Susan’s Inside Writing: Are you Kidding Me?


Ordinarily, I let Chelle LaFleur do the ranting here at the Meet and Greet. But I don’t want to stay quiet about this one.

You see, I’m a member of a number of author’s lists, where we authors (published and aspiring) talk amongst ourselves about all sorts of stuff. I came late to this particular discussion. I’m sorry I did, or I’d be blasting them personally. Maybe I still will, but I doubt it. If you read my post over at Killer Fiction, you’ll understand why I’m making noise here, not there.

The statement was made that authors are shocked when readers come up to them at signings and say, “I loved your book so much, I shared it with all my friends!”
Some of these authors seize this opportunity to educate these excited readers. The authors have lost royalties, you see, because the book was shared. Multiple copies weren’t bought. This reader has now ripped off the author.

For real?
For fucking real????

I’m going to put on my reader’s hat for a second here, since I am every bit as much a reader as I am a writer. When I tell an author I loved his/her book so much, I shared it with all my friends, it’s the highest compliment I can give. That means I didn’t buy it, read it, and donate it to the library for their semi-annual sale. It means I didn’t immediately list it at the book trading sites. It means I didn’t stick it on my shelf and forget about it.

Not even close.

It means I loved it so much, I wanted to share it with the world. And since it’s a book and since communities are formed around books, I made good on that need to share. I handed it to my friends. I spread the magic inside those covers. I saved my friends from a bad book, and gave them an amazing one, instead.

“I shared your book with my friends,” is a compliment. We authors should stop crying over spilled milk (or unrealized royalties) and acknowledge it as such. Yeah, it’d be much nicer to hear, “I bought copies for my fifteen friends,” but let’s face it. Buying fifteen copies of the same book means another author somewhere else (maybe even fifteen authors) lost out on their royalties. Not to mention that any reader who can buy that many copies of the same book can afford to shop exclusively at Neiman Marcus. Before the sales.

In all honesty, if an author popped my bubble of goodwill toward his/her books by lecturing me about lost royalties, I’d never buy that author’s books again. Any of them. And I’d make damn sure all my friends — the same ones I’d raved to about how great the book is — know what a jerk the author is. And why I’d never again contribute to those precious royalties.

As a reader, it can be intimidating to meet this person who created the characters you’ve grown to love. Some readers put us authors on the same plane as the biggest of the media stars out there. C’mon. Don’t tell me no one’s ever turned you into Simon Cowell and pitched their book to you.

Yet you’re gracious when they do. So why can’t you take the idea of your book being shared among friends as the same sort of compliment?

In fact, speaking as a writer, it seems to me that the only possible response to being told your book was shared is, “Oh, be sure to tell your friends to pick up [insert title from your backlist] the next time they come in the store here. I’ll even ask the manager if she minds if I sign what’s in stock and that way, they can have my autograph, too.”

Think about it, fellow authors. As a reader, which response would YOU rather hear?



  1. Patricia

    January 5, 2010 1:22 pm

    I’m thinking about what this means too. Truthfully, I guess I’d rather 15 people read my book (however they got it) rather than 15 people bought my book (and never read it).

  2. Pricilla

    January 5, 2010 1:51 pm

    I would react much as you said – I would never buy another book from that person and I would tell everyone I knew what a jerk they were…
    A little graciousness goes a long, long way.
    .-= Pricilla´s last blog ..Happy Blogoversary to Me! =-.

  3. Natasha Fondren

    January 5, 2010 2:22 pm

    Oh man, you know, I hate that attitude. I mean, I’ve had authors complain about me using a library. I know one who, when giving a book away, buys a new book to give away–and throws her copy in the trash.

    And me? I commit the worst sin of all. I read books while sitting in Borders. If I could afford more books, I would buy them. Swear to God. I promise. I will. But… would they really rather me not read them at all? Would they really rather readers choose, instead, to watch TV when they can’t afford to buy a book?
    .-= Natasha Fondren´s last blog ..What Are You Loving? =-.

  4. drey

    January 5, 2010 3:39 pm

    “I shared your book with my friends” is definitely a compliment! Shame on those who don’t realize it.

    Because I shared one book, my friends might maybe recognize the author’s name the next time they’re at the store, and pick up another of the author’s books, where they might’ve skipped it before. Most people are hesitant to try new things, even me, lol. Especially in this economy. To have 15 people exposed to your work, even if you didn’t get royalties for it, is pretty much free publicity. Those 15 tell others about the great book they read, and the authors will eventually get those royalties. Lecturing someone for using the library, or for passing their book around, is asinine. And the library. The library purchases multiple copies of books and puts them in circulation. Even if everyone I share a book with, went looking for the author’s works in a library, guess what? With enough requests, the library’ll be buying those books, where they might not have before.

