Yesterday, I gave away six copies of Eat My Shorts! as a “win before you can buy” sort of thing, since it doesn’t go on sale at Smashwords officially until Tuesday morning at midnight Eastern time. I was aiming for fifty, but six isn’t bad considering there have been times I literally COULD NOT give a book away.
In the middle of the day, someone asked me, “Why are you giving away your book? Doesn’t that devalue it?”
To which I responded, “No, it doesn’t. Not in the slightest.”
Here’s the way I see it.
A lot of people feel that a writer giving away their work is a sign that said writer doesn’t really believe in the strength of their work to attract readers. In some cases, there is a certain degree of truth in this. But in other cases, there are reasons which are not motivated by money or eyeballs which belie this idea.
I worked very hard to get to this stage in my writing career. There were a lot of setbacks, times I doubted myself, times I wanted to (and did) give up and step away for a while. I invested a huge amount of time and money in myself and my craft. I’ve published over a million words, and probably discarded about four times that amount between false starts, stories which went nowhere, things I wrote for school and so on. Obviously, I can’t recoup the time…but it would be nice to make back at least some of the money!
I price my books in a way which will hopefully make them attractive to the reader and leave them feeling like they’re receiving fair value for their money. I’ve had some experiences where my books were overpriced by entities beyond my control, and I believe this cost me readers and possible revenue. (My readers from back when are loyal enough that I don’t think the quality of my writing is in question, and my Goodreads rating seems to bear that out.)
So, put simply, I don’t NEED to give away books. I emphasize a fair price and a solid reading experience at every stage which makes it totally unnecessary.
But then…why give away books if you don’t need to?
Simply put, because I DO value my work and my readers.
The writing and reading communities, give or take a few dipshits who leave everyone looking bad, are pretty damned awesome. Writers are also readers; many readers are also writers. Giving away copies of my books says that I value my readers MORE than I value their money.
Giving away my books doesn’t devalue the work one iota. It’s not the same as, say, finding my work on pirate sites, something which happens to me on a daily basis.
When I give away my books, I’m not doing it because I expect something in return. I had a couple of readers ask me, “Well…if I got your book for free, what do I do if I want to buy it after I’m done?”
The answer, of course, is “Pay it forward. Buy a copy for a friend. Buy a copy and donate it to your local library. Buy some of my other work. If you liked this book, I’m sure I have at least one more in my backlist you’ll appreciate. Leave a review, if you really, really liked (or hated) it.”
I don’t expect my readers to do any of the above, though. All I want is for them to enjoy some good stories. If they decide they want to leave a review, or suggest my book to their reading club, or buy a copy for a friend, etc., that’s entirely their own choice. I’m not going to get mad if they don’t, and I’m certainly not going to turn it down if they do!
Ultimately, I just want to find my stories good homes with people who will appreciate them. If it makes me some money and lets me keep writing in reasonable comfort while paying my bills, excellent. If it doesn’t, well, I’m still going to keep writing, because I can’t stop writing any more than I could stop breathing air.
My readers matter to me. My stories need readers, and readers want stories.
It doesn’t take anything away from my work to spread a few copies around through legitimate channels. And I’d rather make no money at all from my writing than be the type of person who treats readers as ambulatory cash machines. The value of the work doesn’t begin and end at $2.99, something a true author understands instinctively…and which the dipshits making the writing community look bad never will.
#ThisIsHowYouIndie. And this is how I #GETLOUD.