I will not give my books away for free because people do not value free. And I worked 100s of hours to write a book. If someone doesn’t feel that’s worth the price of admission, then I don’t want them in the room. Glad you’ve come around.
I agree, Judy. The majority of people do not value free. There are a few who will, but the exceptions don’t change the rule. I hadn’t done a free book giveaway for a few years. In January 2021, the promotion came to mind, so I did it even though it didn’t feel comfortable.
Why I Did the Promotion
In the countless marketing articles I’ve read in the past 12 years, the majority of them spoke about how wonderful these giveaways were on Amazon. There were many advantages, including getting reviews.
To top it off, I was expected to pay for ads to promote these free books. Authors are still doing this. If you subscribe to newsletters promoting books, you’ll often see free books listed, too. Authors paid anywhere from $10 to $200 to have their free book promoted. That’s like a double slap in the face.
Even in 2012, it felt wrong to give away my hard work. I equated it to a dentist giving me a free filling or a taxi giving me a free ride. That doesn’t happen. They expect to get paid. There’s no question about it. A teacher is not going to work for free. Neither should the writer who provides material for her to teach with.
Although it felt wrong, I was learning how to market my book. Marketing is the toughest part of self-publishing. And I didn’t enjoy it. I did a few freebies on Amazon, and, yes, I gave away a lot of books. I could pat myself on the back and think, “Six hundred people downloaded my book! I have a lot of readers.”
What I didn’t know back then was, it didn’t matter if one million people downloaded the book, I may still have only six readers. Back in the early 2010s, people downloaded millions of free books, many of which weren’t read.
All this conflicting information was in my head in January 2021 and for some reason, one cold winter’s day, I decided to give the free promotion another chance with Northern Survival. I wasn’t running any other promotion at the time, so I thought it might be useful to get the book in front of more eyes. Certainly, it wouldn’t hurt anything. According to the ‘experts’, the ‘selling’ trend would continue after the promotion ended.
Boy, were they wrong. I had been selling a few copies every day until the free promotion, and then not one paid sale or Kindle Unlimited page read for two weeks afterwards. These ‘experts’ might have been right in 2011, but they were dead wrong in 2021. I gave away 698 eBooks that generated a few reviews, including this one-star review with the horrible ‘at least it was free’ comment.
1 Star: Am I missing something?
Reviewed in the United States on February 21, 2021
I’m having a very difficult time relating to all these positive reviews. I made it to page 52 and gave up on these two thoroughly obnoxious characters and gave up on the book. Thank goodness I didn’t pay for it.Amazon Review
A Little History
When I started writing professionally in 1997, the pressure to give my work away was huge. For every ten articles I received payment for, I gave away three. I was told this was how I built a portfolio, made a name for myself and gained experience. I accepted it because this was what other writers told me. After three years, I said, “No more.” There were a few exceptions, but they were far and few between, and had to be for good causes.
The more writers I met and the more I learned about who was making what, I found that women were more likely to give away their writing and to negotiate a lower price for work they sold. Men refused to give away their work, and worked for higher pay. Not all men and women did this. There were exceptions, but the exceptions didn’t change the outcome: men made more money from writing.
That irked me to no end. As a woman raised by a father who told me I could do anything alongside seven bothers, I worked in several ‘men only’ jobs, including construction. My brothers taught me to never back down, to always stand my ground.
My mother would say, “You should have been born a man.” While she wanted me to do housework, style my hair and wear dresses, I was beneath a truck covered in grease or camping by a river and catching fish while always wearing blue jeans. While I was average height, my mother stood five-foot high, so she looked at my size and strength gained from rugged work as something a man should possess, not a woman.
Growing up in this environment has influenced how I see the world and how I see men and women.
The fact women were setting these low standards of pay for other women triggered me into ignoring the advice of many of them. Instead, I read about how men were writing, negotiating and earning money.
I understand there are women who will only work when paid a fair wage (and I follow several of them who offer excellent advice), but the ones who undercut themselves far outnumber them. I need to rethink because in the past five or six years, I’ve strayed off course, and I’ve not stood my ground. That’s on me. Not anyone else.
In case this was just my view of the publishing world, I did a search and found this: “The newest page-turner in publishing isn’t a book at all, but research finding books written by women are priced 45 percent lower than those penned by men.” (CBS News: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/why-are-women-authors-books-cheaper-than-mens)
This article sites data for self-published men and women, too, and the results are “Self-published titles by women are priced at 4 percent less than for men…”
While publishing houses appear to value the works of women less than men, their values seem to be replicated to some degree with authors who do it all themselves.
Unfortunately, this submissive philosophy gets into our psyche, and it’s tough to escape it. I often find myself telling me ‘do what you’re told, what others expect of you’. Another voice says, ‘cut your own path; do it your way’. It can be a daily struggle.
Which authors do you follow for sound advice on marketing and pricing books?
One of the people I followed about ten years ago was Dean Wesley Smith. He is a writing machine, and cuts his own path. I’ve learned a lot from him. Unfortunately, I haven’t read him in the past three or four years, partly because I’ve been so busy. Today, I start reading his posts again.