    Phew. Ok. Off the soapbox now…
    .-= drey´s last blog ..2009 Summary =-.

  5. Jennifer

    January 5, 2010 3:47 pm

    I’m thinking as an “author” — and I would love to have any hypothetical readers reading my hypothetical book. Since I currently basically pay money to have readers, I’m clearly not looking at it from a monetary standpoint, but I also believe that more readers = more potential buyers of future books. And maybe they would love my work so much they’d buy it anyway. That’s what I do. As a reader, I certainly don’t want to be lectured by a writer.
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..The power of positive and sometimes delusional thinking =-.

  6. Mariana N. Blaser

    January 5, 2010 4:01 pm

    I cant’ think of a better compliment than hearing from a reader that my book was shared with everyone the reader knew.

    This author, who lectured the poor reader about royalties and such, has a very limited financial view. She is thinking solely about the royalties that could come from the shared book. But she forgets that if these new readers loved the book as much as the one who pointed it to them, they all may by your next release.

    Besides, the attitude is all but gracious.

    My compliments, Susan, for the thoughtful and well balanced post!
    .-= Mariana N. Blaser´s last blog ..Is This Stupid? Nah! =-.

  7. Robin

    January 5, 2010 4:09 pm

    Wow, I’m speechless.

    How incredibly petty and shortsighted, not to mention pretty damn rude.
    .-= Robin´s last blog ..Did someone say bread crumbs? =-.

  8. L-Squared

    January 5, 2010 5:01 pm

    I totally agree! More readers equals more potential for the future. I’ll probably never get around to writing a good book, but I read plenty of them. If an author ever said something like that to me about me sharing their book with friends, you can bet I’d never buy another book by them ever, and I’d tell anyone who would listen about their rude, greedy attitude.
    .-= L-Squared´s last blog ..Buying My Photos =-.

  9. Ann

    January 5, 2010 6:03 pm

    good post, I totally agree with you (and not just because I work in a library). As a reader, I try not to buy books from new to me author (we won’t talk about the TBR mountain), but once I find an author I like I tend to go an grab their backlist… all of it. And then start from the beginning (the very beginning- can we say ocd?). And libraries not only buy multiple copies, they also have to replace multiple copies (eventually).
    .-= Ann´s last blog ..Curl up with a book… and a Nook =-.

  10. Jaime

    January 5, 2010 7:33 pm

    I don’t care if the entire book club shared one copy (though I don’t know how that would work). I’d just want my book to be enjoyed.

  11. Lesley

    January 5, 2010 10:15 pm

    Sing it, sister!!! I’m a devourer of any author I like, especially series books. Many of those authors I was turned on to because of being loaned a book. What if I’d never been loaned that book because my friends didn’t want to cost an author that royalty. Then that author would have been cost the ten or fifteen other royalties from all the books I bought from them after that original. I’m not a brave book buyer. I don’t have that much extra cash to try out new people at random, but if I’m loaned (or win) a book I’ll pounce on it, and then if I love it I’ll buy the rest. And seriously if people concerned about this they should start a compaign to close all libraries…does anyone really want that.

  12. Anne

    January 6, 2010 10:59 am

    I have to agree with you on that point. In addition, you are sharing an author’s work with someone who otherwise might very well never read it. That can result in additional sales in the future.

    While I have never written a book, I feel that way about my blog. While I would be grateful if everyone came to visit, I know many readers read through print out or RSS feed. I am just happy that they are willing to listen to what I have to say.
    .-= Anne´s last blog ..Why I Am Not Here Today =-.

  13. Alice Audrey

    January 6, 2010 11:32 am


    If you really want to cash in on the excitement readers bring to a book they share with everyone, write a sequel.

    Oh, wait. You already did.

  14. Julia Smith

    January 6, 2010 12:50 pm

    As a lifelong used-book buyer, you can guess where I stand on this issue. The people who can afford to buy new books buy them. The rest of us go to the library or the used book store. And when we get gift cards to Chapters, we zoom over and buy a new release with glee! Whose book do you think we’re going to snap up with our precious book-buying dollars? The lecturing one who sees us as walking royalties? Or the gracious one who sees us as excited fans of their work?

    *applause* Susan for your much-needed reality check.
    .-= Julia Smith´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday – 133 =-.

