Ask Bethany House: Can You Give Me a Free Book?

I’m cheating and taking this month’s Ask Bethany House question from a survey of our authors about what questions they have about marketing. I think it might be interesting for readers to eavesdrop on something several of their favorite authors are struggling with. Here it is:

“I never know what to say when readers request free copies of my book in exchange for a review. Why are so many readers doing this, and how should I respond?”

Free

I want to handle this question carefully, because I’ve seen it addressed in a way that makes the entire publishing industry seem like whiny terrors who hate readers and life in general. I can’t emphasize enough that authors and publishers love books, and they love readers.

Here’s the thing, though: that doesn’t mean that readers should expect free books from authors or publishing companies, even in exchange for a review.

Yet there are many who do, some very polite and well-intentioned. Most authors are not angry or upset with them, they’re just not sure how to respond because they can’t give books to everyone…and feel like they shouldn’t. I agree.

So let’s ask why this is so common. Here are my best guesses:

Reason One: Social Media

Because of social media, readers can trade stories and comments with their favorite authors, bond over a shared interest, and see pictures of their authors’ kids, cats, and kitchen remodels. And there is so much that I love about that. But there are downsides. For example, Facebook and Instagram make authors feel like best friends…and best friends give you books as gifts, right?

And that’s where the logic stops working.

I think social media has confused the boundaries of our relationships with one another. Everyone is a generic “friend” on Facebook, whereas in real life, we have to consider what we should expect from others and how we can best interact with them.

For example, it’s totally acceptable for me to send a “Happy Birthday” text to a fellow youth group leader…but my mom would be disappointed if that’s all I did to celebrate her special day. Their expectations are different because my relationship with them is different.

I think readers requesting (or, in some cases, demanding) free books comes from misplaced expectations.

Here’s what I think authors owe readers: really good books. Many of our authors say time and time again that they plumb the depths of their soul, work on honing their craft, and put in tired hours researching and revising for the sake of readers.

Here’s what I think readers owe authors: respect for those good books. And one way of showing respect for good books is recognizing all the work that goes into them—for the author and the team of dozens who edit, design, typeset, and market the book. Hopefully knowing that will make you value the books you do receive as gifts or through blogger review programs, and maybe make you hesitate before asking an author for free review copies.

There will always be things to like and dislike about social media.

There will always be things to like and dislike about social media.

Reason Two: Ebooks

Thousands of ebooks showing up for $1.99 makes it easier to think of books as McDonalds hamburgers instead of gourmet meals (given to you at the price of a reasonable entrée at Applebee’s). In a way, ebook specials are making us devalue books.

On the other hand, ebook specials are low-risk ways to take a shot at a new author, or an easy way to introduce an author to your friends…kind of like offering to let them borrow your book. Or maybe a budget-friendly alternative to the library. Which is why I’m totally in favor of what Bethany House is doing with ebook specials.

Here’s a secret, though: those ebook specials are not really for avid Christian fiction fans. It’s perfectly fine for you to take advantage of a good bargain, but the target audience of an ebook special is made up of those outside our usual reach, people who have never set foot inside a LifeWay, or who have written off Christian fiction as preachy or boring. We’re trying to change their minds by giving them an easy way to try out our authors.

Here’s the response I’d love to see from readers to these specials: “What an exciting deal! Now I can buy a novel in ebook form that I might not otherwise have been able to afford. I should tell all my friends to try out this author too!” Whereas by now, many authors are getting responses like, “Great. When’s your new book going to be 99 cents?” Which, again, doesn’t show respect to the authors and the value of their books.

We wish we could!

We wish we could!

Now that I’ve explained why more people are expecting free or low-priced books, here’s how I’d advise authors to respond to these requests.

One: Say, “Thank you for your interest in my books.” That’s a great way to start. Affirm the reader in any way you can, even if the “request” came across as demanding.

Two: Explain that you and your publisher have a limited number of copies. Because of the number of requests you receive, and in order to make a living as an author, you have to choose carefully how to distribute them. Then explain your policy for copies—you only give them to bloggers, or you have an influencer team that applied for membership, or whatever the case might be.

