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BookCrossing a Boon, Not Bane, For Authors

Authors need not fear the karma of free books
by livelywriter
February 2, 2004
I am a published author. I write every day. I read every day. I live every day for the joy of sharing not only what I write, but what I enjoy reading. When I discovered BookCrossing.com in April of 2002, I was intrigued by the concept of registering books on a website. Indeed, this was a concept not unfamiliar to me, as I had made a practice of keeping an online journal of books read for the past decade. The other, more engaging aspect of BookCrossing.com, however, triggered in me a greater sense of excitement, because I find no greater joy than the one experienced in sharing a good book.

In college I majored in English, and my memory conjures with great fondness the excitement my fellow students and I shared when discovering a new author and new ways of interpreting his/her work. How we laughed at Shakespeare's bumbling Christopher Sly and wondered about the eclectic power of Emily Dickinson. When I graduated I thought to myself, "If I am lucky to be published, will people talk about my work with such zeal?"

Eight years later, I was sitting in front of my computer, typing in the ISBN number of my first novel, Little Flowers (now out of print), into the BookCrossing.com database. The idea that I could potentially let thousands of readers know I had a book in existence was thrilling. Not that I cared to hit the NYT Bestseller list; if even just one of the 200,000+ members of BookCrossing.com bought the book and liked it, I would have considered the time writing it well spent. Since joining, I have had one other book published, the mystery Saints Preserve Us (which is out on a bookray), and have self-published a free eBook called Murder Most Trivial, which I make available to all BookCrossers. Two more novels are due in the next two years. Be assured I plan to register everything I publish… and release them.

During my time BookCrossing, I have followed a number of threads in the forums about authors who disparage the concept of “freeing” books, claiming that potential revenue is lost if people don’t buy the books outright. Since my books are not published by any Giant New York Publishing Houses, I am happy for even the slightest notice, even from a BookCrosser who happens to find my book in a coffee shop or a bus terminal. If the person rescues and reads the book, there’s the possibility he/she will recommend it to others, etc. I believe the authors who disparage BookCrossing.com are missing the point of the site’s concept – to promote literacy, and in turn promote authors. As a BookCrossing.com member, I have been introduced to a number of authors I had not before read, and I have since bought other titles by them. I am sure I am not the only BookCrosser doing this.

To any authors who may read this, do not look upon BookCrossing.com as theft, but as something with the potential to bear fruit for your careers. One day, I hope, one of my books will fall into the hands of an agent, film producer, or Big New York Publisher. BookCrossing.com just might be the key to that happening for me, and maybe for you.

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