I have a policy of giving away free e-books and .pdfs to readers in need. Whenever I announce this policy to remind existing readers or spread the word to new ones, I get well-intentioned emails and notes asking me to stop doing this!
They make good points, usually centered around the concepts that (1) books are a commodity; and (2) creators have been conditioned to think they shouldn’t get to make money from practicing their craft. I strongly agree with both of these points. Offering free books doesn’t mean that I don’t think it’s utter and practical bullpoop that there are mass-produced greeting cards on sale in Target right now for $9.99, and people still balk at paying five or six bucks for an e-book.
But. I understand what it’s like to love to read. And I understand what it’s like to choose between reading and a sandwich, or reading and the power bill…
Reading is a form of sanity, and we are desperately in need of sanity these days.
(Libraries are wonderful, and I encourage everybody to get a library card!* But sometimes we have that shitty, shitty week when we don’t have time to get to the library, and that’s okay.)
I’m a self-published author, so I can set my own terms for sales and book giveaways. I treat book giveaways as an operating expense. When I’ve got ten whole books under my belt, I’ll probably set Digital Divide or Greek Key as a free download. For the time being, the added barrier of emailing me, the weirdo author, to request free copies of any or all of my books or bonus stories is necessary.
I’m okay with giving away books. It’s okay if you aren’t. I get that. But if you’re a self-published author and thinking about doing book giveaways yourself, here are some things I’ve noticed:
The good outweighs the bad.
- I’ve gotten the sweetest emails and messages from readers who have requested free books when they couldn’t afford it, and then bought copies when they could. This is a freakin’ blessing and it always makes my day.
- Readers who have disposable income know about these giveaways, and they donate money or buy extra copies to offset the costs for those readers who don’t. I usually break even, or close to that.
- It’s okay to build a reputation as an author who cares about other human beings. I’d say it’s preferable to the alternative.
But there is some bad.
- Some folks don’t make the distinction between “financial hardship” and “hey, free book!”
- As soon as a new book comes out, I get emails from people who are very obviously scammers. And some scammers who aren’t obvious—that brand-new book will be pirated and available for download within a day. Thanks, fuckos.
- Well-intentioned people are absolutely positively convinced that I’m somehow about to bring down the economics of the publishing industry (so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice). They send emails. Long emails.
I’m happy to answer any additional questions about book giveaways if you have them. Please leave a comment and I’ll check back.
(If you want to give me money, you can purchase these products via these links, send me money via Paypal at that same email address, or sponsor me on Patreon.)
Thanks for reading. I hope it brings you a small dose of sanity, and perhaps comfort. Please remember to be kind, be helpful, and always fight the good fight.
* In fact, if you don’t have a library card and don’t use the local library? Just go get a card, please. Getting library cards sends the message that libraries are used, which makes it harder to defund them.