Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Is 'Freebie' a Dirty Word?

These days I seem to be inundated with lists offering me free books.  Often I don’t have time to look at these, but sometimes I do and occasionally might come across a new book or author that interests me.  And I’m very grateful.  My free downloads are sparing, however, and I never download a book until I’ve read the description and taken a peek inside to make sure the writing style appeals.  Life’s too short to waste it reading uninteresting or badly written books, and let’s face it, there are plenty of those out there.

I know the blood, sweat and tears that go into producing a marketable novel and for an author to then
make his or her work free is a kind and generous act, so when I’ve finished reading a free book, I try to show my appreciation by leaving a review.  My reviews are almost invariably positive, because I don’t download books I’m likely to hate.  I see reviews as showing appreciation to the author and hopefully a helpful tool for future readers.

Perma-free 'The Apple Tree'
As an author, I’ve also made my books free and in fact over the years have given away thousands of copies – I even have one book set permanently free.  What happens to those downloads is a mystery, because I rarely receive much feedback in the form of reviews as a result of these freebies.  Like all authors, I give away my stories in the hope of reaching new readers and bringing them a little bit of pleasure.  The only way I know if a reader has actually read my book is if she or he makes contact or leaves a review.  And like all authors, I know the value of reviews.  Good and bad.

It seems to me there is a growing breed of people who spend their time downloading freebies just for the sake of it.  Whenever I make a book free, downloads go through the roof.  What happens to the book then is a mystery.

Except, of course, for those people who love to complain because you’ve inflicted a free gift on them that isn’t to their liking.  Last year I participated in producing a compilation of excerpts with fourteen other authors.  Apart from giving samples of our Cinderella-themed stories, we also included recipes, party games and such.  Although we couldn’t have made it any clearer that this was a sampler, the complaints poured in from readers who felt cheated because the freebie contained only excerpts and not complete stories.  Clearly there are people out there who expect everything for free – in this case fifteen complete novels in one set. 

So why do we authors continue to punish ourselves by giving away our hard work?  Have we brought this sorry state of affairs upon ourselves?  Have we made ‘freebie’ a dirty word?