I look through my recent posts, and I say to myself “No, I just haven’t made enough enemies yet.” So in that spirit, I’m going to talk about something I see happening with some folks on Twitter and Facebook. This is strictly based on anecdotal evidence, and as such, I’ll try real hard to refrain from writing “you people” and implying that this is a wide-spread problem. If I slip up and do use “you people” and this rant doesn’t apply to you, know that I didn’t mean you people, I meant those other you people.
So, I see some of my followers posting links to books they “bought” on Amazon. Amazon now has a set of buttons on the page thanking you for a purchase, and in this way you can promote every book you buy. Just click share on Facebook, and a second later, boom, instant promotion. This much is a good thing, and I appreciate Amazon doing this to make it easier to encourage readers to promote authors they like. Nothing of what upsets me has to do with Amazon, and aside from their shit outsourced support departments, I think Amazon is a-okay.
No, what bugs me is a pattern I’m seeing where people promote one free book after another, and it seems like they don’t actually buy any books if they have to pay for them. For authors and publishers, a free book is a “loss leader.” It’s meant to entice someone to buy other books from the same author, and it’s understood that the author and publisher will lose money by handing out a freebie. What they’re gambling on is that of the large number of people who grab a freebie, enough folks will turn around and buy a second book in the same series, or another book from the same writer.
But what happens when you find people who only download the free books, and who never have any intention of buying anything? For starters, the author never makes any money. This requires keeping a day job, which means less time to devote to writing new stories. It can demoralize the author and make it harder for them to be inspired to write in the few moment of free time they can find to write.
I buy a lot of books to support authors. I rarely pick up free stuff, unless it’s like a free short story and isn’t really long enough to charge $2.99 on. I read free fiction on Wattpad, but that’s stuff that hasn’t been published elsewhere. For the stuff that is available for sale, I buy it to support the writer.
I don’t see how this is difficult to grasp, that writers need financial support just like other artists. But there has been this attitude from some folks that making art is not so hard, and that as anybody can do it, there’s no value in the products themselves. It’s not just a problem for writers. I’ve seen people tell musicians that they should give songs away for free and make up the losses with tours and concert merchandise. It’s like they think musicians jam out new songs in a minute or two, and anyone can do it.
I’ve seen webcomic artists talk about how less than 5% of their audience donates funds for server fees and around the same percentage of fans buy merchandise to support the comic.
But authors are in an even worse position because our content is the only thing we have to offer to the public. If we offer all our books for free, we can’t charge for reading tours. Nody is going to pay to see “Zoe E. Whitten Reading LIVE in concert!” We don’t make money off of T-shirt sales, though I have seen some indies start to sell branded merchandise to come up with other streams of revenue. I tried selling shirts. I didn’t even sell one. I sell a LOT more ebooks in year than I ever will shirts. Which is okay, because I’m fiction writer, not a T-shirt vendor.
My point is, if you call yourself a fan of someone, after you get their free book, you should buy another book. Don’t wait until that one is free as well, because that’s not supporting your artist. That’s not being a fan either. It’s being a mooch.
I try damned hard to not be a hypocrite and practice what I preach, which is why I buy as many books as I do. It’s why I post reviews, good or bad, because I want to show my support for all authors, pro or indie. So when I say to you, “Buy books, and review them whether you loved or hated them,” I’m not telling you to do something I won’t do myself. I’m not saying support the indies or support the authors. I’m saying support the artists in every way you can. Start first with financial support, because without financial support, there can be no new material.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a freebie either. I give out freebies too, because I know that money is tight these days. I know it’s hard to trust a new artist when they might not appeal to you, or they might just suck and have no talent. But after you’ve read a freebie or two, if you still don’t feel like pouring brain bleach into your skull, it would be extremely helpful if you would buy a book and then rate/review it. And even if you never buy my stuff, there’s no reason you can’t do this for the artists you enjoy.
So please, don’t get mad at me and think I mean you have to buy my stuff. My real point here isn’t even about my books. I’m making a broader statement that if you claim to support someone, but you only consume what they give you for free, that’s not a fan. It’s a mooch. A fan is someone who consumes the free sample and says “Damn, that was so good, I gotta buy something to keep this dude in business.”
I’ve recently been blessed by a fan who read a free story and then bought every last book I published in one lump sum. They even included a tip. THAT’S a fan supporting an artist in the best way possible. I don’t expect that of anyone. I’d be happy if you bought one book after reading a freebie. But hell yeah, sending off all those books to the same guy felt really good. It lifted the funk I was trapped under, knowing that someone out there liked my stuff enough to get the whole set.
That’s what I’m talking about. If you love an artist and you want to make them feel good, don’t just wait for free samples to drop. Buy their stuff. Review or rate it, and help them stay in business. If you really like someone, consider writing to them to let them know directly how their work has affected you. Trust me, you’ll tickle them right down to their souls (assuming they didn’t sell it to the devil in exchange for a bestseller) by making the effort.
Be fans, and don’t be mooches. It shouldn’t be so hard to understand why this is important, should it?