It is one of the ironies of living in a highly populated, competitive world that many writers get paid for hack or drudge technical writing while the finest distillations of their courtship with words must (and should) be given away. This is the most reasonable method of making sure that one’s stories/poems/novellas/novels are enjoyed by a small segment of the appropriate market.
A reasonable writer must find a means of earning money that has little to do with literary output. After that, the writer must come to terms with the narrowness of his market, for to do otherwise is to write what one does not want to write when pursuing the muse.
If, by happy chance, the writer’s natural market is the vampire market, then she will not have to give away more than a hundred books or so, assuming the writer has friends and admired colleagues and is a nice person. The rest of the books will be printed up and sold in the mass market. Even if these books do not outlast the writer’s lifetime, which has happened to more books than you or I can count, the books will have readers, which is the main goal behind most writers’ efforts.
Giving books away can be fun. I give them to friends who I think will be interested in the subject matter and who will eventually find the time to read them. My own books are the most thoughtful, polished gift I can give to these dear people. The gift is something I have spent years putting together and revising and months working on with respect to artwork and format. The end result is as much a distilled product of my regard for that friend as a knit sweater might be, perhaps more so. When I depart this world, my friend will have something that is truly the essence of me.
I also give books to colleagues who are dedicated readers, people who I feel may laugh at or relish, in my stories, what I tried to place within reach, like fresh baked cookies left on the kitchen counter. By giving copies away to people I respect, I first of all hope to receive encouragement to do more of what I love, and secondly, I hope that if my writing is good enough, those readers will tell others. If these others borrow the books to read, wonderful. If they buy, that is even better, but not absolutely necessary, for I have taken care of the need for money by having a job, leaving myself free to pursue my passion without financial pressure, which can kill imagination anyway.
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!