So, there was an article in the New York Times today that has generated some online discussion, much of which centers on whether it’s “stealing” for a Kindle user to allow a few friends to share her downloaded books. It’s not stealing, according to the terms of the Kindle user agreement. Customers are allowed to download a purchased book on up to five devices, much the same as a reader can pass a print book she’s purchased to her family and friends. Courtney Milan has a brilliant post today opining that such sharing is a reader’s right.

My own belief is that the sharing of books is not only a reader’s right, but an author’s benefit and a public good (that’s my librarian side showing). I’m not talking about piracy here, where a book is illegally downloaded thousands of times, but rather the sharing of purchased books amongst friends, family and neighbors. There’s a huge difference between the two.

I’ve had readers write to me to tell me they enjoyed my book(s), but then go on to apologize for the fact that they got the book from a library or a friend, rather than by purchasing it themselves. It just makes me sad that they feel they should apologize! Please, if any of you reading this feel that way – don’t. Feel free to write me and tell me your reactions about my books, however you obtained them. If your life is anything like mine, time is your most precious resource. The dedication of the 4, 6, 8+ hours it takes just to read the book is an investment worth far more than $6.99. However you got the book, if you expended the time, imagination, and emotional energy to engage with a story I wrote, I am grateful to you. You’ve certainly earned the right to comment on it!

Of course I like sales and royalties. Depend on them, as a matter of fact. But as an author, especially as a new author, I firmly believe that the total number of readers is the key to my building an audience. Some of the readers who’ve written me these apologetic letters go on to say that after borrowing my first book, they went out and bought the other two. Woohoo! That’s exactly the point. It would be shortsighted of me to look at that first instance of borrowing as a “missed” sale, when it in fact led to two additional ones.

In my debut trilogy, the heroines pass a book from one to the next–a bawdy little novel called The Memoirs of a Wanton Dairymaid. Essentially, it’s a romance novel. Lucy gives it to Sophia; Sophia gives it to Bel; Bel passes it on to Hetta… Along the way, a second copy must be purchased due to some of Sophia’s…ahem, artistic alterations to the original. Et voila! The Wanton Dairymaid‘s author (Portia, by the way, from The Legend of the Werestag) has just scored a second sale–one she never would have made, had Lucy kept that book hidden beneath the false bottom of her stocking drawer.

Please, share my books with your friends. Borrow them from libraries. And don’t ever feel you should apologize.

21 comments to “Please, share my books!”

  1. Chris
    · October 21st, 2009 at 9:39 am · Link

    Great post! I think it goes both ways. I purchased The Legend of the Werestag and GoTH in e-version automatically. For the last two, I purchased the ebooks and then the paper copies. I truly enjoyed them enough to want them in my ‘forever’ library and I’ve passed them on as well. My friends don’t have the same ereaders so I don’t have to think about lending out e-copies at this point but I certainly have passed on my paper copies. Sales from people like me who buy both versions, I think make up sales for some of that sharing also. πŸ™‚

  2. Lynn Raye Harris
    · October 21st, 2009 at 9:40 am · Link

    I agree. As a new author, I’m just tickled someone read my book! Share, borrow, pass around. Awesome.

    I’ve found authors this way. I’ve helped other readers find authors by passing on the book. Illegal download sites: phooey. There are other, better ways to read. Libraries, friends, Kindle-linking. πŸ™‚ And at least you won’t get a virus that way! πŸ™‚

  3. Courtney Milan
    · October 21st, 2009 at 10:01 am · Link

    So true!

    This Author’s shameful secret: She has put 10 copies of her anthology on

    People want to read it. I want to let them. And I get a credit for an out-of-print Laura London for each one I send. Sounds like a win-win to me!

