Monday, December 15, 2014

Why you shouldn’t give your book away

By Rhonda Penders

Why buy the cow when the milk is free?

We’ve all heard that saying. Basically, the meaning behind it is that someone isn’t going to pay for something that is offered for free. Whether it’s your virtue or your book, the issue is still the same.

When a writer devalues her work to the point of giving away her book, isn’t that what she is really doing? Just giving it away as if it were nothing?

I have to wonder if an author is so desperate to have someone, anyone, read her book, that she’s passing them out like pamphlets on the street corner.

Is it so bad that she doesn’t think anyone would or should pay for it? What about the months, maybe even the years, she spent pounding away at the keyboard creating that book? What about the lost hours spent editing and reworking it to perfection?

A promotional ploy

Most authors sacrifice a lot to write a book. They give up any and all free time in exchange for getting the story on paper. That has to be worth something; certainly more than a freebie.

Authors tell me it’s a promotional ploy. Promotion is great and today we have to constantly try new angles and ideas to draw in readers. I have no issue with giving away a chapter to entice a reader to purchase the rest of the book but give away the whole book? It doesn’t make any sense.

Authors hope that by giving away a book, readers will buy more of them or will buy the next book that comes out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t usually work that way. Readers are a very frugal bunch. If they can get free books, why would they pay for yours? They will simply pick up someone else’s free book tomorrow, and someone else’s the next day, and so forth.

The numbers don’t lie

You may disagree with me – maybe your experience is different – but as a publisher, I have to tell you that the sales numbers don’t lie. While a select small number of authors may have seen book giveaways as a clever promotion to boost the sales of their next book, it is rare. Giving books away isn’t making sales numbers climb. How could it? Free doesn’t equal bigger royalty checks.

Meanwhile, authors have devalued their craft to the point where even they don’t think it should cost anything. I’ve been to a lot of craft shows the past couple of months. I’m amazed at the price of the handmade pieces people are selling. But then I think about the hours and hours of hard work these artists put into each piece and I have to admit it’s probably a bargain. Aren’t authors the same as these other artists? Aren’t authors creators of their craft and shouldn’t they value their work just as much as a wood carver or a glass blower does?

Maybe this old adage has a point in today’s publishing world. Every writer has to do what he/she thinks is best for their career.

It’s a tough time in publishing for authors but the answer isn’t giving it away. To me, that’s the same as giving up.

- See more at:

Rhonda Penders, Editor-in-Chief


Lynda said...

AMEN! AMEN! And, again AMEN! I've shouted the same argument against giving away books more than once and I'll keep shouting it. I work hard to create a believable story line, with "real to life" characters, and I'll be darned to the deepest levels of perdition if I'm going to give my hard work away. Thank you, Rhonda, for this blog post!

Kathy Otten said...

I agree 100%! I've worked damn hard on my books and don't want them lumped in with the poorly written cheap books flooding the market. Sometimes I even think the current pricing is low.
I also read in a chat with Susan Meier that readers are getting sick of the cheap, poorly written stuff and are looking to see if the book has a reputable publisher behind it. And numbers are starting to swing back to publishers.

Virginia said...

B5Your comments were spot on. I have donated books for a charity auction but that is the limit for freebies.

Louise Lyndon said...

I think the distinction needs to be made - I am giving away ONE paperback copy of my book - that's it and I think that's ok. It's a one off just to create a bit of a buzz.

Now, if we're talking about offering your book for free to the masses? I am 100% in agreement with you. I mean, would I go to my day job and work my behind off and at the end of the day tell my bosses there is no need to pay me? No. Absolutely not. Why should writing be any different?

Vonnie said...

Vindicated at last. Have never subscribed to the endless giveaways floating in the ether. I give away my books only as prizes. No other profession gives away services free.

JACLYN said...

Rhonda, how right you are.

Giving your book away isn't profitable for the author's hard work nor for the publishers. No one gains but the reader.

Sorry if I sound harsh. Trying to promote your own book is tough.

I do many reviews for Amazon and they tell me how many readers buy the book just from my review.

Now all I have to do is find reviewers to extol my books. :-)

Jaclyn V. Di Bona