  15. luanne

    January 6, 2010 4:51 pm

    Your response for sure! Well, that author knows how to build a loyal fan base eh? I had a similar experience. I was a manager at a large book store. We had a local but well known author come in for a signing. She was so rude and did nothing but sigh, look down and just give off a horrible vibe. She has written another book and when people ask me if I’ve read it, I say no and exactly why I refuse to read her.
    .-= luanne´s last blog ..Cleaving – Julie Powell =-.

  16. carol

    January 6, 2010 5:29 pm

    I would be humiliated if I got up the guts to talk to an author in real life and got that kind of response. Devastated. Now asking me to encourage them to buy their other books – perfect.

  17. Shelley Munro

    January 7, 2010 3:52 am

    But this is how word of mouth starts. You’re excited, you loved the book and shared your excitement with your friends. The excitement increases like a snowball and somewhere further down the line the author WILL sell more books. Heck, I should be so lucky to get a snowball rollin’!

    I read a lot. If an author lectured me, I’d never buy their book again.
    .-= Shelley Munro´s last blog ..Soaring Heights =-.

  18. Eric "Speedcat Hollydale"

    January 8, 2010 9:55 am

    Maybe the line is drawn between loving what you do, and loving money?

    I would opt with “thanks for the compliment
    .-= Eric “Speedcat Hollydale”´s last blog ..Sherlock Holmes Movie =-.

  19. Phyl (kashicat)

    January 8, 2010 2:18 pm

    Yegods. I just can’t believe authors like that! They’ve obviously fallen for the “almighty dollar” stuff that’s pervaded the society with the whole corporatist world view in the last couple of decades. (“Who cares what your circumstances are, give me money!!1!”)

    I agree with some of the above commenters — there’s no better marketing in the world than enthusiastic readers giving books to other enthusiastic readers, who are very likely to want their own copies if they like the borrowed book.

    But being told they are somehow obligated to buy a copy, before they’ve even read the book, is the essence of greed and arrogance. And such demands will never make people with little money any more capable of actually buying the book. Those demands, will, though, make sure a lot fewer people buy it. Grrr.

  20. haleyknitz

    January 8, 2010 3:15 pm


    as a writer (i’m not published, but I can understand it) I understand that sharing a book with friends is special. sharing a book with three or four friends is nice. but sharing with like… 15? really. you could at least buy two or three copies and rotate them, right? everyone pitch in three dollars or something?

    as a reader: I only donate books to the library that I know I’ll never read again, or that I think other people will like but that I didn’t get a kick out of them. if a friend asks to borrow a book, i’ll let them. but if i read a really good book, i encourage other people to buy it and support the author.

    lastly, buying books from goodwill (which i do) or used book stores (which i do a lot) or from library sales (most often) I may read a book and find that I love it. then I want more! so i’ll buy the rest of the series, or buy more from that author (hence my purchase of The Host, by S. Meyer, or The Almost Moon, A. Sebold) and i’ll review the book or blog about it, and other people buy it. so even though I didn’t purchase the book full price… does it pay in the long run? sure. Because I never would have read some of the books i’ve read or bought some of the books i’ve bought if I hadn’t gotten them dirt cheap in the first place.

    .-= haleyknitz´s last blog ..Giveaway: Hearing from God each morning =-.

  21. pjamarama

    January 8, 2010 4:23 pm

    I totally agree, I mean I have been known to buy books in the past on friends recommendations and most of the time I’ve not wasted the cash but then there are those books that sit and look at you for a few months and then end up being donated. And some books can be pretty pricey. I’ve lent books to my sister never to friends though I rarely see those again, but my sister takes too long to read them so I end up buying her them, well the ones I know she will like.
    I did it for my mum too but that was because I couldn’t think if what to get her for xmas and thought she might like the author.
    But going back to your point if I ever met an author like that I might be persuaded to get all their books from the library and make bootlegged audio books and spread them far and wide and see if they liked the royalties then…
    (actually I probably wouldn’t because I’m very lazy but would be good if someone did hehe)
    Happy New Year!
    .-= pjamarama´s last blog ..Book 2…Death’s Mistress by Karen Chance =-.

  22. Thomma Lyn

    January 12, 2010 4:58 pm

    Oh my goodness, if a reader told me she’d shared my book with all her friends and family, I’d be humbled and tickled pink up to my ears. I’ve had a couple of readers tell me that, in fact, and I felt utter delight. 🙂
    .-= Thomma Lyn´s last blog ..At Last, Another Hike! =-.

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