Readers and Writers: Financial Matters

Readers and Writers: A Delicate Balance

This is part of a multi-part series regarding some potential pitfalls and difficulties on both sides of the reader/writer relationship. It's important to note that different writers (and readers) will have different comfort levels. It has been a surprise for me how many authors suffer from serious social anxiety, it's always important to remember that you cannot own another person and while the writer does not have an excuse to treat another poorly, sometimes they may not, for their own mental well-being, be able to engage with you in the way you would prefer.
This series will focus mainly on things I've observed about writer/reader interactions. It will in no way be a blanket statement of how it is appropriate for all readers to interact with all writers, or vice versa.
Some subjects we'll be covering:

Part Three: Does the reader owe the writer financial support?

There's nothing that will turn writers against readers as fast as money. It makes sense. Authors are often struggling to make a living. Very few of us will actually make enough to be able to "quit our day jobs" and anything that influences one's livelihood has the potential to get heated because it really matters ... and then you have the poor reader who just wants a few hours of entertainment.

Honestly, though, I usually end up siding with the readers when this comes up. I get annoyed with the way authors often try to shame readers to pay more for books ... there's this popular meme that goes around writers circles that laments how people will pay $5 for a coffee but are unwilling to pay the same for a book that takes an author a year to make ... I've broken down on Facebook why I think this is an apples to oranges comparison and also pointed out that plenty of people don't have it in their budgets to pay $5 for a cup of coffee (though if you were to send me a gift certificate for a coffee spot, I'd certainly be happy, hint hint. COFFEE!!!).

It is easy when sales are slow to start a pity party and blame readers for being unwilling to purchase your books and make you a success. However, griping at the very folk who are essentially your customers can make you sound spoiled and entitled.

If you aren't making money, try mixing up your marketing plan. Try writing more books. Try looking at your reviews and seeing if you might need to improve the books you have. Don't turn around and start chewing out readers for being stingy.

Complaining about book prices

Now there are times that readers can get a little annoying on this side of things. I don't think it is particularly polite to complain to a writer about the price of a book, but I have know of people who have gone out of their way to message writers about this. If you think the price of a book is too high, you can buy another book. You can request the book at a library. You can wait patiently to see if the book goes on sale ... but pricing the book is the writers decision ...
And yeah, sometimes their decision will be ill-advised. I once saw an indie post saying they were surprised that their paperback sold so much better than their ebook when their paperback was more expensive than their ebook ... so I glanced at their Amazon page, and yeah, their paper back was like two dollars more than their ebook ... but their ebook was like $8.99. If I have the choice between a $9 ebook and a $11 paperback, and I really want that book more than some other $2.99-4.99 book (which tends to be the range most ebook buyers are comfortable with at this time), of course I'm going to buy the paperback. There are a lot of different reasons why the paperback has more value to a reader (ability to resell/regift/loan-easily ... just the emotional weight of having an actual object, etc.).
So if you think a book is priced too high, buy another book. If the writer's sales are low enough, they may eventually reconsider. Don't email the writer griping about it.

Asking for Free Copies

Another time readers might overstep is in requesting free copies. Unless you are collecting donations for a charity, you shouldn't really request free product unless you are adding some value to the author. Now sometimes an author might choose to put their book up for free days for various reasons, and if so, grab the free book! Writers do this for exposure, to gather reviews, and to give readers a taste of their writing so hopefully they'll come back for more, and for the most part it works.
However, asking for a book free isn't any different from strolling into any store and asking for any other product free.
I mentioned above, though, that if you give the author a reason why, then you might have a case. If you are blogger who leaves book reviews, for instance, and the writer wants reviews, it is fine to ask for a book in return for a review ... but don't be upset if the writer says no. 

Unfortunately, Writers DO have bills

As much as most of us would love to have a wealthy patron who supports our work so we don't have to worry about such things, it is true, that we writers live in the same real world as the readers and have expenses ... and while we may write for the love of it, we still have to eat.
Sometimes our production schedules are halted by "Can I afford to pay my editor or cover designer this month?" 
So while buying our books isn't an obligation, it is kind of a win-win because if we had financial freedom, we'd have more time to write as well as less stress and therefore more creative energy. 
So buy a book and feed a writer.