups on Facebook where I volunteer to read/review books. But I am still willing to pay for them.

    I had never heard of NetGalley until two days ago. Am going to be joining and utilizing it.

    This reminds me of the discussion that $2.99 is a rip off for a novella. Think of all the work that went into those 50,000 words.

    Like

    • Saturday, June 20, 2015 4:44 pm

      If you want to compensate authors for their work, you shouldn’t join Net Galley, because then you are depriving those authors of their small percentage royalty (trade published authors don’t earn anywhere near that $9.99 per copy you pay for the ebook).

      I don’t believe anyone is compensated at what they are “worth”. Certainly most people aren’t. Stay at home mothers are a prime example: they are rarely (never?) paid, but their role is one of the most important in society. And that’s before we start on our worth in the eyes of God.

      Like

      • Sunday, June 21, 2015 8:27 pm

        When I have authors encouraging me to join, I’ll take their advice over yours. But thanks.

        Like

      • Sunday, June 28, 2015 6:49 pm

        Because the publishers are the ones providing the galleys through Net Galley, they’re able to control the number of people receiving them. And I believe that to join Net Galley, the potential reviewer must submit some kind of application (depending on the publisher’s requirements) in which they must show proof of previous reviews for the publisher to review to make sure they’re not just in it to get free books. That’s one of the reasons why, as an author, I almost always point free-book-requesters to Net Galley rather than asking authors for free books directly.

        Plus, typically publishers only have their books available on NG for a limited amount of time, which also limits the number of free copies that go out. And it’s my understanding that it’s hard, if not impossible, to share the eGalleys from NG. Not to mention that the electronic galleys can’t be sold in garage sales or at used bookstores the way free hard-copy books can.

        Like

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