Should Writers Give Away Their Work?

What it Means When Writers Give Their Work Away for Free

Photo by William White on Unsplash

It’s always been interesting to me that people expect to get free books from authors. It’s like they have no idea that the book is a product that took many people and resources to produce.

Friends, family, acquaintances, and reviewers of course expect a free book when the author releases a long-awaited book. Professional reviewers I can understand wanting or needed free copies. They read a lot and provide a service to the author. But the author’s favorite aunt or best friend who expects an autographed copy of the book is missing an important truth — writing is a business and people who are in business cannot afford to give away their products for free.

Most of the time, writers get a few author copies from the publisher to pass on to reviewers or to give away as they choose, but aside from those few copies, authors must buy their own books. They buy the books at a reduced price, but they still must purchase the books. This is something else that those close to the writer might not know or understand.

Royalties, if an author ever receives them, come over time, usually years. Therefore, the writer is probably working without an income for months and years. Writers get an advance when they sign their contract, and it is usually just part of the full advance. They get the rest of their advance when the manuscript is submitted. And if the advance was divided into thirds, they get the final payment when the book is released. After that, the book has to “earn out” the advance before the author see another penny. Therefore, writers do not have the money to provide free books.

And this is all assuming that the writer is published with a publisher who offers advances. If the writer is self-published then she is most likely in debt because she has paid the full cost of producing and publishing the book herself.

Remember That You Are in Business

We are to blame for the treatment we get from friends and family. We teach people in our lives to expect a free copy of our book. We might be so excited to have a published book that we can’t wait to give everyone a copy. Rather, we should explain to them that…

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