Three: Don’t feel guilty. I have this problem often, especially if I’m turning down someone with medical problems, on a fixed income, etc. Remember, your obligation to readers is to write good books. You are not obligated to give readers free books, no matter what the circumstances, and they shouldn’t feel entitled to them.

And to all you readers out there: don’t feel guilty either, especially if you do get free books from time to time for promoting the authors. This post is not about those influencers who are working hard to spread the word about their favorite authors’ books. We appreciate what you do! I just want to give you a glimpse at the authors’ perspective on this issue.

Authors, any follow-up questions? Readers, did anything I said surprise you, or would you like clarification on anything?

58 thoughts on “Ask Bethany House: Can You Give Me a Free Book?

  1. I am an avid reader and I agree with you 100%! Although I appreciate winning or receiving a free book to help promote or influence an author I enjoy reading, I would never “expect” a freebie. That attitude is not very Christian at all. I hope that your post will open their eyes. Blessings to you and all of the people who work to bring wonderful stories for us to enjoy and grow from.

    • Thanks, Tina! I’m sure people who expect free books aren’t trying to be insensitive, so hopefully this post will help. Thank you for your support of our books and authors!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  2. While I love getting free stuff, I would never contact a publisher or (God forbid) an author and ask for a free book. Wake up people! This is the way they make their living. How they pay their bills. I am a member of several groups that send free books in exchange for reviews. However, they were asking for people to join these groups, I applied and was accepted. But, it still does not give me the right to ASK for free stuff!

    • Hi, Kay! Yes, keeping in mind that authors do have to make a living from writing is helpful. We want them to continue to write great stories!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  3. I am an avid reader who has participated, and is participating, on many launch teams; receiving books in exchange for my assistance with reviews and social media “buzz”. But I purchase dozens of books as well, posting reviews on multiple sites and generating online conversations. It is a “privilege” in every sense of the word to receive those books that have been so carefully crafted, often including a personalized message or thank you by the author. To be honest it has increased the number of books that I am able to read, but I donate most print copies to my church library AND then purchase the e-book version, so that I can have my own “library” at the tap of a finger . A great post and thoughtfully constructed.

  4. I find this very interesting. I love to win books and review, but I am surprised people would ask.

    I think too, you always have the option of your public library. My library regularly purchases books that I ask them to buy. (e-book and paperback) That is a great way to promote an author, share the author with others and get a free book to read.
    Becky

    • Love your thoughts on libraries, Becky! Many libraries have forms you can fill out to request books. It’s a great way to get more Christian fiction on the shelves.

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  5. When I receive emails from total strangers asking for free books for review, I thank them for thinking of me and advise them to try their luck with my publisher. A few of these free copies turn up on eBay and I know this for a fact. When I receive a request from a total stranger with limited means, I advise them to borrow or request my books for purchase from their local public library, which most libraries will gladly do. Failing that, the librarian can set up an inter-library loan, borrowing a copy from another system, and this service is free to the reader. Sometimes, though, these responses do not satisfy and I sense a veiled threat that if the reader ever DOES lay hands on a copy of my novels, there will be poor reviews. Make no mistake: I’ve given away hundreds of dollars worth of my own free promotional copies to family, friends, and eager readers. Very, very few authors actually make a living from their writing. If not for God’s faithful provision through my husband’s job, I’d be out on the street or living with a relative, and that is no exaggeration. 🙂

    • Thanks for joining the conversation, Stephanie! All good tips for readers. Thankfully, the people fishing for freebies to sell are few and far between, but it is puzzling to know how to deal with them for the reasons you mentioned.

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  6. I totally agree. I have, however, tried a new author when a book is on sale and have been pleasantly surprised to find it as a good way to be introduced. Times I have done that , if I enjoy the books, I have gone on to buy their other books or find them in the local library. If it’s not at the library, I will do “a suggested title” at the library and they will order them in for me. If there is a new release coming out soon, I do the same with that. If I have just read a good book, I pass on the title to friends and family. I would never expect an author to send me a free book even if that person has become “one of my favorite authors”. The only thing that I am disappointed about, is the fact if the authors or Bethany House for that matter have any contests, I am not able to enter because I live in Canada. That certainly doesn’t keep me from reading though.

    • That’s great, Olivia! Thanks so much–it’s the little things like that by readers that make a big difference added up.

