Friday, August 29, 2014

That thing called ‘Free Copies’!

Before I begin telling you what I exactly mean by this post of mine. Let me tell you a short story: story of a reader, a reviewer and an author.

It was month of February; year 2013. Delhi Book Fair was going on. Readers, reviewers, authors and all book lovers crowded Pragati Maidan. It was those days when Vijay, a book lover and reader decided to meet Himadri at Delhi Book Fair. Himadri was a well known book reviewer. Any author who would write a book was bound to send a copy of his/her book to Himadri. Vijay being a student could not spend much on books. He had good friendship with Himadri. So, he asked her to bring two books with her that day. Himadri did it as said by him. In book fair, Vijay met other authors. He asked one of those authors to sign the autograph for him. They didn’t have a paper other than those two books. Vijay opened the first page of the book and asked the authoress to sign on the first page. 

‘The book belongs to someone else and you’re making me sign it,’ she said smiling and signing the book for Vijay.

Vijay smiled and replied, ‘Who cares? It’s just another book that came for free.’

The very next day Vijay met the author of the same book in the book fair. The author was kind enough to drop Vijay to his place of residence. They both sat on Vijay’s room. Vijay picked out his book from the cupboard and asked him to sign it for him. The author turned the page and found out that he signed it for Himadri while he himself went to give the book to her. He turned the first page to find the book signed by the authoress on the first page. That was one of the embarrassing situations for Vijay. Though the author signed in the little space left below authoress’ signature, Vijay was left with a guilt; the guilt of disrespecting the book that the author wrote after hard work of many sleepless nights. 

Time passed and then Vijay himself became an author. Now, he understood what really a book means to an author and what actually a free copy is.

Before I begin telling you any further, let me tell you two things. First of all, Vijay is no one but me. Secondly, before I tell you anything about free copies, I would like to tell you a little about publishing industry and the process.

Publishing industry, as I have known it in recent years is much more complicated than what I had seen it from a reader’s eye few years ago. Readers see it as a money making industry; giving glory, fame and money to the authors. However, the actual scenario is just the opposite. I wondered it to follow a simple rule. Write a book, sent it to publishers, they will publish it and bang! You’re an author. But recently with the increasing number of manuscripts that are floating in the market, it is really difficult for any publisher to read each and every manuscript. Tell me! What would you do if you get as much as 50-60 mails per day. I believe you would too look for an escape. Moreover, try visiting a Landmark or Crossword near your place. You may notice the book section getting small and being replaced by eatables or toys. Publishers are making less money. So, to tackle this, there are hardly few publishers who publish books with traditional publishing. For other aspiring authors, there is a simple rule: pay and get published. Authors with no choice have to go for it. No matter, how he pays the publisher. Whether it be his dad’s hard earned money, borrowed up money from friends or a personal loan, he pays it to the publisher to fulfill his dream.

What next? The book goes in pre-order at different online portals. The author shares the pre-order links and bang! A chatbox opens up with a message – ‘Yaar! Mere ko ek copy sign karke bhej dena.’ Or, ‘Arey, aap to mere ghar k kitne pass rehte ho. Aapko to khud book sign karke deni chahiye.’ Few of those messages get those copies for free. But then, this has just started man. There will be another set of facebook friends whom you may have never met even want signed copies of your book. By signed copy, it doesn’t mean that they will cherish it. It means they want a free lunch.

Come back to author side again. You may wonder how many free copies he gets from the publisher. Hardly, five to ten or maximum twenty! Enough? No.. not really. Actually the number of people who want free copies are not less than 50 in any case. Now, suppose author wants say few more copies from his publisher, what will he do? He will surely take a price from the author. These books are sent to authors at a discounted rate that may vary from max 40 to 50% discounts. Suppose, there is a case for few seconds, let us assume that author gets something called ‘free copies’, what will he do? If I were an author in that place, I would like to take maximum copies from my publisher and sell it to distributors, retailers and other book sellers at a price that my publisher does and make hell lot of money to recover the investment I made or even gain more. But then, why can’t a publisher give it for free? No matter, one does not think but book printing and transporting it to distributors is a bigger part of the cost at which the books is sent to the distributors for distribution.

The author though has to buy few copies for him. Why? Every author wants his book to reach the masses; he sends it to bloggers, reviewers and newspapers. Once I asked Mr Anand Neelakantan, #1 bestselling author of Asura: Tale of the Vanguished whose book had numerous newspapers coverage for months. My question was simple - What is the ratio of the newspapers coverage to the books that has been sent to newspapers? I was amazed at his reply. The actual copies that have been sent to newspapers were around 200. However, the newspaper coverage was hardly 20-25. It brings the ratio to be 1/8th or 1/10th of the actual books sent to these newspapers. In most of the cases, author is bound to take this burden as newspaper is a strong media to reach the masses.

In my other conversation with Mr. K. Hari Kumar, the bestselling author of ‘When Strangers Meet’, I came to learn about a new story. Hari was to attend some family function that night when we were talking. I wondered family functions are good place for an author to speak about their work. But again to my surprise, Hari told me that every relative of his wants a free copy of his book and it’s useless to talk about his book to them.

Disheartened, I looked for a solution. I mean, the author who is already burdened with the heavy loan he took while getting his books printed, what should he do? And, the solution came in the form of a website named www.getsignedbooks.com, a venture by Dipen Ambalia, who is himself an author of three books till date. Getsignedbooks is a concept where an author can sell his personalized signed books at a price he/she wants. I got listed my book there and whenever there is a ping or comments saying, ‘Yaar! Mere ko ek personalized signed copy chahiye.’, I would smile; share my book link from the website and ask the person who demands it, ‘Please! Go ahead. ’ Only genuine people who needs authors personalized copy will buy it then, others will never demand it again, nor buy it.

However, not many authors have registered their books on the website. They are still troubled, working hard to sell their books. What should one do as a reader? Trouble him more by asking free copies? I believe, no. With this post, I just want to request every reader not to demand for free copies. No matter you don’t read your friend/author’s work, but at least don’t bother him by asking a free copy. Trust me, if you really deserve it, he/she will surely send it to you. 

That’s all I have with me for today. Hope I didn’t hurt my readers very much. Just a request! Think before you drop a message in author’s chatbox – ‘Can I have a signed copy of your book?’

6 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Hopefully readers will understand it now.

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  2. Replies
    1. Apologies for the delay in response. Don't know how I missed it.

      Thanks Hema for stopping by, reading it and dropping your views! :)

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