Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Free books - traditional and indie authors

Extra extra, get your free books...! 

No, I'm not offering. Sorry. 
Instead, you will find my ramblings on the topic of free books. 

Now, I see a lot of indie authors moaning how it's us against them, with 'them' being traditional publishing houses.
But as we continue down this path of free access to publishing, this is becoming less and less the case. 
Trad pubs are struggling too. 

OK, they have bigger advertising budgets. And sure, they let celebrities publish through them; they come with their own publicity. I can't blame them. 
But make no mistake, they are finding times tough too. 

The biggest challenge facing us all is the free book. 
As I was scrolling through Amazon, I realised just how large this problem is. 
Here's some actual screen shots, spanning different genres. Do you see how often the word free crops up in people's searches? And that's without typing the word free into my search! 

There are companies with massive mailing lists, eager to tell their subscribers of free (or heavily discounted) books. 
Authors sign up to this, often paying for the pleasure, eager to get more exposure for their hard work. 
Readers rub their hands in glee at the marvellous amount of books they can get. 
It's all harmless, right?

But here's the thing. 
How much value do you place on a book you got for free?
Did you just download it because it was there? And now it sits, unloved, on your virtual Kindle (or other ereader) shelf? Will you ever read it? And if you do, will you review it? 
Most won't. 

But more than that. The book was fairly and competitively priced to start with. 
ALL authors work hard at getting their price point right. 
It may be free to press publish on the likes of Amazon, but once it gets bought, they take their cut out of the royalties. 
And then there's all the other hidden expenses; the editor, the cover designer, the stock images, the marketing campaigns etc. etc. etc. 
It all adds up. And authors usually have to have a full time job, just to keep the roof over their head. 
Very few have the luxury of being a writer full time. 

And readers then come to expect free books all the time.
"What? Pay for a book? No. I get all mine free. What mug would pay?"

Writing is hard. It takes blood, sweat and tears. We authors pour our souls onto the page. 
The immense amount of work can take months or even years. 
Oh, if you only knew the agonies we suffer. The crippling self doubt which takes over. The arguments we have with our characters as they start behaving in a way we didn't expect. 
Not that I'm complaining. I love writing. 
But many call their books their book babies. We nurture, care for and love our creations. 
We press publish and offer you our innermost thoughts. They get laid bare for you.

And yet you don't want to pay even $2.99 for all this? 

Let me ask you? How much did you spend on your coffee today?
Hm? A little over $3 or £3, was it? 
One little coffee. How long does it take you to drink that? 
Now, how long does it take you to read a book? 
Oh, but you could buy a book for the same price? That seems like good value now, doesn't it?

Would you walk into a coffee house and demand a free coffee? Would you? 
Fancy a free outfit from your favourite clothes retailer? 
Or perhaps you'd wander into an art gallery and demand a free painting? 
No, I thought not.
So why do you expect free books?

Incidentally, coffee is another large expense for authors. It is often considered writer's fuel. 

So go on, buy us a coffee. Pay the reasonable, original price for our books. Please.
Then we can afford to keep writing more. Everyone wins. 

This has been a public service announcement on behalf of all kinds of authors everywhere. 
Thank you for listening.
(opinions are all my own, and I do not represent any others). 

Always in love & light, 


  1. Excellent article and very timely. I'm on an author panel at Limestone Genre Expo in Kingston,Ontario May 26 where this topic will be debated.

    1. Oh, I didn't get the notification of your response. Apologies.
      I hope the expo went well xx