Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Could I Have a Free Book Please? A Free Jimmy Coates Book...?

Authors are asked for free books all the time. I even get asked for free copies of books I didn't write. Not sure what the reasoning behind that is, but it happens. Today I answered two questions that came in via facebook. One of them was a short, easy one and the other was also a slightly less short, but still pretty easy one, to which I ended up giving a long, not-so-easy answer.

Question One was:
Hi Joe What Are You Doing? Do you Play Clash Of Clans? And Good Night

I replied:
Hi T, I'm at my desk and supposed to be writing at the moment. What about you? I don't play clash of clans or anything like that. I play board games.

That was easy. I sat back feeling like I'd done a good hour's work. I had a cup of tea and an excellent biscuit (shortbread - always). Then I went back to my desk and answered Question Two:

Hi Joe.
I feel cheeky to ask , however is it possible for a free copy of Jimmy Coates Killer.

i have already read this (and great book by the way) but my little brother aged 9 , would LOVE to read this , and i handed my Jimmy coates books down to a charity. 

He keeps asking me to ask you if this could happen. 

Regards, J

Here's my reply, slightly tweaked to remove personal info:

Hi J,

I don't mind you asking at all. But I hope you don't mind me having to say that I can't send you a free book :( I'm sorry. I get asked to send free books out quite a lot and though I would really love to get a book to your brother so he can enjoy the series as much as you did, I have to buy my own books from the publisher. It would cost me quite a lot of money (probably more money than I have) to buy a book and send it to everybody who asks for one for free.

Also, you CAN get my books for free from a library. I know that's not quite the same because obviously you have to take the book back, but it's still free for you and your brother gets to read the book. There's even a system called PLR ('Public Lending Right') that means the government pays an author 6.6p every time his book is borrowed from a public library. Yes, that is just over 6 and a half PENCE, not £6.60 or anything like that. Don't get excited. It's 6.6p at the moment. Last year it was around 6.2p, I think. There's also a maximum, which I think is around £6,600 - so no matter how many times your books are borrowed from a public library in the UK, an author can't earn more than that from library loans. So even JK Rowling and Jacqueline Wilson can't get more than the maximum, though their books are borrowed from libraries a lot. Probably millions of times, I don't know.

By the way, that system doesn't apply to school libraries. I don't get any money when my books are borrowed in school libraries, so a lot of children's authors miss out that way. I don't think most of us mind about that because we want kids to be reading. Although there IS a problem when the government shuts down public libraries or sneakily gets round having to support a public library by moving the public library services into a school library. That way they can say that library services are still available, it's just that they don't really have to provide the same kind of service as they did before because they shut down all the extra stuff, the really good stuff, that libraries do, like book groups, events, supporting local people and services for the community. That kind of thing. And of course, once the 'public' library service is shunted into the school library, what happens to the author's 6.6p? It disappears. Cheeky, right?

So I would dearly love to be able to distribute my books for free to people who want to read them. Especially as I write a series, so if I gave my first book away for free, most people would then go on to buy the rest of the series and I'd make money from that. Unfortunately the numbers don't quite work. I'd have to pay the publisher to get the books I handed out for free, then I wouldn't get quite a big enough cut of the sale of each book after that to make it worthwhile overall. The publisher takes a big chunk of the sale price of a book. And that makes sense, if you think about, because the publisher takes all the risk when they publish a book and they're the ones spending money on editing, designing, printing, storing, distributing, publicising and marketing the books.

That system only falls down when a publisher stops taking risks on new authors or daring ideas and stops supporting the books they already have out there. When that happens, the author ends up doing all the work of supporting the books, including spending a lot of time travelling around the UK (and the world) to promote their books instead of spending that time writing another book! And of course, no matter how much promotion the author does himself, he still only gets a very small cut of the price of the book when someone buys it (usually around 10 per cent).

But still, there's 6.6p every time someone discovers one of my books at a library (as long as it still is a real public library and as long as the number of library loans doesn't go over the maximum allowance and also as long as it isn't a loan of an e-book, because there are still different rules about the loan of e-books, even though we live in an amazing, technologically miraculous world).

So do say hi to your brother for me. And a HUGE thank you to you for the amazing support in spreading the word about my books. Without people like you suggesting to their brothers that they read my books, who would promote my books?! So maybe YOU deserve a cut of the price of each book for doing great promotion work. Maybe.

Actually, maybe, if you've managed to read through this whole ramble I've dribbled out of my fingers onto the computer screen and sent to you, if you've managed to get through all this and maybe understand a bit of it, and maybe because you took the time to contact me and made the effort to ask so nicely and maybe because you're only after a free book so you can spread the word to the next generation of readers... maybe you DO deserve a free book. I have one here on my desk. It's the US edition - I hope that's OK - but you can have it for your brother. Will you do me a favour, though? To cover the price of the postage, please put about 3 quid in a charity collection tin next time you see one. I don't mind if you do this all in one go or bit by bit.

Let me know your address and who to sign the book to (you or your brother or both) and what your brother's name is. Thanks for reading all this J. Hope you're having a great school holiday.

Stay awesome,


Joe Craig said...

A quick but important clarification: I didn't mean this to be in any way negative about school libraries. I want to support school libraries at every opportunity & I've said a few times that you can't really count it as a school unless there's a library. All I meant here is that they shouldn't justify closing a public library by pointing to a school library & claiming the same services are available. And when a school library is used to fill that gap & loans books to the public, PLR should apply to those loans. That's all. Sorry if this came across another way!

Nick Green said...

A more succinct reply that occurred to me:

'Sorry, I can't send you a free book. The way it works is, the author writes the book, the reader buys the book, the reader gets enjoyment and the author gets paid. It's the same reason why Tesco doesn't pay you to take food away from them.'

But that might come across as snarky! :-)