But how does an author use a promotional copy? Of course when you tweet the photo of your 5, or 10, or 20 (I tend to get 20) copies spilling from their box @JoeReader is quick to tweet back that you could send them one.
It seems simple. It's a free book. It cost me nothing. Send it out to a reader.
Today this arrived chez Lawrence:
It's a very nice hardcover copy of Chains of the Heretic, signed and dedicated by Jeff Salyards. I've read (& reviewed) the first two, Scourge of the Betrayer and Veil of the Deserter, and enjoyed them a lot.
Look what it cost to send....
When I send a book to the States or Brazil it often costs me more to send than it would to give the person the money to buy a copy in their own country.
I'm literally paying people to read my book. And that's not a recipe for success as an author in general. It's supposed to work the other way around if I want to eat.
How can this be a sensible move for Jeff?
We'll clearly the hope is that I will somehow convince enough people to buy his books to compensate the investment here.
Let's look at the arithmetic.
Let's say Jeff gets 10% of the cover price of a hardcover copy when it's sold. That may well be an overestimate.
Let's give 15% of that royalty to Jeff's agent.
Let's give 20% of it to the tax man.
That leaves Jeff with about 7% of the cover price.
The cover price of the book is $25.99 (on Amazon it's selling for $20)
34 / (0.07 x 25.99) = 18.7
So, if I manage to convince 19 people to buy the hardcover early on, it has been a wise investment.
The thing is that even with my not insignificant following on Twitter, Facebook, and this blog, it's a fairly tall order to expect 19 people who would not otherwise have bought this book to buy it on the basis of the typical mention I'm able to give to books arriving at my house.
Imagine if I hadn't boggled at the postage and decided to write this blog. Typically a book hitting my mat gets a photo + mention on my Facebook, followed by an average wait of 9 months before it's read (if it ever is). Would that generate 19 hardcover sales?
And what if the book isn't being sent to a fantasy author with a decent-sized following and a tendency to post about other people's books?
What if it's bound for a blogger with a small following, or the winner of a contest, or a randomly selected reader from Goodread? Will that generate 19 hard cover sales?
Add to this the fact that it's a book 3. People getting book 3 as a promo gift are either fans of the series and thus your effort actually prevents them from buying a book they were already going to buy (now they need to sell 20 for you!) or the arrival of your book 3 has to get them to buy/read book 1...
The bottom line is that it's very hard to know what to do with the 'free' books a publisher sends you. Sending them out into the world is the natural thing to do - but it's going to cost you 100s of $$$ and may very well not generate anything like enough sales to justify the cost.
In the end I tend to send out all the books I get. I hate to see them sitting there unread. But if you do get one - do try to think of the author that sent it and if you like it, do what you can to spread the word!
(I spend about $1500 a year on postage)