Thursday, 20 December 2012
To Go Free Or Not To Go Free? That Is The....
I've read quite a lot lately about whether or not one should offer one's books for free. Many people feel that to do this cheapens not only one's own work but also the market as a whole. There are many arguments for and against, and I daresay you might have seen one or two of them yourself. I was reading one on the blog of Geoff West yesterday....
...which you might like to look at, too, as both the blog and its comments feature both schools of thought.
What do I think?
About three years ago, when I had written much but had not yet heard of Amazon KDP or even Kindles, I was browsing my local library. I came across a book entitled 'Mutiny On The Bounty' by John Boyne, which I imagined, rightly, to be a fictional account based on the true story. I love this genre anyway, and have always been fascinated by the tale of this famous mutiny, so I got the book out.
It was marvellous, unputdownable. I then went on to read the rest of John Boyne's books, and extol his genius far and wide. I will add that he was good enough to accept my friend request on Facebook, and seems to be a thoroughly nice chap.
Now, John Boyne is an internationally acclaimed author, anyway, and you could argue that he didn't need my approval. Indeed, he could probably live without mine alone. However, the approval of thousands like me, as a group of people who love his work as much as I do, has got him where he is today. I probably wouldn't have bought 'Mutiny' if I'd seen it in a shop. But I had the chance to try for free the books of this author about whom I knew nowt. I wonder how many of his other devotees discovered him in the the same way?
Here's another story. A couple of years ago, my sister read a book that had been a free giveaway in some magazine; it was called 'The Big Picture' by Douglas Kennedy. She had never heard of Douglas Kennedy, and nor had I. She read it, then phoned me and said "You MUST read this book!" Since then, she and I have both bought and read all ten of his books, and extolled his virtues ... ditto the above, re John Boyne (minus the Facebook bit!)
I discovered Emily Barr in a second hand shop. Well, not her in person, but her book 'Plan B', for about a quid. Need I say more?
Speaking of Emily Barr, I was delighted to see that my book 'The Other Side' now features in the 'Customers also bought' lists of several of her books on Amazon! How cool is that? Now, this wouldn't have happened if I had never put my first book, 'You Wish', out there for a three day free promotion. I'd still be selling about six books a month, like I was when I first started! The free download opportunity gave people the opportunity to try out my novels without spending a penny.
Yes, I do value my work. I value it so much that I want as many people to read it as possible, which is why giving out free copies is something I am happy to do. It's only the same as having them in a library. Of course I want to make money from writing. I have international bestseller fantasies, the same as anyone! But the main reason I write is because I love it, and I want other people to love what I do. The more people who read my books, the more are likely to do so.
Oh, here's 'The Other Side', by the way!
What do you think about all this?
Writing six weeks later.... I just wanted to say one thing, though.... since Christmas the amount of books that are on free promotion at any one time seems to have quadrupled - which makes me wonder if anyone actually need pay for a book ever again. There's an air of desperation about it ~ writers seem to be putting a book out on sale for a month, then, when it doesn't become an instant bestseller, shoving it on for free, in the hope that it will boost post-promotion sales. Thus, the free promotion no longer has the effect it used to, because everyone's doing it. Ah, well. All markets flood, eventually, I suppose. My thoughts on the rest of it, as a principle, still stand, though, and I will still put my books on for free from time to time.