      And, on a personal note, I’m sorry for the US-only type contests! It’s a constant frustration for me, and I’m trying to come up with ways to do more contests that involve gift cards and the like so we can include our international readers.

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  7. It’s a bit like the organized church. The two sides. One where you teach and build community. The otherside, the organization where we pay bills to keep the heat and lights on, the staff employment ect.. Your gifts do this.
    Free services don’t pay the bills.

    My thought anyway.

  8. As an avid reader, book purchaser, and also a book reviewer, the only thing I see you have not covered is that often it is hard with the prices today, to take a chance on a new author. I have offered to review a book in exchange for a copy, but I know that if it is a book I like, that it will generate sales for them.

    I recently reviewed a book for an author that had one 2 one star reviews on Amazon when I offered. The book sounded very good, and I planned on purchasing it at a later date, but when we interacted, she was discouraged. However, I could not risk $15 on a book that was a virtually unknown author.

    That is when listening to those people that request a free copy will pay off. Even if they are not a big name in book reviews, look at their reach. I am very active in the Avid readers groups, on GoodReads, Pinterest, blogging, but also in the local readers groups. It may not mean that you will sell 10k copies, but you may end up reaching over 6000 readers when I review it on my FB group, who often share it.

    I encourage readers to buy books, not to ask for free ones for the very reasons you stated. But also, see that the offer of books in exchange for a review is not often looked at as a valuable resource as it should be.

    Writing reviews is a tough job as well. I would much rather be reading without writing them. =) Make sure you are grateful for your reviewers as well!

    • Great thoughts, Martha! I would agree that a free book is a small price for new authors to pay for someone who will promote their book, which often includes a review. I love and appreciate book influencers, as do our authors. What I’m more referring to is a person who asks authors for free books and in exchange promises to write a sentence or two on Amazon (which many paying readers will do without asking for compensation)…which they may or may not do.

      Sometimes it can be hard for authors to tell the difference between someone looking for a freebie and someone who will actually put time and effort into reviewing and promoting their book, but I certainly agree that there’s a difference that should be noted!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

      • Very true! I have one reviewer that I know of that I am constantly irritated with as I feel she requests books to review them badly. I do wish there was some way that if the publisher or authors noted that, they would stop sending that type of book to the reviewer.

        • Absolutely–great thought! It’s not a foolproof system, but we have a marketing assistant, Brittany, who prints off blogger reviews to send to authors. When she sees a blogger who consistently dislikes a particular author or sort of book, she passes it on to me so I know not to send that person more of the same.

          Amy

  9. I appreciate your insight into this subject. I hate when I spend money on a book and I cannot read it because the content is filled with cursing or graphic sex scenes. I do thank you for the free books though. I have gotten to read books from authors that I might not have heard of or looking into.

  10. I would never ask an author for a free book. Now, if one is offered, yes! A thousand times yes!

    But I don’t ask my friends of any kind/level for free gifts. So that behavior would not happen with any author friends I would have.

    I do disagree with one point of this article. It says the author owes the reader nothing but a good book. That is true. Conversely, the reader owes the author nothing more than the purchase of said book. The article intimates that readers should post reviews for nothing. Well, my time and marketing support are worth something too. Have I written reviews for nothing in return? Yes, but not many. That’s my choice. The author and publisher shouldn’t expect free reviews – which is essentially free marketing. Word of mouth is great, but it can’t be forced.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by! And, just to clarify, I said that readers owe authors respect for their books, not the purchase of the book. I used that wording purposefully so as not to demean the value of people who are genuine influencers for a book a receive a free copy for that purpose. I would say that readers like you who are supporting authors by promoting the books they receive for free *are* showing respect for the books, even though you’re not purchasing them. Hope that helps to clarify!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  11. Thank you for this article. I have been asked if I would like an advance copy of a book in exchange for an honest review. I accepted because I had bought and reviewed this author’s books before. It was fun reading a book before it was launched. I have won books at release/launch parties and I enjoy winning the books, who wouldn’t’. However, asking an author to give you a book is wrong whichever way you look at it.
    I also promote/share on social media the author and the books I enjoyed reading. I tell people to buy the book. I have bought e-books a couple times for folks who did not have a lot of dimes to spare. Also, Amazon has free and inexpensive books shock I get, I admit my TBR is also little long.
    I am “friends” on FB with several authors and I enjoy the interaction, but I buy their books. This is their job and they should not be asked to do it for free.

