Money for Nothing and Your Books for Free

JT Ellison

Happy Day After Thanksgiving! I hope everyone is stuffed and lazy today. In case you aren’t — have to work, were dealing with cranky in-laws or burnt pies, here’s a little rant.
And stop by Tasha Alexander’s game of Sincerity today on the Good Girls Kill for Money Blog.

I am continually amazed at the sheer audacity of people.
These situational conversations have been cropping up more and more lately, and
I find them a bit alarming.

The conversation plays out as follows.

“What do you do?”

“I’m a writer.”

“For the newspaper?”

“No, I write psychological thrillers.”

Now, play with me, here. Insert any of the following
sentences into the following line. And I swear, I’ve heard each of them in the
past month.

“Oh. Do you have any idea what your book is about?”

“Oh. I don’t remember the last book I read.”

“Oh.” Nods vacantly.

“Oh, you must have a lot of time on your hands.”

“Oh, you know, I’ve got a great story for you. Blah, blah,
blah, Aunt Myrtle, blah, blah, blah…”

“Oh, so that means I get a free copy, right?”

“Am I in it?”

“If I give you some information, will I get a royalty for

“I’m getting a copy, aren’t I?”

“I haven’t written anything since high school.”

Let me seize upon two items that kill me. The first is that
so many people don’t read. I know, I know, we all can’t be perfect. I can’t
imagine what a world without books would be like, so I can rarely find a pithy
response to that one.

The second is the free book scenario. I realize that we
writers work in a barter system now, that if we give a copy of our book, an
endeavor that most likely — on average — took a year out of our lives, to a
person, said person will supply an equal amount of services in return.


Can you imagine – at the post office – “So I get a free copy
of your book, right?”

“Sure, if you’re planning on giving me free postage for the

I think I’m on to something. This scheme could wend its way
through our capitalist system, with books as the new currency. We writers would
be fat and happy, trading our words for groceries, gas, furniture,
prescriptions, clothes, cars, mortgages…

Ultimately I suppose any of us making a real living at this
do just that, there’s just that little cash up front thing that gets in the

Wine of the Week –

It’s that time of year! — Beaujolais Nouveau

10 thoughts on “Money for Nothing and Your Books for Free

  1. Elaine Flinn

    I think I’ve heard just about all of those replies at one time or another. I just smile and say ‘What? And lose 52 cents? You must be kidding!’

    Yes…non-writers out there – that’s what a pbo writer makes on each copy. Oh, that’s before the agents 15%… 🙂 But hey, we love what we do, right? I mean, you can’t measure happiness with lucre. Or – the lack of… 🙂 🙂

  2. Tasha Alexander

    Yay! Beaujolais Nouveau!!! I love this time of year!

    I love it when people immediately start asking how much I get for each copy that sells. And how they assume I’m rich. Now, I could support myself in a style to which I would prefer not to be accustomed on my royalties, but to live the way I want to, I need people to keep shelling out the cash for hardcover (or paperback–either works!). 😉

  3. pari noskin taichert

    I get hit up all the time for charity organizations now and don’t know how to respond.

    I could say something about being a bit of a charity myself but, of course, that would be misleading. I don’t have tax-exempt status . . . yet. Heh heh heh.

  4. Elizabeth Krecker

    I recently read David Morrell’s book: Lessons from a Life of Writing Fiction. He recommends – adamantly – that you not ever mention what you do for a living, and he provides a slew of unsavory scenarios that clearly illustrate why one should always, always, always avoid mentioning the “w” word in public.

    He also recommends that you write to yourself. Oddly, that concept appealed to me. So, I went to my nearby Starbucks, plopped down into a window seat with a hot chocolate and started clacking away, “Hi, Me. How are you today?” “Why, fine thank you, how are you?”….

    As my fingers flew over the keyboard, sure enough a lady sneaked up behind me and whispered adoringly over my shoulder, “Are you a writer? What are you writing?”

    For a split second, I puffed up my shoulders. The words “why, yes, in fact I’m writing the great American novel” traced my tongue. But I glanced down at the lively conversation between me and me, and instead said, “Uh…it’s kind of hard to explain.” and quickly shut my laptop.

    I think Mr. Morrell is on to something.

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