Learning to set limits.

Book donations – a thing of the past.

***Before I get carried away with this rant, let me qualify–

1.  Readers are always welcome to books.  You want a signed paperback copy of one of my books or a gift certificate for a Kindle download?  ASK. If I have a copy available it’s yours, and if I ain’t broke I can swing a Kindle gift certificate.

2.  Reviewers who specifically ask me to provide a book for a giveaway – always.  I’ve reached quite a few new readers via reviews/giveaways.

3.  As long as I remain with KDP Select, I will continue to avail myself of the five free promo days.  You can count on that.

4.  I will continue to donate to charities.  Charitable organizations have never asked me for more than is reasonable.  Every charitable organization I’ve worked with has said… “We appreciate whatever you are willing to send.”

So exactly to whom have I donated and why are these donations coming to an end?

For years now I’ve been asked to donate books, gift certificates and miscellaneous prizes to various conferences, conferences I don’t attend, conferences I will never attend.  I’ve been asked to donate as many as 50 books for a single event.

Take a minute to think about this.  In order to donate 50 books I must buy 50 books at full price from Amazon because none of my publishers provides me with free copies.  I turn around and donate the books and pay shipping costs.  Let’s see… 50 books at $12.99-$16.99 a pop?  You do the math.  Yes, when I buy my own books I do see some return in the form of royalties, but not much.  The amount of royalties I receive in this case barely covers the shipping cost.

I’m not rich.  Are authors rich?  Some authors are rich, not me.

Over the years I’ve agreed to requests to donate gift baskets to big time conferences.  In four years one solitary reader has contacted me to tell me she won a copy of Capture. She said she loved the book and thanked me for writing it.  That was nice, but…

I’ve never received a single thank you note or email from a conference coordinator or the person in charge of donations.  Most recently I put together a unique and very cool gift basket for a big conference in Chicago.  Me, put it together myself complete with books, gift certificates and other goodies, packed it carefully in a big box and paid the shipping costs… the very high shipping costs.

Haven’t heard a word from anyone.

A year ago I was asked to donate 100 books.  Yes, I’m serious, 100 books.  I didn’t have 100 books and I didn’t have the money to buy 100 books.  Instead I printed (on very nice shiny photo paper)  100 full-color gift certificates to be redeemed for my books on Kindle.  The only thing necessary was to email me with a request and the redemption code printed on the certificate.  Exactly three people redeemed books.  My expenses?  The photo paper and two color ink cartridges – and those things ain’t cheap – and postage.  Oh… and my time!

So done with all that.  Done being a sap, spending money I don’t have in the hopes of reaching more readers.  It’s like advertising.  Doesn’t work for shit.

The truth is, my time is valuable.  I have books rolling around in this brain of mine, eager to be written, and I’d rather spend the money on my kids.

But remember, if you’re a reader and you want a signed book, like I keep saying, all you have to do is ask.

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25 Responses to Learning to set limits.

  1. Delilah Hunt says:

    Excellent post Julia. I agree with you on the giveaways and such. I can’t believe you donated so many books for conferences. Call me a cheapskate, but I just wouldn’t have been able to suck it up and do so. And for you to actually put so much effort into it and not get a thank you…I don’t get it.

    I’m still not sold if advertising and many of the things us authors are bending over backward to do even works. I’m of the mind that word of mouth among readers makes a big difference. Before I started writing, I rarely if ever, visited any of those blogging, review sites and advertising sites. And I was buying a whole bunch of books each week. So, just do what you have to do to reduce some stress.

  2. Amber Skyze says:

    Wow, this is so disappointing to learn. These people should be ashamed of themselves for not even saying Thank You. What happened to a little respect. And no, this writer isn’t rich either. lol
    I don’t blame you for not wanting to donate your time and energy…I say write! Your fans are always looking for a new book from you. :)

  3. Penelope says:

    I sent an email thank-you to every person who contacted me about donating books and other items for our conference. (I’m pretty sure I thanked you, too…I did, right? Otherwise, you can force me to read 50 Shades as a punishment!). I totally appreciated that those authors were taking time out of their busy schedules to send books to us. Some authors said “No”—I think they were tired of being asked to dole out freebies at their own expense. 100 books? Are you kidding me? That’s asking WAY too much. I asked for 5-20 books. I don’t think even Stephen King would donate 100 books. That’s outrageous.

