I’m sure anyone who follows an author on social media has seen one of these. You know, those nearly ranting posts about how hard we as authors work to make the stories for you to love? Typically, they’re followed with a rational and almost sensible sounding argument about how it, therefore, doesn’t make sense to give our books away?
Yeah, I disagree.
You see, I work hard on my books. I put everything into them, often disappearing from the world for weeks on end, only resurfacing when my friends and family try to stage something like an intervention (which usually is met with, “Go away, I’m on a deadline.”) I invest in covers, editing, and all the other bookish things that we authors do that readers don’t really care about because it’s not their problem. Yeah, I also get that last part.
See, it’s not my readers’ problem that making a living in a luxury market isn’t just a piece of cake. Nor is it their “problem” that there’s a jillion and one brilliant authors out there that I’m kinda competing with. (I say “kinda” because let’s be honest, no author will ever write fast enough to truly compete with others. It’s more of a finding a fan base and networking thing for us.) For my readers, all they care about is that they FOUND a good book (thanks to me slaving over marketing avenues) and they can afford to try it (thanks to Kindle Unlimited or competitive pricing) and when they read it the whole way through, they’re happy with the story and the quality of the book they spent their hard earned money on (thanks to MY hard work because I only turn out the best product I can).
And when all those things come together, I just got me a new fan for life – or until I screw them over by cheating on my current standards. One of the easiest ways to do this (find the readers) is with a free book. That takes out one of the pieces of the equation because, let’s face it, free is affordable for everyone.
Seriously, how many of you found your favorite author with a free or loaned book? How many of you got sucked into a series because a friend said, “Oh, I just finished this. You should read it!” and then you have to buy the next twenty books in the series because your OCD set in and you can’t live without knowing what happened in the end? How many of you clicked on that free ebook link and then bought not just the rest of the series, but every single book that author ever wrote, and signed up for their mailing list, followed them on Amazon, and stalk their social media regularly. (Yeah, I know who you are… and I love you people!)
Ahem. But anyways… My point is that I love the days I give away my books. I love the chances to hand out some free paperbacks. Recently, when I was in the hospital, I had my husband bring up the extra copies of One More Day I’d ordered. I figured that a book about cancer had a pretty good chance of being interesting to my nurses, phlebotomists, lab techs, and most of the medical staff who put up with all my piss (kinda literally, since it was a kidney stone that did me in). It’s a way to say thank you, and the look on their faces?
That’s worth every single second I put into typing out the book that I really enjoyed creating anyway.
Which brings me to another point. For my gamer friends out there, I know you’ve seen this – especially in MMOs. “I worked hard for that.” The whine is prevalent in just about every aspect of our lives, but working is NOT what you do in a game. By its very definition, it is anything BUT work. And when you love your job? The complaint about the hours you slave over something is kinda the same.
Now, I’m NOT saying that authors don’t deserve to get paid for what they do. Just like any other artist, we are the creators. We bring ideas to tangibility that otherwise wouldn’t exist. We’re the ones who give our readers a few hours of escape from the doldrum of reality. And that’s not just a job, but one that deserves to be compensated. It’s work, and if we’re doing it right, it’s HARD work.
But it’s still ok to be generous. I still write letters for my mother. I help my father with his facebook. I read manuscripts for my writing partner. I do all of this for free, and it’s no different than the things I do for my “real job” as an author. I do them as a favor for the people who matter to me, just like a sale or a few days of offering my book for free, or handing out those paperbacks isn’t the norm. I balance my goal (helping my friends and family, finding new fans, making someone’s day a little better) against what I’m giving up (time spent writing some more! Whee!).
To me, that little speck of joy I get back is payment. I may not be able to put it in the bank, but when the situation is right, the budget can afford it, and my fans have once again proven just how great they are? Yeah, I’m gonna pay them back because I seem to understand one VERY important thing that a lot of authors just can’t wrap their minds around.
We, the authors, can never get ahead without the support of our readers, and there’s not a damned thing wrong with bribing y’all to make sure it happens.