Challenge,  Fun Stuff,  publishing

Author’s Copies

They Become a Necessary Problem…

After collecting author’s copies for 35 or more years now, they tend to build up in volume.

And when you have two prolific authors, they really can build up in numbers.

So one of the large collections I will be bringing to Vegas is all of Kris and my author’s copies. (Our brag shelves are already here. I am talking about extra copies.)

The reason is that the new offices in Lincoln City just doesn’t have the room for all the back stock of WMG books and all of Kris and my author’s copies. So one collection is moving to the new Vegas office and will be, in part in the main room where we will hold craft workshops starting in 2021.

Now, this is a problem that isn’t so much a problem these days in indie. You can always order more, right? Well, on some things, yes. But on many things, nope. Especially books published in other countries in translation. So a good general rule is keep copies of everything on publication.

And the problem is that you just never know when you are going to need a copy of one book or another.

So those of you who are making inroads to a long career, do the following.

— Keep an accurate inventory and back-up record of everywhere you have been published. This needs to be accessed regularly.

— Keep a file (paper and electronic in the cloud) of every contract and letter about each sale.

— Keep a chronological brag shelf of one paper copy of every state of everything you have published, indie or traditional.

— Keep extra copies of every book. At least two extra, more is better at times.

With the modern world of licensing, you will need this in order, kept up, and files in order. Do if from the early days.

So, here is a picture of about 100 or so banker’s boxes of Kris and my extra copies, outside our brag shelves. (Piles are six boxes high.) These all will be moving to Vegas next month. They will be put in order of two copies each on shelves in the main room, the rest will be stored in boxes in closets and such. Could be interesting to see all these out for the first time, since for decades they have been accumulating in boxes on shelves.

And thank you, Chris York, for packing many of these boxes from the copies that were on shelves. You are magical.


  • Kate Pavelle

    Hi Dean, great progress! So… my husband and his brothers are starting to catalog their parents’ estate with Dad moving out, and I’m hunting around for a pocket-sized inventory management system that would either read barcodes and enter them into a database, or that would generate unique bar code numbers AND print labels.
    Have you thought of employing anything like that for our fiction inventories? It might work. Not all of us need a hand-held scanner, but it can’t help. Slap a number on a document and presto, you can figure where it goes even when somebody puts it in a wrong place.

    Also, my husband and his brother have talking about selling their 10K comic books, but inventory control has been a huge hoop to jump through. This would solve that issue.

    I think we’ve been trying to recreate the wheel 🙂

    Be well,



    • dwsmith

      Everything I have seen if far too expensive and not really needed. Just put them on the shelf in an order. (grin) And you would never want to stick anything to a comic, so the system would have to read the comic’s bar code and those systems get very expensive and are usually tied into a cash register for Point of Sale inventory control.

      • Kate Pavelle

        Thanks, Dean. Your answer means I don’t have to go and research it now 🙂
        I’m debating on how to set up inventory control numbers for my stories that would make sense (pen name, genre, series etc.), something searchable in a spreadsheet. I am to the point where I don’t know what’s in the stories I wrote either, especially the challenge ones.

        • dwsmith

          Yeah, now that is a good point. Topic sentence or general one-line description of the story would be helpful at times, especially in licensing. Good point.

  • Kari Kilgore

    Okay, I have to chime in here when it comes to keeping my own records. I’m actually extremely organized when it comes to the titles I’ve published myself. I track each one by product, meaning ebook, paperback, Large Print, hardcover. I do this every time I publish. A habit I started a couple of years ago, thank goodness! And thanks to great advice in a workshop way back when. 🙂

    I had not, however, been tracking the products created by pro sales or stories in bundles or anthologies. After a couple of hours of digging through what I should have been doing all along, I just added an additional 35 products to my records.

    That honestly surprised me. I’m tickled to know about that many more ways folks can find my writing, wow! Which I will be adding to my own website soon as I can.

    Got a few print books to order to complete the brag shelf now, too.

    GREAT advice again here, Dean! You can bet I’ll be doing this ASAP from now on.

    • Kate Pavelle

      That’s great! I also struggle with publication history, for instance there are books that keep popping up in bundles, and I should diversify more. Care to share exactly how you identify each product? Pen name, genre, series type stuff, and perhaps length, are things I want to be searchable in the spreadsheets but I am not a spreadsheet person, so I end up with too many spreadsheets. Having one big one has turned out to be a hairy mess.

    • dwsmith

      For a ton of reasons. You just never know when you are going to need to send someone a copy of a book. Usually happens in some sort of run-up to a licensing deal. We often send them an electronic now through Bookfunnel, but for us a lot of our books are pre-electronic days. More than you can imagine, actually.

      Any book through WMG we can also drop ship copies if they want paper or hardbacks, but again, that is only the last ten years of our writing life. There was thirty years before that.

      Now granted, we often only have one or two copies of say a copy of Asimov’s with a story in it, or a copy of another magazine. And Kris and I don’t even have copies of half of the books we have published through WMG just because it was never a priority to send us a copy.

      In other words, you just never know. And since I can’t figure out the future any better than anyone else, we keep extra copies of things we might need to make even more money.

      And I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have picked something up and went “I wrote that??? Cool.” Having some copies help with that issue as well. (grin)

    • Kate Pavelle

      In addition to Dean’s reply, you want to have books on hand to spread around like Johnny Appleseed. I was in the hospital last week and left 3 books, targeted toward the staff’s known interests. A home nurse showed up, I gave her a book. Anonymous is better, but still they’re in circulation now.