by Laura Anne Gilman
I jokingly told friends I was going to call this entry “Author Copies: Threat or Menace.” Then I realized it wasn’t really a joke. Or it is, but it’s one we play on ourselves.
The first time you hold that very first copy of your finished book in your hands, it’s an incredible moment. Exhilarating, rewarding, scary as hell – holy shit, people are actually going to be reading this!
And then, when you get the box of contract copies (# to be determined by what your contract says they owe you, be it 5 or 50), you think “Onto the brag shelf/to my parents/best friends/various bloggers you go!” and there is much rejoicing.
So, it’s all good, right? Well. Not always.
Author copies are the cherry to the paycheck sundae, the little extra you get as part of the deal (digital copies, alas, really don’t have that same sense of satisfaction). You aren’t paying for these copies – they’re part of your contract, free, to do with as you please.
All right, you’re not supposed to sell them. But they make great presents/bribes/giveaways.
And then there is the option to buy more copies, at a significant author discount. Those, you can sell. Or give away. Or pile on the floor and stare at lovingly (we all do it. Once. Maybe twice.). And if the book goes out of print (as happens to even the best of books, unless you’re Mark Twain, Shakespeare, or The Bible), you have the chance to buy copies of your book at an even steeper discount.
And therein leads to the question asked on a professional writer’s list about a week ago: “How many should I buy?”
Because yes, there’s a part of us that says “oh, my bookses! Have many copies on hand! Let them go not gentle into that remaindered night, but save them! Store them!
See, author copies take up space. If you get 5 copies, all well and fine and you may need more after a while. If you get 20, or more… well, that can last you a while, even if you do a lot of month-of-publication contests. And 20+ books? That takes up significant book space.
Think about your actual available space. Think about what else could go in that space (other peoples’ books to read. Clothes. Food. Your loved one’s Stuff).
And that’s just one edition of one book. Look down the road. Say, in your career, you write ten books. If they’re in hardcover or trade, there might be a mass market edition, too. Or a book club edition. And hey, what about foreign language editions! You want at least one copy of those, for your shelf.
You may be beginning to see the problem, here.
Unless you have an Infinite Library, or a lot of room in your garage or basement… eventually, you’re going to have a lot of author copies. Even if you only save one copy from each edition – over a career, that can add up.
And there are only so many bookcases that can, by the laws of physics and feng shui, fit into one house.
But you’re managing – you might have a room for nothing but bookcases, store boxes in your closet, your basement, your mom’s garage… and it’s cool. You’re in control. You even have room for the books that will arrive next. And then you get that letter I mentioned earlier, the one that says “this edition is going out of print: do you want to buy copies before they’re remaindered?”
Oh god, yes. Absolutely. Don’t remainder my baby!
How much room do you have? How much need do you have, for these books? Can you really store an extra 20 copies? 40? 100? 500?
If your storage space is already tight? Forget about it. Keep five for yourself, five for your posterity, make sure a digital edition is in safekeeping somewhere, and let the remainders go.
Your loved ones (who have Things of their own, after all) will thank you.
If you have the room, and the desire to be a salesperson, however…. That’s next week.
Coming up in Week 42: Psssst. Wanna buy a Book?
Laura Anne Gilman is a former editor with Penguin/Putnam, and the author of more than a dozen novels, including the THE SHATTERED VINE, Book 3 of the Nebula-nominated Vineart War trilogy, IN STORES NOW! (ahem), and the forthcoming urban fantasy TRICKS OF THE TRADE (12/11). Her SF collection, DRAGON VIRUS, which SF Signal called “amazingly evocative….a potent ride through a changing future,” was published by Fairwood Press in June 2011. For more info check her website, her BookView Cafe bookshelf, or follow her on Twitter (@LAGilman)
She also runs d.y.m.k. productions, an editorial services company (dymkproductions.com).
And yes, her nickname really is meerkat.