I seriously debated posting this, since it’s a subject not often discussed. But heck, I’m known for my honestly, so let’s giddy-up…

How do authors handle being asked to donate individual book(s) to worthy causes? Honestly, they’re all worthy, but let’s shed some light on an aspect of publishing most people don’t realize: authors DO NOT get their books for free.

free

Oh yes, we receive author copies, but a very limited number which are for our own collection or have already been promised to family and close friends. My author copies for THE MONSTORE were gone the week they arrived. I don’t have any more. If I want my book, I have to buy it. This holds true for all authors. While we did write the book, the publisher edited it, printed it, warehoused it, marketed it and distributed it. And that costs money. Someone has to pay for it!

Authors do receive a discount off the retail price, but it’s not a staggering discount. And, the copies we order this way are recorded as “author copies” and don’t count toward our sales figures. And if you ask any author, if the Publishing Fairy could grant their most favoritest wish, it would be for higher sales figures.

So if we’re going to buy our own books, we tend to buy them like any  other consumer would—online or at a book store, wherever we might get the best price.

Now let’s circle back to donations. When someone asks an author to donate their book to a school fundraiser, church tricky-tray or Elk’s basket auction, it’s not free to that author. True, the author might ask their publisher to donate the book on their behalf if it’s a really well-known cause, but otherwise, a small, local organization’s fundraiser is not going to sway the publisher. So then the author must decide if they can spend about $15 to donate their book to the cause (the cost of a picture book, plus shipping, plus any SWAG).

washingtonmoneyImagine an author gets about five of these requests a month. That’s not an unreasonable number, especially if they have multiple books in print. If the author generously says “yes” to all requests, that’s $75 a month. Multiply by 12 months and it’s $900. That’s not an insignificant amount of money. In fact, that’s more than some book advances!

Now, if an author says “no” to a donation request, this does not make them a bad person who does not understand the worthiness of the cause. It simply means they cannot afford to do so. They cannot honor every request. While they probably *want* to donate to someone’s school or house of worship, they do have their own schools and houses of worship to support as well. So it’s more likely that they’ll donate to their local organizations than to a stranger’s cause.

smiles

Please know that the last thing authors want to do is hurt anyone’s feelings. Authors write books to make people feel good, to entertain, to bring smiles to faces. We love our readers. We don’t want to disappoint them. It’s difficult for us to say “no”. But sometimes our own wallets force the decision.

I haven’t been asked to donate much, so I’ve tried to oblige when I can. But the simple fact is that I have not logged any income as a writer this year, only expenses. Shocking? Not really. My first book was just released and I haven’t made a new book sale in 2013 yet—and even if I do, it’s so close to the end of the year, by the time the contracts are signed and a check is cut, it will probably be 2014. I’m not the only author spending this year in the red.

If you really LOVE an author’s work and want to share it with others, why not ask your local bookseller for a donation of that author’s book(s) instead? They may donate if they’re a neighbor who supports the same school, the same church, the same Rotary Club. They’ll receive advertising out of the donation and can probably expect locals to visit the store as a result, especially if they include a coupon or gift card to redeem. And if they unfortunately say “no”, it probably means they can’t afford to do so, either. (See comment thread about why I don’t mention “advertising” for authors. Good points made on both sides.)

But it never hurts to ask, right? We can all ask, but we can also understand the reasons behind the answer.

Do you have any thoughts on this? It’s a subject that ‘s tricky to discuss…