    • Hi Glenis! Sounds like you do a great job of supporting the authors you enjoy…thnaks so much for that! And long TBR piles are the struggle of every reader…but a good problem to have!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  12. I would never asked any author for a free book. If there is a giveaway I’ll enter. Authors are letting us share their minds for a little while my part is to pay for the privilege.

  13. I think the biggest thing that has shifted our perspective is how many programs are out there for getting free review copies into the hands of reviewers. I ask authors for free books, but I try to be very honest – I include links to my site so they can see what sort of reviews I give and make an informed decision whether or not giving me a free book will help increase their publicity or not. If they decide it won’t, that’s ok because I can usually talk the library into getting most new books. If I KNOW the book is going to be good though, that’s when I really want a free copy because I’ll want to loan it to lots of friends and convince them to become fans of the author. You see, I can’t afford to buy books new so I have to find other, more creative ways, to support the authors. I do that through writing reviews and promoting the books actively. If a book is good, it doesn’t stop at my posting a review, I actively recommend it to people in my FB group who are seeking books of that genre. And I loan it to friends who sometimes then go and buy other books by that author. And for my most favorite author, I not only make sure my main library purchases some copies, I recommend it to all the other libraries in the area. So I guess I don’t have a problem asking for a free book as long as the author knows what to expect out of a review from me. I just trust that they will only send me a book if it will help them. The times I feel guilty are when, even knowing the unique spiritual focus of my reviews, an author sends me a book for free and I have to give it a bad rating. Oh how I hate that! I want to reward the author so much for their kindness but honesty prompts me to admit there was little to no spiritual value in the book. Those situations are so hard for me! The rest of the time though, I like asking for free books because I can use it to be a blessing to the author and get all those people out there who DO have money to buy them! I figure, it’s either I buy 1 copy of a book once a month and review just that 1 book and recommend just that 1 book, or I get 10 books for free and review and recommend all 10. I hope that makes sense. I don’t want to expect an author just to give me a free book so I can have some entertainment. I want to help support Christian fiction with the limited means I have.

    • Hi Jamie! I feel like blogger review programs and authors requesting influencers are a different case, because, as you mentioned, it usually involves more extensive support than someone just posting a few lines on Amazon or Goodreads. Beyond that, if you have a circle of influence among readers and will actually be putting forth effort to promote the book in ways you mentioned, it may at times be appropriate to ask an author for a review copy, knowing that the author might not have enough to distribute to everyone who asks. This post was mostly to help authors and readers think about how to deal with having too many requests for free books.

      And I’m sure giving a bad review of a book would be difficult! I appreciate reviews I see that detail, graciously, the problems they had with the book and say that while the book wasn’t a good fit for them for the reasons mentioned, someone else might enjoy it.

      Thanks for all you do to support authors and their books!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  14. As a book reviewer and blogger I will admit that I sometimes will inquire of an author if they would be interested in sending me a copy of their book in exchange for a review. But it is not just a review I offer to do with it. I offer guest posts, interviews, etc. My reviews go to several sites (my blog, goodreads, amazon, B&N, smashwords, edelweiss, powells, etc). i also keep an eye on the author for awhile for any special posts, promotions, etc I can share about them on twitter, facebook, etc. A requester should be able to provide a benefit for the author. Not just do it to hopefully get a free book
    Before I ask though I always look to see if they have any requirements or requests about review requests. As a blogger I know I have them for when authors/publishers contact me. While I haven’t seen very much of this with authors I think it it a great idea. Have a note on your social media or blog about how and when to request a book. If there is a publicist they should contact or what type of reviewers they want or any other requirements. This can field a lot of readers that are just looking for a handout.
    An author or publisher has every right to say no to any request and the reader/reviewer should gracefully accept that decision. It could be due to limited copies, or they just don’t feel that what the requester has to offer as being enough of a benefit. Whatever the reason, it should be okay. Just like a reviewer may not (and often does not have the time or interest for) every book someone asks them to review. It is a two way street and respect and understanding should be there no matter the result.

