When I publish work in a magazine or anthology, I love getting my contributor copy. But more and more, publishers are sending PDFs of the work and offering authors a discount on the physical copies. Depending on the market, the cost to buy and have the book shipped might exceed the payment the author received.
I understand that shipping costs are killer these days. Even shipping from the U.S. to Canada, or vice versa, can be double or triple the cost of intra-country shipping. To say nothing of shipping overseas.
But there are benefits to shipping contributors’ copies to authors. While it’s hard to put a financial number on these, sending contributor copies is free publicity. I’m not going to go so far as to say it’s about “exposure” (since trying to tell authors they should be grateful for exposure is a bunch of crap), it does come down to reach, word-of-mouth and critical mass. More than that, it builds relationships between authors and publishers.
Bring the book to readings and show it off
When I am doing a reading, I will bring a physical book with me to show the audience. I name the title, and talk about the publisher and theme. After the reading, more often than not I’m asked about the anthology or the publisher.
And since I tend to read samples from several stories, I will show off a couple of books. If I don’t have the book, I’m less likely to read the story from it.
Once, when I finished reading “The Leaving” from Blood Bound Books’ Blood Rites at a convention, someone in the audience asked if Blood Rites was available in the dealers’ room. Unfortunately it wasn’t, but had it been there would have been a sale. But I can’t help but wonder if that person went home and ordered it.
Promote the book as soon as it arrives
When I receive my copy, I take a picture and post it all over social media. I brag about it. I thank the editors and publishers. I would do the same when the magazine or book hits the shelves, but images get a lot more attention than a text post. And a personal picture will make people stop and look more than the standard cover image pulled off Amazon.
Does it result in more sales? Hard to say. But the more eyeballs get on a product is more potential buyers. And the odds are one of them will buy.
Keep it someplace special and lend it out
I have a book shelf for books and magazines containing stories of mine. I show it off to visitors. I use it as a background when I do (the rare) video blog post. From time to time, I loan these books out to people to read. Sometimes I have to ask a few times to get the book back.
Build stronger ties between publisher and authors
When I received my contributor copy of Torn Realities (Post Mortem Press), they had put a bookmark into the book marking my story. That was a classy move. I was impressed and now consider PMP one of my top-of-mind publishers.
When Blood Bound Books told me shipping my copy of Blood Rites to Canada would be expensive, I volunteered to pick it up from them in a few months at the World Horror Convention in New Orleans since we were both attending. No sooner had I entered the dealers room did Marc Ciccarone, owner and editor of BBB, spring up from his table and hand me my copy. I was impressed and look forward to working with Marc some more.
While there are other publishers that might pay more, I know that Marc and Eric Beebe (from PMP) are good guys who will be straight with me. I’m not going to get rich through this, so I’d rather work with people who don’t treat authors as commodities. When they set word counts and deadlines, I am both professionally and personally motivated to hit them, which makes their lives easier.
So, do you agree contributor copies are important?
Taken all together, how much a publisher would pay for the reach I am trying to give them is greater than the cost of shipping a book. In the end, though, it is a financial decision, but no one is going to get rich writing short fiction. I’d rather take a lower pay rate and receive a contributor copy. I hope publishers out there agree with me.
Have I missed something? Let me know your ideas in the comments below. Or, would you rather have the money in your pocket and don’t need a contributor copy?