There is one thing non-writers say to their writer friends or family that, overall, is well-intentioned, but it can be a little frustrating for the writer to hear. I’ve heard it myself a few times and I know many other writers who get it pretty often. Heck, I’m sure published writers hear it too!
“So,” one of our friends will say, “you’re going to give me your book for free when you’re a famous author, right?”
There are a lot of reasons this is frustrating.
For one thing, we all know not every writer becomes “famous”! That’s why so many of us hold second jobs aside from writing.
But the most frustrating thing about it is that writing IS a job, and writers only get a certain percentage from each sale they make.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s very sweet of these friends or family members to say this, because it provides a little moral support and is a pretty good show of confidence in our ability as well. We’re glad to know you think we write well enough to be published someday!
Writing is labor though. It is very hard, tiresome, lonely work. It isn’t just a hobby, though many outside of the profession think it’s easy and requires a lifestyle full of free time.
You wouldn’t ask your friend who owns a garage to fix your car for free or at a discount, because that is his or her job and that is their source of income. Maybe they’ll offer you a discount or tell you to keep your money, but that’s THEIR choice; you (hopefully) didn’t passive-aggressively coerce them into giving you that discount. And chances are you’d still buy them a nice thank you gift even if they did insist on doing the work for free, unless you’re a horrible human being with no sense of manners whatsoever.
The same goes for writers. This is our job. It isn’t easy. And one project takes weeks and months — maybe even years — to finish. Book sales are our only sources of income (at least in this line of work — like I said earlier, many of us have to have multiple jobs to support ourselves while we write), and we don’t even get the full price after our publishers, editors, etc. get cuts of our sales.
So if you have the money, then please, PLEASE support your writer friends by BUYING THEIR BOOKS.
And if you cannot afford to buy the book yourself (I fully understand — a hardcover book goes for $25 these days), then check it out of the library and leave a review on Goodreads, your blog, or recommend it to your book club or other reader friends. If your library doesn’t have a copy, keep in mind that many libraries build their collections based on patron requests, so you can ask your librarian if they’d be willing to purchase a copy for their collection. If you cannot give money, then word of mouth is definitely a great way to support your writer friends!
Of course, maybe your writer friend will give you a copy of their book for free of their own accord. But please do not presume that you are entitled to your friend’s hard work for free just because you know them! This goes for any profession of course, but writers — and artists and musicians — are especially vulnerable to these types of requests.
To my non-writer friends, happy reading, and to my writer friends, happy writing!