by Laura Anne Gilman
Last week we discussed the lures and dangers of author copies – the desire to keep them on-hand versus the reality of storage.
For most people, it is a constant game of evaluating need versus availability. If you know that you can order more copies if you suddenly need them, you can let your shelf go down to one or two copies (and, if you’re like me, keep a set of first editions somewhere with a “do not use!” post-it on them)
But then, as I briefly mentioned last week, there’s the letter that comes into every writer’s life: news that your books are being remaindered. The remaining editions will either be sold off at a fraction of their original cost, or destroyed. But first, you the author have the chance to order copies!
And the hand of panic clutches at you. If you don’t order copies, they’ll become $1.99 fodder for the remainder tables, or turned into ferret cage linings!
So yes, you want to order copies, especially if your personal stock has run low. If you have an empty storage area, and the cash on hand to buy them, then yeah, go ahead. Better you hang onto your copies than someone else.
But how many copies will you need? Realistically, what will you be doing with them? Ten copies is reasonable for maintaining a resource library/personal use. Thirty or forty, if you have the space, will probably set you for the next decade of promotion or production use.
But they might be offering you 100 copies. Or more. And the temptation will be great to say “I’ll take them all.” After all, you can still sell them – and make some money that the publisher can’t take a cut from. Right?
As I said last week: Stop. Think.
Some folk think that they will be able to sell copies directly – at conventions, via an website storefront, through a local independent bookseller who will take them on commission, or even out of the back of your car. After all, you DO have readers, and as you go forward people might be interested in the backlist [and not want to order a digital copy, assuming it’s available].
Yes. It’s done, and often successfully. But not easily. How many will you sell? How long will it take you to go through those copies? How much effort (read: non-writing time) will it take you?
A quick survey turned up this disheartening fact: writers with active storefronts (either virtual or physical) reported being able to move copies – but not as many as they’d hoped. Sadly, a book goes OP for a reason, in most cases, and while you may be able to maintain the trickle of sales, it probably isn’t going to become a flood. Without a storefront, or a friendly local bookseller to front for you? Selling books out of the back of your car is harder [and far more time-consuming] than it looks.
So before you grab all available copies, think like a businessperson. Consider your long-term needs, your available resources, and the fact that those copies, be it 20 or 200 – can easily become an albatross hanging around your neck, something beautiful and treasured now dragging you into damnation….
Coming up in Week 43: Considering the Clock
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.