The Dilemma of Giving Away Free Books

SenseofDirection_coverWith the birth of a child, the proud father often hands out cigars to commemorate the occasion. When an author’s new book is launched there are similar rites of passage. With my fourth book “Sense of Direction” debuting this month, I am struggling with the pressures of giving out free copies of my newest baby.

It might be better to express these gifts as “complimentary promotional materials.” But let me be clear. We are talking about giving out free copies! Freebies, if you will!

Over the years I’m becoming more hesitant to do so. I spoke to a golfer the other day who hates to waste money. He bought a new driver and can’t hit it a lick. Yet he did well with his old one. I asked him, “Why don’t you switch back?” He answered, “The new driver cost me over $300. I’m invested.” I asked him what he would do if he bought a book, started reading it, and was uninspired by its contents. “Would you put the book down?”  He answered, “No, once I invest money in a book I’m going to finish it.”

I have always believed that once a person has purchased a book they become emotionally involved from the outset. Before one purchases a book it has gone through a screening process. At a minimum the buyer read the back cover. At the other extreme they have read book reviews in the newspaper or have checked out on-line reviews by bloggers or reviews from fellow readers on sites such as Amazon or Goodreads. Before the purchase decision was made the reader has mentally budgeted time in their busy schedule as to when they might actually sit down to read it. The same might even be said for a book they have borrowed from a lending library. But free copies that are given out to readers contain a higher probability of gathering dust on the bookshelf.

That is why I have an aversion to giving out too many free copies. I want people to read my books, not collect them because of the cover art. When I give my books to relatives or friends, some are very excited and often start it the very same day. Others never read it or if they do they are in no rush. “I’ll get to it eventually” they say. I find it amazing that despite knowing me, they do not have the level of curiosity or desire to immediately devour my book. And those that read them and really enjoy them don’t always send me an immediate text or email with their positive reaction. And the real pity is that if they loved the book they should feel compelled to immediately write a favorable review on Amazon. That would be a response that an author would greatly appreciate.

So enough free copies! Buy my book and support the arts. If I have already given you copies of my first three novels and you haven’t read them, do you really deserve a fourth? And if you have read them and thought they were mediocre (very rare in my case) then my next masterpiece would be of little interest to you. And if you loved my last three books, then it is about time you spring for the fourth one on your own.

The digital reading craze helps my predicament in that my readers want to read books on their kindle, nook, Ipad, or other digital device. This assures that they will purchase a digital copy. But some still crave a physical copy so they can have my John Hancock inscribed on the inside cover.

I am proud of my works and I want to share it with the people I’m close with. Of course it is important to have copies available to promote one’s book. At the end of the day if the book ends up in the right hands it could be optioned for a full length feature film.

But the costs start to add up. Free books do not grow on trees. To some extent they might actually kill a few.  So if you want me to share my books, how about sharing the love and buy my creations. I have already shared them with the entire world just by writing them.

Cash Kushel

P.S. What do you think? Am I a total Scrooge by wanting to limit the freebies? Should it be costing me money rather than making me money? Should authorship just become an expensive hobby? Please reply.  [mc4wp-form]

 

4 thoughts on “The Dilemma of Giving Away Free Books

  1. Bob Reiss

    Paul,
    I agree with your premise on Freebies. There is another reason that supports your thinking, especially with reviewers. A number of these Freebies are quickly turned around and sold to Amazon as a used book. This then inhibits your Amazon sales as they post used books on the same page as new books. I also have come to believe that many people don’t respect anything that is free. I like your confidence.
    Good Luck with your fourth.
    Bob

    Reply
  2. CashKushel Post author

    Thanks, Bob and great point on the used book sales on Amazon (and EBay for that matter). Yes, it’s a sticky widget and one we ought to at least be aware of and limit our free giving to those who are influencers (book clubs and reviewers for example) so the investment of one book can reach many potential readers.

    Reply
  3. Harold Rosenblatt

    I respectfully disagree with your position of giving out “freebies.”
    Let’s start with the major premise. Why are you writing?
    Some writers feel it is the height of catharsis to put pen on paper. Perhaps it allows you to purge your soul of all of its emotions, or at least, all that has built up since your last writing.
    Other writers have other desires. You say that “at the end of the day if the book ends up in the right hands it could be optioned for a full length feature film.” In that case, giving out freebies is absolutely the way to go. Maybe when you hand out “freebie #4” you could tell the freeloader of your desires and ask him/her to review your creation on at least 3 web sites after their reading. (I suggest, e.g.: http://www.nytimes.com/pages/books/ and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/book-reviews/ and http://www.amazon.com/) In that way, you would get maximum exposure for your true marketing efforts.
    I recently spoke to that same golfer. He told me that when he picks up a free book somewhere, he has no obligation to provide a review of said book for others to see. But if he accepts your freebie on the proviso that he submit 3 reviews, then he has made a moral and ethical promise to review your book (he is invested)… and word will soon get out as to your writing prowess.
    And soon, Spielberg or Cameron or Tarantino will be knocking on your door. And soon thereafter, my own talent agent will come knocking too.

    Reply
    1. CashKushel Post author

      You make some great points Harold. Receiving the quid-pro-quo of 3 book reviews would be a godsend. That’s a great way to ensure the reader is “invested.” Of course getting the book into many hands increases the chances that it gets to the one person who can make it rain! Your idea of a promised review(s) can certainly increase those odds. I am curious about the statistical makeup of the people who go onto their computer to write these reviews. Are they more technically proficient? Do they tend to read their books on digital readers? If so the ones getting the books on paper (old school) might not be the primary audience who writes a review. But it is sure worth a try! Thanks Harold. – Cash

      Reply

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