    Go Julia!

  4. Go, Julia!

    I still don’t own some of my OWN print books. Those suckers are expensive.

  5. Casey Wyatt says:

    Wow! 100?? What were those people smoking? I don’t blame you for ending donations. As a fan of yours, I’d rather buy and read more of your books. As a writer, I’m not rich either and I believe writing your next book is the best kind of advertisement (despite what everyone deludes themselves into believing). I completely agree with Delilah – as a reader, I could care less about visiting blogs or reading on-line interviews. All I want is the next book and I want it to be a good book. I know, so demanding!

  6. Jaye says:

    I hear you, Julia. I got fed up with conferences, especially those connected with the romance community, long ago. They are money-making endeavors, lining somebody’s pockets. Yet they manage to get free speakers–who pay airfare, hotel and the conference fee, plus spend the hours it takes to put together a program or workshop– and free giveaways. The writers who get suckered in feel HONORED to be asked. No more.

  7. Spend your time writing and your money on your kids. You’ve got it right. Thanks for an important lesson.

  8. anny cook says:

    Ahhhh. I agree 100% with your rant…and will raise you a few. For the last conference I attended I created HUNDREDS of beaded hairpiks for “freebies”. Each one had my website on it. Every one was given out with the instructions to check my website to find out if the individual was a winner of a gift basket. That was three years ago. I still have the gift basket. Never heard from a single person.

    We’re all crazy. I long ago concluded I should write and, as some one else said, depend on word of mouth for promo. It worked for years and years.

    If someone gets in touch with me about a book, I send it. Otherwise, no.

  9. Wow so much work and so much money spent and people can’t even say thank you or anything..Honestly I’m not shocked because I’ve done it as well and never heard back from anyone..

  10. Doesn’t pay, does it, Savannah. Not worth it.

  11. That’s just plain awful, Anny, and I know how much work you put into those really cool hairpiks! And nobody wanted a gift basket? Crazy!

  12. School of hard knocks, Stephanie. Learn from me…. :)

  13. Yes, Jaye – us poor authors get suckered in, donate stuff we can’t really afford to donate and nobody even says thanks. Because we think it will help get readers. Not.

  14. I agree, Casey! So don’t fall for this crap.

  15. I know, Stacey! Super expensive. I’m an idiot!

  16. Yes, Penny, you did, you thanked me many times! But I may get out my bull whip and make you read 50 Shades anyway! I’m trying hard not to be a sucker.

  17. Very disappointing, Amber. And annoying. Thanks – I do have some new books in the works!

  18. Delilah, I’m convinced advertising does not work. Guest blogging doesn’t do much either. It’s a learning curve for all of us.

  19. It’s tacky not to thank someone for doing something. One book or a hundred, gift baskets, gift certificates, a bag of m&ms: it doesn’t matter how small or large a donation or item is a person should be thanked most graciously. That is the first rule of asking for things.

    Whoever may be reading this who has asked for a donation for inclusion in a conference, auction, whatever and who has NOT thanked whoever they asked should be ashamed of themselves. In the non-profit world that is anathema. When we have have asked for items for an event we even thank the person who says no. It’s hard to say no.

  20. Steph, having been donation coordinator for our high school sports program, all I can say is – right on! I thank everyone.

  21. Katalina Leon says:

    There’s no excuse for not thanking someone who helped make an event a success.
    My experience has been that unless you’re personally involved in the event the donation goes unnoticed. Cut back and be choosey.
    XXOO Kat

  22. I’m a believer, Kat! Done with all that!

  23. Tom Stronach says:

    Good manners cost nothing, but clearly they have none. So, quite right, give to those who have the manners to thank you and I presume when a reader asks, they say thanks in advance anyway?

  24. Tom, readers always say thank you. It’s other authors and conference organizers who never do, aside from Penny.