There’s a whole subculture surrounding free ebooks and I think many readers love them and many writers don’t.
I realize this is a generalization and it may not be entirely accurate, but I’ve got strong feelings about free ebooks. In particular, offering them and/or endorsing them.
See. Here’s the deal. I’m an author and I work hard (sweat, blood, and tears hard) to craft my stories. For me, it takes months (and months and months and months) to draft, edit, revise, tighten, edit again, revise some more, and edit one last time before a novel comes close to seeing the light of day. This involves countless hours and sleepless nights of thinking about craft, worrying about red herrings and tension, trying to remember details written earlier (and often months ago), and figuring out where the story needs to go while also keeping the reader engaged. It also involves shying away from get-togethers or nights out because of deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise, and sometimes giving the impression that you’re a loner when all you want to do is hit said deadline. Yes, I have a day job, but I also LOVE writing and can’t imagine a day without it. I take it seriously, I set aside time to do it even when I don’t want to, and I’ll push around personal priorities to fit it in.
But writing is a job, too.
And this is why I will never (probably) endorse free ebooks. I understand the concept of loss leaders and encouraging readers to find you by offering a freebie. You know, the whole marketing thing that makes an author discoverable and that generates more reader interest and, you guessed it, increased sales (I’ve got decades of experience in marketing, so I GET IT). But here’s the hitch. Free books don’t equal sales. Yes, yes, I also understand the reasoning for wanting to generate interest in your work because it can generate sales for other books you’ve published or even future work. But would you hire a plumber to fix your leak—the one that’s spewing water all over your floor—for free? Would you sign on a carpenter to put a new addition on your home without charging you a penny? Or how about showing up for your day job and not accepting a paycheck?
Yeah. I didn’t think so.
Because you know as well as I do that we equate price with quality. Beyond that, we also equate price with quality work performed. You’re not going to show up for your day job—the thing that pays your mortgage or rent and puts food on your table and clothes on your back—and do it for free. So why do it for your writing?
And this is why I won’t retweet or share announcements about free books anymore. It occurred to me while I was buried in my writing notebook on the 5:54am train last week that, by the gods, there’s no way I will dilute the awareness of my stories when I’m working this damned hard. To me, it just feels wrong.
Go ahead. Throw stones at me. I can take it.
Oh, I know others will disagree. And that’s fine. But at this point in my writing career, I just can’t bring myself to give my books away for free or market another author’s work that’s also for free. Hate me for it if you want. Knock yourself out if you think I’m being closed-minded. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to support something that undermines an author’s value. We’ve been taken advantage of way too long in the publishing world already.
Yep. There are many ways to look at this freebie thing. And there are many ways for a writer to manage their business. For me, this isn’t one of them.
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