This holiday season has been a first for me: the first time I had neatly-stacked anthologies with my name on the back cover under my tree. There I sat with a pile of Dark Bits on one side of me and Steamed Up on the other side as I wrapped presents for family and friends.
My parents and parents-in-law were an easy buy this year. I autographed copies of Dark Bits to my dad and father in law, and Steamed Up to my mom and mother-in-law. A copy of each went into my parcel to my best friend. I was so proud to be able to put paper copies in their hands in thanks for their support and encouragement for all this time. In fact, I couldn’t wait to go home and show everyone my books.
I was in the process of autographing a copy of Dark Bits to my grade school friend when I realized I had to be careful here. These were books I’d purchased (at the author discount, but still, purchased by me). Purchased to sell at conventions and to people I met. If I gave them all as gifts, I’d be out a good chunk of change, and I’d have to save up and make another order before I’d have hard copies to sell again.
I believe my books are good reading, and I can’t afford to just give them all away.
So I took another look at my holiday list, and my stacks of books, and resisted the urge to sign a book to everyone I knew.
I now have a book-gifting policy:
1. I will gift books to friends for whom I would ordinarily buy a present, in place of that present, if I feel they would genuinely like the book. No money lost, as I’d have bought them a gift anyway. Some of my friends aren’t readers, and that’s okay–I’ll buy them something else.
2. I will gift books to friends who want to read my stuff and can’t afford to buy it. I remain, to this day, dazzled by the generosity of a friend of mine who mailed me a copy of her latest hardcover, for free, shortly after its release date, because she knew I was out of work and tight on money. She could have waited for me to get a job; she didn’t. I’m paying this forward.
3. I will gift books to my parents, my parents-in-law and my best friend, for being my closest supporters.
For everyone else, my friends and extended family members, I’m happy to sell them a book.
I felt more than a little anxiety going home for the family celebration with copies of my books in hand to sell. On one hand, I’d written those stories and purchased those sale copies; I deserved to see some profit in exchange for my labour. On the other hand, I was afraid I’d sound greedy, or naggy, or selfish. I vowed that I wouldn’t pester anyone, but I reminded myself that it isn’t reasonable for anyone to expect copies for free. People who were willing and able to support me, and interested in my stories, would do so with a book purchase. I was very pleased by how many of my cousins and friends offered to buy copies–who were willing to support me with a purchase, rather than expecting a book for free. My anxieties had been for nothing.
One of the greatest gifts a writer can receive is the support of a book purchase, and I’d like to thank everyone who’s been willing to give this gift to me.