    • Thanks for joining the conversation, Jamie! What you’ve described–a reviewer providing a notable benefit for an author–is different from a lot of what I’ve seen of readers requesting copies. I think most authors are open to requests from those who want to be influencers and champions of their books. However, they have many fans who will pay for the book and then do the same, so in some cases, they don’t feel obligated to supply reviewers with a free copy. As you said, it’s up to each individual author to decide…and to be respectful and understanding in their response.

      As far as having a review request area for authors…that may, in fact, be a good idea. One problem might be that if all our authors (around 30 active authors, some of whom have thousands of fans) referred requesters to me, as their publicist, I would literally do nothing but answer those emails all day instead of the other tasks I do to promote their book (believe me, it takes an incredible amount of time!). I agree that authors and publishers should be clear and considerate in their response, whatever that response looks like.

      Appreciate you taking the time to give your thoughts!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  15. I don’t understand why they would expect a free book. I do read and review and have joined different publishers blog program where I get books but I also buy the books to support the authors. I would never expect or request or demand a book for free. I want the author to be able to keep writing and want to support them anyway I can by promoting their books, reviews and buying.

    • Hi Deb! Thanks for all you do to promote authors and their books! It’s so helpful in finding new readers who will then, in turn, tell others.

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  16. As a published author (by another publisher, but I respect Bethany House), thank you for this post. I’m afraid that too many readers have now adopted the philosophy of Hawaiian surfer and Olympian, Duke Kahanamoku: “For free, take. For buy, waste time.”

    • Hi Richard! Thanks for stopping by the blog. I hope it’s helpful to many readers to think about concerns writers are having. And your comment about the surfer make me smile…that’s one way of putting it!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  17. I buy books that interest me. If a free book picks my interest, I will read it, but if it doesn’t I really don’t want it clutter my Kindle. I will buy a book a for the same reason, if it is buy one of my favorite authors and I know I am going to enjoy the book. I find it well worth the money.

    • Sounds like you’re doing a great job of being discerning in what you buy…which is helpful, because otherwise your TBR pile might get as out-of-control as mine! Thanks for stopping by, Ginny!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  18. I am an avid reader, reviewer/blogger and general book nag! I joined blogger review programs a few years ago to get free books for my church’s library. I have never asked for a free book outside of blogger review programs. In fact my inbox is often inundated with review requests! Unfortunately I do have other interests outside of reading, such as cleaning, cooking and general upkeep of my family, to name a few, so I cannot say yes to everyone.

    My husband kids me that the reviewing is not a “real” job, since I don’t get paid. But I look at it as a ministry — getting the word out about books that will glorify God and encourage, convict and guide people in their walks with Christ.

    A few months back someone asked what it took to become a reviewer so that they could get “free books”. I was kind of saddened by this, because that’s not why I do it. If you saw my shelves, you would know that I have enough books to last me for years! 😉 So, in a long-winded way, I agree that asking for freebies is not a good idea. But support of your favorite authors that also view their vocations as ministry is.

    • Love the way you put the impact telling others about these books has! I completely agree, and I’m so grateful for the heart you put into what you do, as I’m sure many authors are (and readers who have found some wonderful books through what you do!).

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  19. My two cents: I stared reviewing books in 2007after my mom, who was also my book buddy, promoted home to Jesus. I had to have an outlet to share my love of books. After a few months, and connecting with other bloggers, I discovered groups I could join and get free books to review. I was flooded with books and was tasting Heaven on earth.
    Then blog reviewers became the next big thing, somewhere around 2010, and suddenly free books and how to get them became much more structured. I joined publishing networks, and received fewer books, but I was still kept well supplied. And if I had a good working relationship with the author, I would ask for a book in exchange for a review.
    The entire review industry has changed rapidly. Fewer copies are available for review, and many favorite publishers have cut back on fiction, or eliminated it completely…and that breaks my heart.
    I stopped requesting free books and instead would get a copy as inexpensively as I could, and began sending reviews to authors just as encouragement.
    I also made it a point of staying read up on the industry trends and news. I signed up with NetGalley, GoodReads, and as an influencer. That helped me obtain books, help authors, and keep my job affordable.
    So many factors have come together in an effort to kill the Christian fiction market, most recently the downfall of Family Christian Stores. I hurt for my author friends, and I hurt for the readers.