  4. Beth Yarnall
    · October 21st, 2009 at 10:15 am · Link

    Whew! Thank you for this post. I just got the iPhone and my sister let me download books from her Fictionwise purchased book list. It was my first experience with eBooks and I have been enjoying the portability so much that I’ve opened my own account. I felt bad at first that maybe I was cheating the authors by getting their books for ‘free’ but it’s like you said-I read books by authors I never would have read otherwise and now they are some of my favorites.
    I’ll likely return the favor to my sister and let her download some of my favs from my new account thus exposing her to new authors. I’ve been loaning out & giving away my paper books for years and really this is just the paperless version of that (exept without the tax write off receipt from the library). Thanks for making me feel better about it.
    Oh, by the way, I loved Goddess (I bought at Target) & Siren (you gave me) and now I must buy Lady to complete the trilogy. You write beautifully. Your descriptions are so well done and I love your humor. πŸ˜†

  5. Tessa
    · October 21st, 2009 at 10:30 am · Link

    @Chris: Wow, Chris! Thanks for buying my book in so many ways! πŸ™‚ To me, it’s an honor when a reader passes a book along to her friend. A keeper shelf spot – wow, that’s really the best!

    @Lynn Raye Harris: Lynn, my feelings exactly. It’s just a thrill to me whenever someone has read one of my books. And anytime I hear/see someone saying they want to read it but their book budget is strained, I always try to point them toward their library. After I was lucky enough to be reviewed in Library Journal, many public libraries bought the books.

    @Courtney Milan: Posting your own books on PBS? Now that is strategy! (BTW, I’m sure you’ve noticed there’s now a waiting list for The Dangerous Book of Excerpts! πŸ˜†

    @Beth Yarnall: Beth, thanks for buying Goddess and reading both! And thanks so much for your kind words. To me, sharing books between sisters seems like the most natural thing in the world!

    As for me, I’m sure borrowing accounts for well over 95% of the books I’ve read in my lifetime. Most of that is library borrowing, of course, since I’ve worked in libraries since I was 15.

    But even the act of library borrowing can help an author financially – increased demand or a high number of checkouts will lead a library to purchase additional copies or pre-order new titles by that author. Also, anytime a person reads one of my books in public, they’re giving me free advertising. It’s all good.

  6. Keira Soleore
    · October 21st, 2009 at 10:44 am · Link

    Tessa, from an author’s perspective this makes total sense.

    CM, your marketing genius is boundless.

  7. MaryK
    · October 21st, 2009 at 11:05 am · Link

    @Courtney Milan: Too funny! πŸ˜†

  8. RKCharron
    · October 21st, 2009 at 1:44 pm · Link

    Hi Tessa πŸ™‚
    Thanks for sharing. I lend books to my family & friends all the time. I get excited and practically make them sit & read it in front of me.
    I know that they, like me, will get more novels from that author.
    Love & Best Wishes,

  9. Heather D
    · October 22nd, 2009 at 4:30 am · Link

    Ms. Dare I have been hearing wonderful things about your books! I have one particular online friend that can recommend a book and I am never disappointed has praised your work. I have been putting off going out and getting into another set of books… I have well over 100 books in my house and on my Kindle that I have not managed to get to yet. However after reading this post to your Diary, I am going out and purchasing all three this week!!

    Had it not been for my cousin’s generosity and love of reading I would not be the reader I am today. I would not have found so many great stories and escapes in the past so many years! I applaud you for speaking up and letting us readers how you feel and that it is alright to share books and we should not feel guilty for doing so!

  10. Tessa
    · October 22nd, 2009 at 8:41 am · Link

    Hey, Heather, thanks for dropping by! If you do read my books, I hope you enjoy them.

    Keira, CM’s genius is boundless in all ways. Okay, almost all ways. If her Final Jeopardy category is pop culture, forget it.

    RK – I agree, sharing books is part of the fun and value of reading! Courtney’s post stated that so well.

  11. Tessa
    · October 22nd, 2009 at 8:46 am · Link

    I hope that no one gets the idea I’m trying to be all altruistic or uber-generous here. Because I’m not, really. 😈 I mean, I do try to be a generous person, but I also want to make a living. It’s just that I honestly believe I’ll sell more books in the long run if people share them.

    I straddle a weird divide on this issue. One part of my income, the part that comes from librarianship (right now it’s a small part, but in the past it’s been bigger and who knows about the future…) is dependent on book-sharing. The other part of my income, the author income, would seem to be dependent on book purchases. But really, at heart they are both tied to the culture of reading in general. More reading in the world=good news for me on all fronts.

