Copyright Michael O’Gara 2013 All Rights Reserved
OK, “going in” I know some readers are not going to like what I have to say here about eBook giveaways. Let the cards fall where they may. This post is really about why it is not in an author’s best interests to give away their work to the public and how the practice of eBook giveaways distorts the market.
First let’s look at it from an author’s point of view. It seems a lot of indie authors are using eBook giveaways of their work in the hope of building an audience. I think this is a big mistake. Some point to the fact that traditional publishers have used giveaways. My response is yes, but they did it in a targeted way as part of a marketing plan. They did not distribute freebies to the public. There was a method to their use of promotional copies.
Indie authors should be smart about eBook giveaways; using them only as promotional tools that are part of a marketing plan. This means only sending free copies to reviewers / bloggers etc. Use giveaways to expand visibility. For example a contest for a print copy on Goodreads exposes your book to a lot of readers. In reality though it is a form of promotion that has a real cost of advertising. The author or publisher pays for the printing of the book and the shipping. That is using giveaways as marketing tools.
According to blogger feedback I’ve received, such contests for eBooks gain little interest. I think it’s because there are so many eBook giveaways available. This indicates the value of eBooks is perceived as lower.
I think authors that give their eBooks to anyone who wants them just devalue their brand. They are saying the only way they can get readers is to give them the work. Is that the message an author wants to send? Of course it may be that for some authors the only way they can get any readers is to give their books away. That goes to quality of a work. If a work is of poor quality, people are not going to put out their hard-earned money for it.
Now let’s look at how eBook giveaways distort the market. In the past the marketplace sorted out issues of quality based on how people voted with their dollars to read a book; it was a way of determining marketability. Sure there were “gate keepers” such as agents, editors etc. that often passed on publishing truly readable and marketable work; no system is perfect. The fact is though that the market was not flooded with freebies and readers only took books off the shelves they thought they would actually read.
Now people take a lot of eBooks “off the shelf” just because they’re free. I think that eBook authors who give their work away hurt the entire market place. Too many readers may just collect lots of freebies which they may never read. After all they didn’t cost anything. This just serves to give the author and the market a false impression of the interest in the book and distorts what is happening in the eBook market.
I propose something very radical. Those who are really interested in a work will pay to read it. Perhaps those authors who don’t have what it takes will eventually fall out of the market or perhaps the market will find a better way to discern what is good work. Who knows? In spite of the fact that a lot of people think they are good writers “it ain’t necessarily so.” Giving eBooks away won’t change that.
In summary, I think authors should only use freebies for marketing purposes to gain visibility. That means giving free books to those with market influence like reviewers, bloggers, advertisers and group leaders. Author’s should only be giving their book to those who influence many others. It’s about business savvy and being smart about marketing a work.