Cultivating A Culture of Free

2012-Jul-9 -> from the opinions-are-like... department Tags: opinion foss amazon thetimeweaver 

I've never had a problem with free. Let that be said up front. I love getting things for free, and I'm a big advocate for free software. What I have a problem with is the reasons people give their work away for free.

Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is based on a principle: Software Freedom. It is given away under a license that allows you to do with the software as you please. You can modify it, redistribute it, and never pay a penny for it so long as you abide by the terms of the license. This model has worked very well for FOSS. But this model doesn't work for everything.

Amazon's KDP Select allows you to give your book away for free for up to 5 days out of a 90 day period. Taken at its face value this seems like a good promotional tool, but I don't think so. Consider this: How many indie authors out there have made it big because of KDP Select promotions? How many have maintained a good sales rank for any significant length of time after the promotions are done? How many of those free giveaways actually get read?

Ask around, I think you'll be surprised.

Some report decent sales bumps when the promotions are done, but those don't last. They are bumps in the road. Many are okay with this, happy to be "good enough". To each his own, but I've never been willing to settle for "good enough".

There's a second side effect of this program, something that not many people thought of. Not even Amazon themselves, at first. If people are always scheduling books to go on sale for free, eventually you breed a culture of consumers who expect everything for free. I'm positive this isn't what Amazon wanted, and their actions appear to reflect that.

If you're going to give your work away for free, I highly recommend you do it for the right reasons. I'm simply not willing to give away 10,000 books to sell 100. That doesn't make sense to me.

I want to see my books at the top of the bestseller lists. That's best "seller" list, not best "free" list. The only way that's going to happen is through hard work, perseverance, and constant work on my craft. I would suggest the same thing to all indie authors out there.

I believe I have a good product, and they're only going to get better going forward. This is what will drive my sales. My exposure comes from you: the people who believe in me enough to keep coming back, the people who enjoy my writing enough to share my posts, and the people who refer others to my books so that I might win over more readers. I love you people. I want you to know how much I appreciate it every time you click the tweet, +1 and stumble buttons, or otherwise share my work.

But don't take me at my word. I do free for the right reasons. The first chapter of my debut novel, The Time Weaver, is available to read right here on my website, and for the first time, I'm going to offer the first chapter in a downloadable PDF, Kindle Format, and ePub format. Grab it, read it, and then pick up the whole book for a measly $2.99. That's less than a cup of coffee at certain coffee shops, and don't forget, a portion of that money is donated to Reglue, a charity that distributes computers to underprivileged children.

If you already think you'll enjoy my book, you can pick it up in the following places with my full appreciation:

Thanks for reading!

I'm always interested in hearing what you have to say. Contact Me, I'd love to hear from you.

Don't forget to join in on the conversation in the comments section below.


By Cynthia Echterling on Tue 10 Jul 2012 07:58:32 am [ Reply ] I agree, Thomas. I tried Kindle Select to promote one of my books, hoping that the least I could get from readers who were getting my book for free would be some likes, comments or reviews. I made it to the top four for free downloads, but nary a like, comment or review. No one borrowed the book either, so, for me, the Kindle Select seems a failure. Do I have an answer? Of course not, or I'd be selling more books and as much as I'd like to sell more books, what I'd really like is to be read. I'd like to know that people got a good laugh, maybe thought about the ideas presented, maybe even learned something. There are many books that I have read that I think back on even years later, books that have altered my view of the world even just a little. I'd like to be one of those books for someone else and you can't count that in numbers of free downloads or even sales.

By Aubrey Hansen on Tue 10 Jul 2012 01:10:50 pm [ Reply ] Very good thoughts. I've just started experimenting with KDP Select, so I'm very interested in your thoughts on it.

By Martin Campbell on Tue 10 Jul 2012 05:06:52 pm [ Reply ] Hi Thomas. I bought Time Weaver some time ago, and enjoyed it. It was well worth the $2.99! I think that publishers have mostly set ebook prices too high, while shafting both authors and consumers. I have even read that some authors think so. What do you think?

By Thomas A. Knight on Tue 10 Jul 2012 05:24:03 pm [ Reply ] Cynthia & Aubrey: Thanks for your kind words and opinions. KDP Select has been a hot topic in the industry for a while. Trading exclusivity for the chance to give your book away for free? That doesn't seem like a fair trade to me. Okay... there's borrows. But really, how many people out there make anything from borrows?

Martin: Thanks so much for dropping by. I'm glad you enjoyed The Time Weaver. I think that traditional publishers *do* set eBook prices far too high, but people still buy them. I think it's a blessing and a curse that indies can undercut them. In one respect, we make more per book than traditionals do, even at a lower price point, but on the other hand, there's a perceived hit on quality with a lower price point. I say perceived because we all know that price has absolutely no *real* bearing on quality. Either way, I hope that answers your question, and I hope you'll see fit to pick up my second book when it's released. Thanks again for reading, that's what this is all about, right? :)

By Will Hill on Wed 11 Jul 2012 02:09:05 am [ Reply ] Giving away 10,000 books to sell 100 might not make sense but giving away 1,000,000 to sell 10,000 might. Haven't print books always been this way, when you consider public libraries, private lending and resales?

Are you sure the odds will be so bad? The humble bundle seems to do well, even though it comes without restrictions and will all be free software soon enough.

By Rodney Walther on Wed 11 Jul 2012 09:21:12 am [ Reply ] While I would not condemn a writer for offering their book(s) for free, I don't think it is a good strategy for long-term profitability. When so many writers offer their book for free, it builds an expectation for readers to wait until they come available on a giveaway. Besides, most free downloads are likely not even read, which defeats the purpose in the first place. Finally, when a reader who is not in the target audience reads a book that's not meant for them, there is a higher risk of getting a poor review.

For me, I'm in KDP Select but have never given away my book for free. I don't plan to, either. I have offered Amazon an exclusivity for my novel in the hope to make more money on Paid Borrows than I was making on sales from other channels (Nooks, Smashwords, etc.). This strategy is working, as I *am* making some nice coin on Paid Borrows, not to mention that the Paid Borrows help increase best-seller rankings on a 1:1 basis (unlike giveaways, which are 10:1 in weighting).

Frankly, I wish that Amazon would split out the exclusivity on receiving Paid Borrows in the Kindle Owners Lending Library from the exclusivity on making one's book available for up to 5 days free. It'll never happen, though.

By Steve Umstead on Tue 17 Jul 2012 04:20:44 pm [ Reply ] Couldn't have said it better myself, Thomas. Actually, that's *exactly* what I've been saying about Select since December. I think authors do themselves a disservice by (a) devaluing their product by giving it away, and (b) are missing potential readers by going exclusive Amazon. Glad to see the glow of Select has finally faded. Now let's get back to writing.

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