Free Books – Friend or Foe?

Free books have been a hot topic on one of my authors groups this week, with good reason. Which other creative genre do you know where it is becoming ‘expected’ for you to give your work away for free, non gratis? None? That’s right none. Whilst the internet has brought us many great and wonderful things, free books, in my humble opinion are not one of them. Don’t get me wrong, competitions, advanced reader copies not a problem – that’s part of the marketing. What irks me, is the expectation that you should give your books away, for free. Imagine a silversmith working away on a beautiful pendant. Months spent even years, honing and perfecting their work. Would you expect him to give it to you for free? Personally I wouldn’t!

I write because I love it, it is my passion, my obsession. I place a value on what I do and I expect others to do the same. Giving away free books, permanently, says to me – I do not value you or your work. It is the principle that is conveyed when that transaction is made. Now the transaction may mean very little in financial terms, but what it says to me as a person is overwhelming. It says I respect & value what you do. You don’t walk into a store and expect the manager to say oh everything is free from now on, do you? So why do people expect it from authors?

Yes of course we all like free stuff  I’m not talking about buy 1 get 1 free or sale prices, these are marketing tactics for short periods of time. I’m talking about authors giving away their books free, permanently. By having to pay  even if it is only £1.00 you have committed, you have invested. Far too often I am hearing of people who just download free book upon free book, with no intention of actually reading them. I can’t blame them, they were free, so why not? These I am reliably informed are called ‘freebie hunters’. It could be shower gel or cotton wool, they don’t care as long as it’s free.Now where is the value in that? Excuse me  while I readjust my soap box. Ah that’s better…

Silversmith
Silversmith,Celuk, Bali by Joe Diells. Some rights reserved.Flickr

Whilst a few authors may see an initial rise in their sales, I am told by many publishers this is not sustained. So what has been achieved? Has the writer gained future readers – no, have they received more reviews – no, have they given away shed loads of books to people who don’t give a flying fig – doh yes, I think so. For me its not about stroking someones ego because they ‘just have to sell sell sell’. It’s about acknowledging writing is a creative process that is valued.

Some fellow authors and I are coming together to try and pull things back to centre. You may agree or disagree, that is up to you. All I ask is that you think about it seriously. These are of course, just my thoughts. Each one of us must decide for ourselves, what’s right for us.

If you are interested in the Valued Authors Coalition then you can find us here:

VAC