    Yeah, it’s great to get a free book, but by purchasing more than we get for free, we keep books available for everyone who loves to read and who love great quality fiction. In many ways, we are missionaries to the reading world, helping spread God’s Word through story.

    If your book budget is tight, go to the publisher or join a network. Find influencer groups and ask to join in. I get it about the library…I love owning all my favorites, and lending them to those who need them.

    Okay. I’m finally done now! LOL!

    • Hi Deena! You’re right, things are always changing in the publishing world, and it’s interesting to see how that’s true in the blogging world as well. I appreciate your encouragement to both authors and readers!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  20. Well, this was a hot topic! The main thing I benefited from in this article is knowing the goal of $.99 and $2.99 deals is to reach non-Christian Fiction readers. Interesting! I wonder if that is truly who is taking advantage of those deals? I LOVE finding Kindle deals! MAKES MY DAY! Please keep ’em coming! It’s rare that I’ll pay more than $10 for a book. I look for deals with Kindle (sometimes pre-buys will be $4.99) or deals at Christian Book Distributors. I’m a bargain shopper. Do I ask for freebies? I do not. Do I enter giveaways? Absolutely, but only for books that I plan to read.

    • Interesting, isn’t it, Staci! Of course, we’re happy for you to take advantage of deals, but they probably wouldn’t exist if we weren’t trying to reach entirely new readers.

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  21. I think you explained the situation very well! I would never ask an author or publishing house for free books! They do have to make a living and people should realize that. I have won some copies of books and very much appreciate them! I buy several hundred $ worth of books a year! Most of the paperbacks come from CBD. I do take advantage of free or discounted ebooks, but if it’s something I really enjoy I want to go ahead & buy the paperback to keep in my libraries. I for one appreciate every Christian Fiction author! There was a time I had to hunt for something decent to read because I read lots & lots when I was young. I still read lots but I have more obligations now than I did when I was a teenager and don’t get to read as much. I’m just glad I have a big TBR list that are clean reads.

    • Thanks, Brenda! And it’s true: there will always be more good books to read than we will ever have time for! I think that’s a good problem to have.

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  22. Wow! I’m rather hanging my head in shame here. I review every book I read and post the review on our blog, Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. If I download the file from NetGalley, I post my feedback there as well. My goal is to read/review 175 books again in 2015 as I did in 2014. I have many author friends who send me files of their books to read/review/promote for them. I’m always delighted to do so. In addition, I have a fabulous library where I borrow awesome books to again promote. Usually, these are other books by authors whose work I read and liked via NetGalley. So, when I say I’m ashamed it’s because I didn’t realize that some authors aren’t necessarily happy to share a “free” copy with a known reviewer. I shall be sure to not request or hint at such a thing anymore. I’m glad to know this because I would never want to put an author on the spot. Thank you!

    • Hi Connie! This post wasn’t meant to make anyone feel ashamed, just to explain why some authors might turn down a request for a book in exchange for a review. I know a lot of authors would love to give free books to all their devoted fans, but then they wouldn’t be able to write the next one! Like I said, there are times when an author feels that promotion of the book is worth giving a free copy. It’s just become common practice for authors to receive many, many more requests than they can grant. Happy reading!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  23. I’ve been reading this thread with great interest, and I’m SO encouraged by the thoughtful responses.

    As a relatively new author, I haven’t a lot of requests for free books, but when I do, I’m conflicted about whether I’m being a good steward of my limited number of review copies. Who should I give those books to? Who will love them as much as I do? (Okay, well, maybe that’s stretching it a bit… lol)

    So, my angst-filled-self came up with a solution. I have a street team, dubbed Calico Crew since I write historical romance.

    Christian fiction reviewers, bloggers, and social-media-savvy folks fill out an application to be considered. When slots open up on Calico Crew, pending applications are reviewed, and those who are a good fit with me and my writing are invited to join the crew.

