The Folly of “FREE”

David NicolI thought I was the only person seeing the folly in giving your work away for literally nothing.  But then this article was linked by Self Publishing Review on Facebook.  In his article, Derek Haines argues the point that free books do nothing but help boost the sales of ereaders.  That the ploy may once have worked, but is now ineffective with the glut of free ebooks flooding the market places every day.

I’d like to expand on the issue with my own reasons for not giving my work away.  I’m in total agreement with Derek.  But for me, there is more to it.

I have done the free thing.  Not because I think it’ll lead to more sales.  To boost sales you have to be clever about your freebies, for example giving away book one in a series.  I gave my work away for free (the last time was actually yesterday) just to get a bit of exposure.

Many people (myself historically included) think that if they give their work away, they’ll receive reviews.  Others will see those reviews, they’ll be favourable, and then others will buy their books.  The reality is that the majority of copies that are downloaded for free will never be read.

People Mostly Like Free Porn
People like free.  People will take anything if it’s free, even if it’s not something that they actually want.  It happens in supermarkets and it’s happening in the ebook world.  The problem with this is that people who would not normally be your audience will be reading your work.  Sure, that can be a good thing.  In many cases it will back fire.  I write sci-fi and horror.  They are my genres.  Look at the top 100 free on Amazon at the moment and the majority is erotica/porn.  That means that the majority of downloaders are not natural sci-fi/horror readers which is not going to translate to good reviews for me.  (*note to self: add buff men, breathless busty women, and tentacle sex to my stories for instant success….)

The Review Issue
When you look at the cold statistics it allows you to understand some of the low star reviews on Amazon for books that are really not that bad.  They usually have a statement similar to the following in them “I got this for free, and I didn’t like it, but it’s not the sort of thing I would normally read….”  It’s like being lactose intolerant, going to the supermarket and getting a load of yoghurt because they had free samples, then complaining because it made you ill.  The point I made first about most free downloads NOT being read probably works in most authors favour (unless you’re in the erotic genre, in which case you need to add more buff men, breathless busty women, and tentacle sex to your stories for instant success).

The Maths Issue.
If I sell 10 ebooks for $1 each, earning 35% royalties, how much will I earn?  Enough for a Big Mac.  If I don’t sell any, then I earn nothing.  If I “sell” 2,500 ebooks for free, how much will I earn?  The answer is also nothing (but I could laughingly call myself a “best-selling author”).  Once your book is written and uploaded it costs you nothing, only your time in publicising it.  The idea is that you make money from your passion, if you’re continually giving your work away and getting nowhere then you’re teetering on the abyss of the vanity press.

Try Before You Buy
And lastly.  If people want to check out your work before they buy, there’s the ‘Look Inside’ option on Amazon (or samples on your site).  It’s fantastic.  Before I download anything for free (because there are some good works out there that are remarkably free), I take a look inside to see if contents are worth reading.  Look Inside.  Like what you see?  Buy the book then.

As authors I think we need to be pimping that option more.  After all, we don’t go to the library or bookstore and just pick up a load of random books on the “Take Me I’m Free” shelf.  No, we read the blurb on the back and most of us also read the first couple of paragraphs.  Let’s encourage others to do more of that in the ebook world.

Available now:

The Deluge of Elias by David Nicol

Long after a cataclysm that destroyed humanity had been forgotten, the descendants of the original survivors live in a protected Dome governed by a set of rules known as ‘The Orders’.

The rigid enforcement of The Orders now threatens the people they were designed to protect. Elias has a solution, except it puts him on a course of action that is at odds with the rules that he has been charged to rigorously uphold. On top of every thing else, the solution came to him in the form of a dream; in a time and place where no one dreams.

Can he save the last vestiges of humanity, or even himself?

The Deluge of Elias from Amazon US

The Deluge of Elias from Amazon UK

Hannibal House by David Nicol

‘Sometimes you don’t choose the house, the house chooses you’.

The supernatural story of a house that attracts lost souls. Set in South West Wales, Hannibal House tells the story of Troy who leaves Seattle in search of his roots.

Unsure of what he’s really looking for, Troy comes across Hannibal House. Immediately infatuated with the building he sets out to possess it, or is the house aiming to possess him…

Hannibal House from Amazon US

Hannibal House from Amazon UK


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