Sunday, 15 May 2011

Authors are just like lawyers and doctors

I probably never told the story, but I studied law for two semesters. Well, really only one, because after one semester I realized how soul-destroying law was for me, and in my second semester, with the big decision looming (If not a lawyer, what else do I want to be?), my mother was in the final stages of cancer - not the time to make big decisions like that. I also didn't want to distress her. She thought law would at least make sure I get a job and am "independent".

The decision to study law had the full backing of my family. I thought they were proud of me. But the opposite was true. Once my grandfather said: "Excellent, you can represent us all for free", I knew what the real motivation was. I was about to save my family of four uncles and three aunts, which all have a talent to get into tight spots financially and legally, A LOT OF MONEY. Whoot, Aleks is going to take care of all that. We can have MORE TRIALS, and we can threaten our enemies with the ultimate weapon forever and ever: a lawyer in the family.

(Thankfully, I left before that nightmare could happen - at which several of my kin and blood relations told me "I don't have any respect for you anymore, because you're a quitter!" - but I think they were mostly bothered by not being given all my education and resources to use as they pleased, obviously for nothing, because, hey, "we're family".)

Now, of course that is something lawyers face every day. Doctors, BTW, are the same. At any party, once people come out as doctors (I've even witnessed it with dentists), people will tell them about the consistency of their poo, the rash on their dicks, and ask them for a consultation on hair loss. Obviously for free. Here's a doctor at the same party, he sure likes to work for free. It's probably even worse for family.

Authors face the same issues. I can't count how often random people felt I "should send them a book" - because we've talked in the past, or because we crossed paths somewhere and I came out as a writer. "Oh, you can give me one of your books." Often said in a tone as if they were being generous. I'm allowed to give them a paperbook.

I can. But I won't.

Firstly, my publisher contracts (contract = legal document) very often state how many ebooks I'm allowed to give away. It might be 5 or 20, but not a hundred. And I easily know a hundred people. If my book's out in print, I get usually around FIVE print copies. Of those, I keep one for myself, one is for my partner. The other three are for the beta readers/proofreaders/cover artist.

The ebook copies I'm allowed to give away go into quizzes, giveaways on blogs. I also tend to give at least five copies away to the people who had a serious hand in the writing and editing. It's the betas, the crit partners, the people that helped me solve problems with the book. In short, these people *worked* for it in some way.

I also give away a lot of books to people who really can't afford them but are clearly "fans" (hate the word). Basically, if you're on food stamps and freaking out over where to get the next rent from, the gift of a book is a small thing for me and makes a huge difference to those friends.

Interestingly, these people - who really can't afford my books, because it's the difference between eating and not eating that day - NEVER ask for free books. Ever. They are way too humble, and often so grateful I get all tongue-tied. Here are people that really deserve those freebies. They never come with any sense of entitlement like "I tweeted you, now send me a free book".

(And I know once I save it, several of them will email me, thinking I think they think they are entitled - no, guys, if you think this is about you, IT's NOT...)

Funny. But then, my family could afford a lawyer, too, but still wanted to push me into a career that would have destroyed me just to save some cash. I'm just amazed how many random strangers believe I (or other authors) like working for free. Well, it beats getting pirated, I guess.


  1. Entitlement, in all of it's ugly forms...I will never understand it. One of my biggest pet peeves.

    *whispers* yay for not becoming a lawyer.

    That is all. :)

  2. I'm with Mamba. SO GLAD you're not a lawyer.
    I'd imagine Vadim's relieved on that count as well... *laughs*