    I love my little crew and am always excited about sharing news, events, and books with them as well as sharing in their lives and praying for their struggles. My stress level on who and where to send new releases is a lot less than it used to be. 🙂

    Sorry this ended up being so long, but hopefully other authors might find this method helpful when deciding how to handle requests for free books. I’m pretty sure the social-media-code-of-ethics considers it bad form to post a link, so if someone wants to view the application (for ideas or to actually apply), contact me through Facebook or my website, and I’ll send you the link.

    • Hi Pam! Thanks for stopping by the blog! (Thanks to Mary Connealy, I stop by to check out what’s going on at Seekerville quite often, so I’ve seen your name before!)

      I love the street team idea, and have seen many authors successfully adopt it to better filter requests from readers. I think the way you explained it here will certainly be helpful to other authors who may be reading through the comments, so thank you for contributing what’s worked fro you!

      (And, for the record, I’m not against people posting links in blog comments so long as they’re to help others and not blatant hijack-the-post self-promotion.)

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  24. Great post Amy! Whatever type of books you review, I don’t think you should ever feel entitled to getting free ones. Why do I blog? Because I love books – reading them, talking about them, promoting my favorite authors, etc. If there were no blogging programs, I’d still have a book blog (I actually didn’t discover blogging programs until about 1.5 years in). Yes, getting free books is a bonus, but that’s not my main motivation (plenty I read aren’t inspirational fiction) and maybe that’s the difference.

    Thanks again for sharing!
    Jamie – Books and Beverages

    • Thanks, Jamie! That’s especially helpful coming from you, since you work so hard to keep your site relevant to both authors and readers. I absolutely think that’s the difference. It’s a bit tricky, from the publisher perspective, to distinguish one from the other in large blogger review programs, which is why we end up giving away free books to some readers who, while probably well-intentioned, are mainly in it just for the freebies and aren’t as helpful when it comes to promoting the books. That’s something I’d like to see BHP get better at in the future so we can serve both our authors and our true book promoters more effectively.

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  25. Great perspective! I appreciated this post. Another thing an author can recommend to a reader who feels they can’t afford to pay full price for a book is to check it out from their library or ask their library to acquire a copy if they don’t have it. That’s how I was able to read as much as I did before I became a book blogger.

    • Thanks, Heidi! Yes, absolutely. I’ve found that many readers didn’t realize that you can request books instead of just hoping the library will choose the sort you want. It’s a really helpful feature that many libraries have!

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  26. I’m an avid reader now and always have been, but I’ve never asked an author for a free book. I buy books on rare occasions at local book stores, but that is due to my health issues. I buy most of my books on Amazon because I can use an Amazon gift card and my real identity is not revealed. I give my review input on only a few of the books that I read. I do not contact any authors asking for free books for two reasons:

    1. Free books may not be what type books I enjoy reading. I always read a few pages of books as Amazon allows before purchasing. It helps me decide how to spend my money carefully while also helping me not get stuck with a book that I may have to force myself to finish reading or not finish reading it at all.

    2. I have participated in one contest that turned out to be a very lengthy one. While I didn’t win any of the prizes offered, I enjoyed learning about the authors who wrote short biographies about themselves. I also enjoyed some interactions with some of those authors.

    As for your other question, what could you say to stop people from asking for free copies of Bethany House books or what could the writers say to them? May I suggest that your authors that are asked say, “I’m sorry, but I have a small number (only 5) so – I’ve decided to hold a few contest and give one away as a contest prize.”

    Have a great day,
    flowerpot19@jetbroadband.com

    • Hi Jeri! Great thoughts! Excerpts are a great way to decide whether to spend your money on a book because it gives you a sense of the author’s style and ability (I can say that with confidence because I know our authors are very talented and their excerpts will show that off!).

      Good point in bringing up contests–many authors choose to do those through social media or other outlets, and that would be a great place to direct readers if a contest is currently running.

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  27. Pingback: Four Reasons to Read a Novella | Bethany House Fiction

  28. A great article! All of it so true! I think ebooks actually does hinder the buying of paper books. There are so many giveaways too that I could be on FB all day and fill out to win books but I don’t and I don’t see how they afford that. I have won quite a few but I buy about $500.00 (or more sometimes) worth of books a year. I realize everyone can’t do that but I’m a book hoarder. I appreciate great authors.

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