Freebies. Everyone likes them and like getting a deal. I’m going to go out on a limb and claim bibliophiles in particular. It’s why used bookstores are awesome and my favorite place to get books. It’s what makes libraries great because there the books are free (as long as you return them).
With the explosion of ebooks and their popularity, reading and getting a hold of books has become even easier. This has given bookworms another opportunity to bargain hunt. Many authors, mostly new and proudly independent ones, realized this and figured out if they run freebie or lower price specials, they could potentially drive up their sales.
At first this was great for readers. We could hoard books without spending much money especially considering paperback books are well over ten dollars and hardbacks have always been expensive. I know once I got a Kindle I went on a shopping spree and acquired literally hundreds of free books. I figured if the book wasn’t too great then no big deal; it didn’t cost me a thing. I’m not alone in this behavior and in a recent post on Writers in the Storm, the author admits to being a bargain shopper and having a Kindle full of free and reduced price books. However, people like myself and the blog poster have realized we’re probably never going to get to all those freebies.
The publishing industry has taken note of this behavior and will often offer a lower price if a reader pre-orders. Other authors, again mainly newer and independent authors, will offer the books for free when initially launching their book. Some will give away free copies to bloggers in exchange for a book review. Still yet another strategy is after the book has been released to run occasional specials where the book’s price is reduced or free. This helps to boost sales in the hopes of getting the book on a bestseller list, in particular, Amazon’s.
Yet is this necessarily a good thing? The above post caused me reexamine my thinking. As a writer and as someone who looks to hopefully become more of a novelist than short story writer, are the low prices and free giveaways a good thing? A point I’d never thought about until the above post was the message it sends to potential readers. If a book goes on sale either before it’s even released or shortly thereafter, is it any good? Personally I don’t keep track of stuff like that and I’ve never thought such a pricing tactic means the content isn’t great. Perhaps because when I became a writer I also started reading about the industry and knew pricing strategies were common.
But does the average reader view think this way? Some due, of course, and perhaps a few years ago it was truer when many free books were self-published and not good. Nowadays I don’t think that’s the case. As self-published and indie books have gotten vastly better in quality and as more readers realize books will go on sale, the stigma has waned.
Even before the Writers in the Storm post I was beginning to change my thinking on freebie books. With a bloated Kindle I started getting pickier. As a fellow writer I want to be paid for my published work so why shouldn’t I pay for these books? The authors have put in countless hours, weeks, months, and years into their story and took a chance by birthing it into the world in the hopes they’d find readers. Buying the book pays the author which is something I’m firmly for. Writing is a job. It’s why I dislike entry/reading fees and outfits who don’t pay writers other than with “exposure” and complimentary copies. As far as I know, whether a book is purchased for free or not, it still counts as a sale.
It is enormously difficult to make a name for yourself in publishing. Any little trick or bit of help an author can get, we’ll take it. If this means running a freebie or reduced price special, it’s going to be done. If it means giving a reviewer a free copy in exchange for a review, they’ll do it. But as readers, we should reconsider our thinking. When I see a friend offering their latest endeavor for free, I don’t gobble it up. I’d rather pay them. Readers as a whole should be doing this. If we want to see more work, quality work, then actually buying it only encourages the author. After all, price doesn’t change if the story works or not and the risk is still the same for the reader.