Monday, January 24, 2011

I Expect a Book, You Know

 A few days back, I went to where I rent a mailbox - to pick up the mail and have them witness my signatures on my book contract. I know these people, and we laugh and joke about politics, their boss, even the nail salon next door that stinks up the place in the summer as the smells permeate the air conditioner.

They usually don't care what they are witnessing, but I know I'd want to know what I was signing if I were in their shoes, so I always tell them. This is my will, this is an insurance application, or this is a contract. Well, on this particular day I wanted EVERYBODY to know what I held in my hands. It was the contract with  my publisher, for my mystery novel coming out next winter.

"This is my book contract," I said. "You remember that mystery I've been writing?"

"Seriously? That is so cool," she said, signing. "We expect one, you know."

"Expect one?"

"Yeah. Bring us a copy of the book. And we'll definitely get you to sign it, of course."

"Of course," I said, biting my tongue.

 No, I wasn't upset. She didn't know better. I love this twenty-something co-ed working her way through school. She's a hard worker. I told myself she didn't understand, but couldn't dispel that little sense of disappointment in me that she thought books were free. Especially since this store where I rent my box doesn't give away anything. Heck, she had just charged me for witnessing the contract . . . all three copies.

So, be patient with the rest of the world as you scratch, climb and struggle to make a living. They don't know better. But you do. Develop some nice ways to say, "Sorry, but I get paid for this."

Keep those fans while maintaining your self-respect. Seek those win-win situations. Saying "Okay" all the time leads to lose-lose - no sales for you and no long-term respect from your fans and publisher.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Could you say, "I'm not sure how much they'll retail for yet, but when I DO find out, I'll let you know..."?

Or, "Don't you worry. I'm going to try and con EVERYONE I know into buying one. You're at the top of my list and for YOU, I will not only sign it, I will also add a personal note."

Kim Murray said...

Hi Hope, I received an email request to republish an essay of mine. Since there was no mention of payment I thought long and hard about how you are always so adamant that we writers get paid for our work (I am a FFW subscriber, too). I'm a beginner, so my first instinct was to say, "sure take my writing for free!" but just because I'm a newbie writer doesn't make me less worthy. I sent a reply email with a quote for my reprint fee. We'll see what happens.

Thanks for the continued inspiration!

Lyn Fairchild Hawks said...

Hope, it's amazing what the world expects, right? Let's hope she meant, I'll buy it from you when you bring it. But I fear she did not. My husband, a musician, has the same experience with his CDs. My sense is that the larger cultural context is that art is easy or for dabblers, so of course an artist can bring in a copy for free. Also, if artists work a full-time job, they may not rely on their art as livelihood and then feel guilty about charging, thus contributing to the problem. I know I struggle with this same guilt--and it's wrong! Be proud of what we create, and offer it for a reasonable price, right? No shame in that. :-)


BECKY said...

Wow...I can't believe she thought she'd get a free book from you. Hhhmmm, I'll have to start thinking of good replies to that, too! Thanks, Hope!

Ellie Garratt said...

Ooo...I can see how much this would iritate. You did a good job biting your tongue.

I often have to do this with my mother. I know she means well when the first thing she asks when I let her see a new anthology I'm in is "how much did they pay you?" Now nobody wants to write for free. I'd love to be earning a living that way. But at the same time she can not understand that these small press anthologies are exposure and experience for me. Aggh.

Barb Hodges said...

Hope, once again you have shared a gem. You are right. So often family and friends assume that they will get the freebees. We have to teach them to respect our craft and that includes dollars.

Jenn Crowell said...

I had that issue when my first novel came out, too. So many people -- friends, family -- wanted a copy, but what they didn't realize is that authors get a limited number, and that I needed them to show their support by buying the book. That having been said, I have given out copies to certain people -- it's just a matter of choosing carefully so as not to ruffle feathers.

Anonymous said...

I’m sorry – did I miss something here? Did goodwill go out the window? I gave away over 50 copies of my first book – just as a gesture of goodwill – friendship – and most important of all – love from my heart.

I’m in it to win too – not to go bankrupt. I’ll give a copy away to my local maitre d’, UPS driver or hair stylist – just because – not because I expect something in return. If they just so happen to mention the book to a friend and it results in a sale – that a benefit.

I need to feel good about what I’m doing. The pursuit of the all mighty dollar is why the economy is upside down. If giving a book away is source of concern, perhaps mentioning your P.R. donation to your accountant will meet I.R.S requirements.

Angie said...

I don't have plans to write a book - at least not today. I write a blog and have a lot of friends, family, and acquaintances who are constantly urging me to write a book. (They love me, what else can I say?) They all want to be "the one to buy my very first book"! It goes both ways. I am certain there are hundreds of your followers waiting to buy your book! We're all just waiting!

Karen Lange said...

Ah, interesting conversation going here...I can see both sides.

I got your point right away, Hope. I've experienced this in the way of, "well, you're a writer so you should be able to do this" and the "for free" kind of thing is just expected. As if we sit around all day waiting to do projects at no charge. Because the electric bill just pays for itself. Hmmm, I wish!

And the goodwill thing - yes, I'm all for it too. In the right place, such as for book influencers, family or good friends. Balance and discretion are necessary, for unless we are independantly wealthy we'll go broke trying to make money and pay that non-self-paying electric bill...

Congrats, Hope, on the contract! Excited for you!

Happy Wednesday,

Stephanie Suesan Smith, Ph.D. said...

As my Momma said, "Friends buy your book. Acquaintances expect it for free."

I, too, have had to tell people that those books cost money so no, they cannot have one. The author's copies, what there are of them, go to reviewers and to enter contests.

Jeff Darling said...

I am with you all the way. Trying to find the balance in all these areas. It can make my head spin. I hope I will know the right things when I get there.Meanwhile, just know how much I/we appreciate the advice.