I’ll never be Free

Hi folks,

Today I want to take a look at a marketing ploy that seems to pervade our little world. The idea that writers should put their work up for free to gain exposure. Yeah, well, people can die from exposure, you know. Seriously, for free? First, let me say that, I’ve tried it. More than once. Did I get more exposure? Yes. Did it help my income? Not really. As one author recently told me, “There have been over 600 downloads of my free book in the last month, but I haven’t seen an increase in sales.” Yeah, been there too.

Novan Witch by Prudence MacLeod


So, how does that work? Well, in theory, people will read the free book, enjoy your story and style, then buy more of your books. That’s the theory. In the early days of self-publishing, it probably worked. For a few people. Now? I saw a tweet where someone claimed to have over a thousand free books on her kindle. Okay. Smashwords has 58,623 free books up for grabs right now. Getting the idea?

My fellow writers, you have worked months, sometimes years, to get that book ready for market. Do you truly want to give it away? You’ve sweat blood over that manuscript. You’ve done the work, dammit, you deserve to be paid.  Have a sale, yes. Drop the price for a promotion, sure, but you’re a professional. Act like it. Expect, and insist, to be paid for your work.

Oh, the book in the picture? I tried giving it away for free once. Waste of time and energy. However, a new edit, new cover, and away you go. It’s selling again. Life is good. The point of my rant? The point is, there are options. Giving the book away for free just implies you’re desperate. That devalues your work in the eyes of the buying public. Don’t do it.

End of rant.

Until next time, have a great weekend and pause to enjoy the little moments.



7 thoughts on “I’ll never be Free

  1. Bravo, Prudence.
    When I began writing, advice I heard was to never give your work away, however, the odd publishing credit from a magazine seemed worth the sacrifice–I wasn’t after sales or readers, I was after an agent so each credit was a treasure and I banked every one. Then self-publishing became more popular, and more respectable, and soon everyone was giving away free copies of their books. Out of those 1,000 free books a reader has on her Kindle, has she read all of them? Any of them? Went out and bought books from those authors?
    I’m on board with your points, with one exception. I have found that giving a book away when meeting a reader face-to-face does make an impact. Because then it is a genuine gesture, a connection with a reader you’ve chatted with, found common ground with, and then that free book becomes a treasure to them.

    I hope. 🙂

    1. Good call, I did miss that point. I agree that could be a good idea in that you have a chance to make an impression and autograph the book. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that. I’ve taken to trading something for the book. Last one I did I traded a book for the rights to use the other person’s picture on an upcoming cover. She’s another struggling artist type, so it worked out well. 🙂

  2. Thank you my dear friend Prudence!
    I’ve been sitting in the back seat watching from afar. And you know, even though I haven’t published a bloody thing yet, I haven’t felt comfortable with the free thing. Period. Regardless of the reason, I have felt, just like you, our work is WORK! A lot of work. More work than I ever expected. And that’s okay. The fact that I love the work does not require me to give it away for free. At this point, I don’t care if I never sell a book, if that’s what charging someone for my work means. I think that if we, the writer, don’t put some kind of price/value on our work, we put little respect into the blood, sweat and tears that went into the process. And if we don’t demand that respect, then how can we gain respect from our readers in return? Now, this of course, is coming from an unpublished author. Not to worry, I am close to sending this monster out to betas, whomever they shall be. I have no idea. But I am getting closer to the finish line and I’ve already decided I am not going to give this little puppy away for free. 🙂

    1. Hi Karen. Many years ago I was at a craft fair selling my home made furniture. I sat for three days watching the guy across from me sell tons of highly priced wooden toys while I sold only a few little shelves. I had several months work with me and was bitterly disappointed.
      The toy maker walked over to my booth and told me to go for a walk, he would watch my booth for me. I took him up on it and returned two hours later to find him sitting in an empty booth, counting a wad of cash. Stunned and thrilled, I asked him how he managed to sell everything. He said he tripled my prices. “Nobody will value your work if you don’t.” is what he told me.
      That was forty years ago and I have never forgotten. I applaud your decision, my friend. You expend a lot of time and energy to create something, you deserve to be paid.

      1. What a great example. Thank you for sharing it. We all tend to be so hard on ourselves and do not see our true value. Sometimes it takes another person to point that out to us. When I first bought my Kindle, in all honestly, I did download a bunch of free books. Why not? I read a lot of books and who was I to argue with free? Then I started reading them. And once I did, I deleted the majority of them because…they were either rushed to market, or didn’t go through the edit process. The sad thing was, some were good stories. I wanted to contact the author and suggest they take their book off the market and have it edited. They’d have sold, free or not, much more books. *sigh* And this is not to say that I am writing the next, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Lol. No, I can only put my best foot forward in hopes that I do not put some poor soul to sleep. Although, it might make a nice doorstop. 🙂

  3. Hi Prudence, I agree. I’ve never had an increase in sales but I have had a couple of reviews from giving them away. I think I do like the giveaway on Goodreads as it gives a lot of exposure to readers. Have a great week!

  4. Blessings Prudence!

    Thanks for being my friend on Facebook! I love this blog post! I have wondered back and forth whether to give out free options to my book and always decide not to. This article you wrote really inspired me to remain in my power of my truth and knowing what my worth is. I Loved, Loved, Loved your story about the booth at the craft fair! Have a Great day!! Sincerely Lacey

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