Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Author Copies

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

knot what it seamsThis is a post that I hesitate even writing because this is one of many areas that’s rapidly changing in the industry.  But it’s still a relevant topic at this point.  I’ll look back years from now and go, “Oh, yeah.  There were still author copies in 2013….”

One reason for this change is that many writers are self-publishing these days and are using a print-on-demand service like Lightning Source or CreateSpace to create books when they need them….if they want print copies of their books at all.  Many more are electing to go digital only.  (One of my resolutions this year is to put my self-pubbed books in print, however.  I’ve had several emails from readers, scolding me about it.)

And…if you are traditionally published, the number of author copies you get probably varies wildly.  And I hear the copies are diminishing as publishers tighten their belts.  I’ve definitely got more author copies from one of my series than I have with another.

Regardless—many of us do have either print or digital copies of our books that are intended to help us promote our books in some way...whether we've purchased them ourselves, or whether they were given to us by our publisher.

Working with Penguin, I’ve gotten ARCs—Advance Reader Copies—of the first books in my series.  They’re not really pretty…they don’t have the finished cover on it, just a basic brown cover that has the book’s title and my name (or my pen name), and Penguin’s imprint on the front. 

ARCs I am eager to give away. I don’t give them to readers, because they’re fairly hideous, but they’ll go to reviewers (book bloggers, print reviewers at smaller newspapers or magazines, etc.)
Then there are author copies.  I always get these from Penguin, as opposed to the ARCs.  A box arrives by UPS or FedX before the book actually hits the shelves.

So….what do you do with author copies?  That’s where it gets interesting.

I tend to want to hoard my author copies.  In fact, if a reviewer contacts me after the book’s release, I’ll email Penguin’s publicist to send them a copy.  Because, really…those books are part of my pay.  When I run out, I have to buy more like everybody else (yes, usually at a discount.  Although I don’t buy as many as I used to.)

Anyway, I do spend some thought about what to do with these copies.  I know that hoarding them in a closet doesn’t exactly help me out.  I have no idea why I like to know they’re there…I’m really not a packrat in any other way.

I read a post by fellow mystery writer Jeff Cohen on the Hey, There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room blog.  His post on the subject was “Do I Ask You to Work for Free?”

Jeff has run into some problems with readers asking for free books.  He explained, pretty clearly, the reasons why he feels he can’t give away his author copies.  Financial considerations were a big reason.

For what it’s worth, here are some good things I think I’ve done with my author copies, if others are looking for ideas. 

Goodreads giveaway.  See this post.  I got the results emailed to me from Goodreads yesterday, and if you’re curious about the results, I did see that 876 people had entered the giveaway.  So I did get some eyeballs over to see that I had a new release and a bit of exposure.  I didn’t advertise or promote the giveaway, aside from a mention here.  I’m giving away three of my author copies for that giveaway.

Charity baskets.  These have been at a variety of different functions through the years—most recently, a large quilt show in Texas contacted me about giving away a signed copy of one of my books for their auction of a basket of similar items.  Feeling that was a way to possibly loop in new readers (I have a quilting mystery series), I participated in that event and similar ones throughout the years.

 Blog giveways on book blogger sites.  Given away to a blog commenter of the book blogger’s, and promoted on usually both of our Facebook sites.  These seem to go well and I’m frequently amazed at the number of comments and Facebook shares.  It might be genre-specific….cozy fans are fairly dedicated.

Other promo-related giveaways.  Places like WriterSpace where you participate in live online chats and then participants at the chats are randomly selected for winners of a giveaway.

Books as thank-yous.  I’ve given signed copies to folks who have helped me research, acted as beta readers, and offered other forms of support.

And yes, sometimes I do give books to people close to me.  I wouldn’t dream of jeopardizing a close relationship over books…although, sure, I wish it were more generally known that the best way you can help authors is to buy a copy of their book (print or digital.)

What do you do with your author copies?  How do you handle distributing copies you’ve purchased for promo?