  12. Moviemavengal
    · October 22nd, 2009 at 2:10 pm · Link

    AMEN!! Thanks so much for this post, especially with the hoopla today.

    And, just for the record. I got your first two books from Paperbackswap.

  13. Tammy D
    · October 22nd, 2009 at 2:33 pm · Link

    Great blog, and many insightful comments! I’ve found favorite authors in a variety of ways, including the library and I’ll then usually read their backlist however I can find it. But the outcome for me, when I love someone’s writing, is that I’ll follow their website to see what’s coming up. So the moral of the story is, I might not have bought their first book, but it’s a guarantee I’ll be buying their next book, usually making the trip to Borders on release day!

  14. sisi
    · October 22nd, 2009 at 10:45 pm · Link

    Great post.. For my case,I would normally always purchased the ebook version, as it’s convenient for me to download from fictionwise to my ipod.

    But just wondering why some books are restricted in certain countries..
    I would love to read your books Tessa.., especially after reading so many good review..

  15. Lori
    · October 23rd, 2009 at 11:18 am · Link

    Count me in as a new fan! I read Goddess of the Hunt (for free) in two sittings in a Barnes and Noble bookstore. I was so impressed! (And I read a LOT of romance novels.) I bought Surrender of a Siren on the first day it was released (I asked the B&N employee to get it out of the boxes in the back.) I haven’t bought A Lady of Persuasion yet due to the sick kids etc;, but I will!

  16. Tessa
    · October 23rd, 2009 at 1:00 pm · Link

    @Moviemavengal: Hey, thanks for dropping by! And thanks for reading my books, however you get them. πŸ™‚

    @Tammy D: What you describe is exactly how we authors hope it works. I can’t fault readers for wanting to try a new author’s books by borrowing them at first–who knows if you’re really going to like their style? And hopefully, my books will make their way to the hands of readers who DO like my style and will make a point to get their own copies of my next book.

    @sisi: alas, I cannot pretend to understand why some e-books are not available in all countries. I’ve written to my publisher to ask about your particular situation, and I haven’t received a response yet…but it’s Friday, so I’m sure I’ll hear something next week.

    @Lori: Hah! I love that you forced the B&N employee to get out the books! That’s awesome, thank you. I’ve done the same thing, when going to the store for a new release – I badger the employees to put the books out on the table, not just bring one out for me. How else are other people going to find it? Not everyone would think to ask.

    Thanks everyone!

  17. Chantal
    · October 23rd, 2009 at 2:46 pm · Link

    I’ve never read one of your books, but I plan to go to Chapters and buy a few because I love your attitude so much.

    I can’t wait to read them πŸ™‚

  18. Stacey
    · October 27th, 2009 at 4:27 pm · Link

    I am a new reader of yours. I just read Goddess in one day. I am a huge fan of historical romance. But lately they all sound the same. I loved your novel and couldn’t put it down, the depth of Jeremy and Lucys emotions were amazing. But I loved the fact that you wrote about their married life. Most books end with an engagement or elopement. But the true test to me is in marriage. I loved that you showed that in their story.
    I love your testament on sharing! I am a avid reader now but have four kids so I use the library a bunch!
    Thanks again Goddess was a great book that I will remember and it won’t fade into the background like the others.

  19. Tessa
    · October 27th, 2009 at 5:21 pm · Link

    @Chantal: Aw, thanks! I hope you enjoy them if you do get your hands on some copies.

    @Stacey: What a lovely, lovely comment. You really made my evening, thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed Goddess. And with four kids–I’m amazed you find time to read, let alone a budget for books! I’m glad your library is meeting your needs. πŸ™‚

  20. Donigan Merritt
    · October 31st, 2009 at 7:04 am · Link

    This is the mistaken logic in your position regarding sharing. Yes, you may have more readers, but you do not have more sales. BookScan does not count your readers, it counts your sales, and if your BookScan numbers aren’t high or rising, then your future books will not find a publisher. Sharing can lead to the end of your ability to find a publisher. In that sense, it is far more insidious and harmful than a few lost dollars in royalties out of your pocket.

  21. Warren Farrell
    · November 18th, 2009 at 2:39 am · Link

    Great review! It’s nice to see that there are such great stories in these books!


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