Wednesday, December 21, 2016

To Give Free Books or Not to Give?

A while ago, I read a post from another author about free books. In it, this particular author was upset by the fact that they had sent out free books in the hopes of getting reviews but hadn’t yet received any. They were indignant that after making their book available, the reader couldn’t uphold their end of the bargain. The author vowed that they were never going to give away free books again.

I sympathized with the author. I had been there myself. To get our work out into the world so people can see it, we have to have reviews. But there are a lot of us unknown indie authors, so we have to solicit reviewers or pay review sites to read our books. It’s time consuming, frustrating, and it can get expensive. And that’s not even mentioning the fraudulent sites out there who just want to steal our money.

I also understood the amount of time and effort this author put into their work and the need to be recognized and paid for their creation. The vast majority of us authors have dreams of becoming the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. We have thoughts of being able to quit our day jobs and focus solely on writing. We fantasize about what the movie version of our book will look like. I know I do. However, those dreams come crashing down on us when we barely make enough from our book sales to buy a cup of coffee.

The debate on whether or not an author should give away free books is ongoing. As you can imagine, there are those who believe in free books for all, while others think it cheapens the field. Honestly, I understand both sides of the argument. Personally, I am more than happy to give my books away for free. Well, not always, but every once in a while. Although, it took me a while to reach this conclusion. Like the author at the beginning of this post, there was a time when I was never going to send out free books ever again!

Let me explain. Like the author at the beginning of this post, I would send my books out to readers or reviewers for free in exchange for a review, only to have them not post any reviews. Without said reviews, no one could find my books, so I wasn’t making any sales. No sales meant no money, and I blamed it on the fact that readers just wanted a free book.

However, as time went on and I got more books under my belt, I saw the value in giving books away—but it took me re-evaluating what success meant to me. I came to the conclusion a while ago that I will never be able to retire on my book earnings. And you know what? That’s okay. Just because I’m not going to be a millionaire doesn’t mean I’m going to stop writing. I write because I like to write. I really enjoy telling stories. And I really like when people read those stories.

And there’s nothing wrong with readers wanting free books. I’m a reader in addition to being an author, and I like free books.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy making royalties off the sales of my books, no matter how small they may be. It lets me know that my work has value and that people are willing to pay for it. I will continue to sell my books, with an occasional free giveaway. My point is that once in a while, it’s nice to treat people to a free book because it gets my work into the hands of readers who may not have thought about picking it up.

Do I expect a review out of it? Absolutely not. I’m terrible about leaving reviews for books—even ones I really enjoy. However, I’m really good at telling my friends and family about books that I enjoyed, and word of mouth is just as good at getting others to read as a review is—maybe even better. My hope is that readers do the same for my books.

When it comes down to it, it’s the author’s choice about whether they want to give their books away for free. Again, I totally understand why some don’t want to, and I don’t fault or blame them for making that decision. For me, though, I like to introduce new readers (heck, even old readers!) to my stories, and I think giving them a copy is the best way to do that.

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