Books Are Not Free

From 11th to 15th February there is an excellent event taking place on Facebook called ‘Our Books Are Not Free’ to make readers aware that books cost money to produce.

Here is the Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/events/206705409792190/222606034868794/?notif_t=admin_plan_mall_activity&notif_id=1486627935877048 

This is the online magazine detailing why ‘Books are not free’ and the writers involved: https://www.joomag.com/magazine/golden-box-book-publishing-books-are-not-free/0748123001485514607 

I am supporting the event, but what do you think. Should writers give their books away for free?

[If you say ‘yes’ then there is a second question – should shopkeepers sell their goods for free?]

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13 thoughts on “Books Are Not Free

  1. This is awesome! I think authors should consider giving out free books, specifically the first book of any series they write, but I don’t think authors should feel like they HAVE to give books away(except of course review copies for reviewers, because that’s professional).

    • I have found new writers by their free first books, but can’t believe it when they go on offering their hard work for free. I agree those review copies should be the only ones they are expected to give free.

    • Thanks, Ellen. And of course, books include E-books, as there are costs for those at the writing stage and later. I’m beginning to think that the samples, that Amazon lets one have for free, are enough to know if I will like the book…or hate it.

    • Good to hear you say that, Alex, especially as you said ‘completed’. Loss leaders are one thing, throwing away all the hard work is madness. But I still get emails from authors giving most of their written work away – I delete them and move on to an author with sense.

      • I suppose it also depends on your goal. One of my friends lately decided to give all his work away for free. He said he knows perfectly well writing will never be an earning enterprise for him, and since he is a retired man, he doesn’t really need an extra income anyway. What he wants is being read and connect with his readers.
        So he decided the best way to achieve that is giving his work away for free.
        I think this makes sense as per his project. I also think most authors don’t have the same goal.

  2. I think giving away your books for free makes sense only if that’s part of a strategy. For example, when you’re trying to build your ‘treasure’ of reviews, or (as other have mentioned) when you’re offering the fist book in a series so to boost the sells of the whole series.

    I know free books are very popular and they get a lot of download (which is good in itself, because it boost your ranking), but honestly, books you give for free with no strategy behind it seldom give you a real return.

    That’s my feeling, anyway.

    • I can understand that guy – in your reply – although we are the authors with the writer’s goal. Good reviews can help so giving away copies to build up that ‘treasure’ is a wise strategy. Strategy is the key word, Sarah.

  3. I’ve actually had some very good results giving books away free: I have three free flash fiction anthologies on offer in the sidebar of my website and I think those have brought in some of my most dedicated long-term readers.

    Initially all my anthologies were going to be free, since I write the stories for Flash Fiction Month which means that, individually, anybody who wants to can read them online: the books were just a way of collecting each year’s efforts neatly together. However, by the time I was putting together the fourth one it became apparent that would mean releasing an absurd number of free books so I started charging a token amount: a couple of people actually welcomed the opportunity to contribute some money. Others who’d previously just been going for the free ebooks took the opportunity to buy the whole series of paperbacks. I’m convinced that I’ve sold more books as a result of giving the first three away than I would have by charging for them. This wasn’t part of a strategy: it just happened to work out well for me.

    The question about shopkeepers giving goods away for free, I find, isn’t directly equivalent. A shopkeeper invests a small amount of money in buying each item they stock, while an author invests a vast amount of effort in writing one book which can then be distributed an infinite number of times. An author can give away a million books in order to sell a thousand, but if a shopkeeper gave away a million items they’d almost certainly never make back the cost (even if their generosity earned them a thousand dedicated customers).

    • Thanks, Damon, for adding that experience which does show that using a few books as a loss leader works. The idea of people paying a token amount is an interesting one – I’ve bought a bundled collection of books and then paid what I thought they were worth. The problem, to me, is that the point comes when readers start to expect freebies and undervalue our work as writers. Then we become the shopkeeper giving away what we are paying out to produce – editors, designers, print costs etc. Very few writers are masters of all the talents needed to create a professional book.

      • When I say a token amount, I mean I charged the minimum $0.99 (or equivalent). I’m tempted to try out pay-what-you-want but it seems as though few retailers support it just now. A shame, as it seems to work very well for games: I wrote some of the story for Spoiler Alert and that was featured in a Humble Bundle that went out to over 80,000 people.

        People expecting freebies is a definite concern, though. It still isn’t directly equivalent to the shopkeeper situation – even if you spend $1,000 to create a (e)book, it still costs nothing to give away – but yeah, in a situation where nobody is willing to pay for books authors simply won’t be able to make back their costs. I think the most important thing is to establish a culture of supporting the things we enjoy. As a reader, I haven’t even started most of the free books I’ve got hold of – I certainly wouldn’t have paid for them – but if I read something and enjoy it I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more by that author. Part of the reason I haven’t got around to all those free books is that I’ve not yet read all the ones I’ve paid for either!

  4. Write/right on, Damon. There are sadly very few retailers supporting doing bundled pay-what-you-can. StoryBundle – https://storybundle.com/steampunk – do good collections, like the Lovecraft set yesterday. Not sure how you join them, but the minimum comes out at about 99c.

    I have stopped getting freebies, especially when I get offers every day. I totally agree with the urge to read the ones I pay for first or the authors that I want to support. Not that I read fast enough to read even those….and to write my own.

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