Monday, April 27, 2009

Free? No thanks.

Vicki here with a question for all the authors out there: should you do free events?

I ask because I am beginning to come around to answering NO. With the exception of independent bookstores and your local library, perhaps schools, why should you? You’re not going to get anything out of it.

Why do authors do free events anyway? In the hopes of selling books, of course. But musicians don’t perform for free (except in the street or subway) in the hopes of selling CDs. Try getting into the next AC/DC concert by telling the person at the gate that you might buy a CD. Tell the ticket seller at the box office to let you in without paying because if you like the movie, you’re going to buy it when it comes out on DVD.

Ask any touring writer who the worst people are for buying books: Beginning writers every time. They’ll come to your workshops, attend your talks, stop by your table at the bookstore. And walk away without buying.

I recently was a guest at a one day conference. Admission was free – for a whole day of interesting panels, a workshop, and meet and mingle with the authors. Book sales were abysmal.

I am organizing a big reading event in Toronto in June. I’m getting local celebrities to read from the works of well-known authors. The authors will be there to give a bow. One really big name author (you DO know who he/she is) said after an earlier time s/he would never participate again. All that time to sell one book? No thanks.

Bottom line – attendees who enjoyed meeting that author won’t get the chance again.
Why do readers (presumably people who come to reading and author events are readers) think they can have a whole day or evening of entertainment or education and not need to even compensate the writer by buying a book?

Some people genuinely can’t afford books, sure, and we try to accommodate them – which is to our credit. But I bet most of them will go out the next night to a movie or sports event. Try telling the gate guard at a Blue Jays game that you can’t afford a ticket but want to get in anyway.

When Debby and I were touring we gave several workshops on writing. At one place we each gave a full ONE HOUR workshop. That’s two hours of education. Several people took lots of notes, asked questions, and left without even saying thanks, never mind buying books.


Donis Casey said...

My horrible problem is that simply cannot afford to buy a book every time I see an author. I have 5 author events I hope to attend this month, all for friends, no less! I feel embarrassed to go to their events and not buy their books - I hope people will buy MY books when they attend my events. But I'd rather go than not. So I get the book from the library, and if the library doesn't have it, I request it buy a copy.
Now, as for attending a free workshop and not buying something, that's another story...

Vicki Delany said...

I understand that people don't always buy. Some people just don't read much. I don't always buy either. If I don't think I'd find the book interesting, I don't buy one. But, I'm talking about percentages. I'm just home from a nice talk at the local library. Approx. 1/4 of the attendees bought a book. Great! Regardless, libraries are always super places to speak - they do buy your books!