An Experiment’s Results and an Announcement
Several months ago, I made all my works free everywhere I could as a special offer. I left them free in a couple, without advertising this, since then.
I have sold exactly zero copies of anything for money since then.
I have gotten several downloads of each title in the places where they were free. Please do recall that I didn’t advertise this special offer, aside from mentioning in the blogpost where I announced the sale back in August that I frequently forgot to change the price back to full in one location.
So, from this I have concluded that people do want my stories; they just don’t want to pay for them. Or can’t. I’m fine with this. I know as a self-published author I’m supposed to go on some long-winded rant about people wanting content for free and don’t they understand how much the author slaved over it and . . . I can’t. I’ve too often waited for books I wanted to be free or at least significantly reduced before I bought them. Hypocrisy is a sin I try to avoid.
A couple of years ago, I participated in a discussion on another author’s blog where someone proposed that authors publish on a continuum between two reasons: 1) to reach other people, and 2) to make money. The person who said this is so far on the side of “to make money” that she feels guilty about having spent the past several months writing fanfiction instead of things she can charge for. I’m about as far as you can get on the other side. Yeah, money’s nice. I could certainly use more of it . . . who can’t in the shape the economy’s in right now? But I’m not writing for it. I could never make another cent off of my writing and I wouldn’t stop doing it.
In fact, I’ll be perfectly honest here: I’ve made, as far as I can recall, 45 cents off of my writing this year . . . maybe as much as $2, I can’t recall the exact dates of some sales and don’t care enough to check. I haven’t even earned enough for a mocha. Is that doing a damned thing to stop me from writing?
Fuck no. I’d write the stuff anyway. I don’t write for money; I don’t write for fame. I write because I can’t not write. Suggesting I quit writing is like suggesting I quit breathing.
I’m not, by the way, denigrating anyone who does write . . . or do any art of any kind, for that matter . . .primarily for money. You guys confuse the hell out of me, but whatever. You do your thing, and I’ll do mine. Just don’t try to tell me that by making my stuff free I’m hurting your sales. Because that’s fucking stupid, and I have no patience for stupidity.
Anyway, people are downloading my stuff when they don’t have to pay for it. That’s cool. Yeah, I know the statistic thrown around to show why free downloads don’t count as sales: Only one out of ever three hundred free downloads is ever actually read. Here’s the thing: I’ve never seen an explanation for that statistic. Have I downloaded free stuff I’ve never read? Yeah, sure. Who hasn’t seen an interesting ebook that was free and grabbed it and then had life happen and forgotten all about it? But what’s the key word there? Interesting. I’ve read that there are people who just download every free book that exists with no intention to read them, ever. There might very well be . . . “some people juggle geese,” after all. But I sincerely doubt that that’s a significant portion of people who download any given book. (In fact, based on the sales, regardless of price, versus number of reviews of the books by a romance author of my acquaintance, I suspect the one out of three hundred thing is more accurately the number of people who review the book, not read it.) Even if the downloaders don’t read it, it at least caught their attention long enough for them to download it. Since, as far as I can tell, most sci-fi readers don’t tend to review books without incentive — unless they really hate them or really love them — that’s the only statistic I can know.
So, as of a couple of hours ago, all of my presently available ebooks are free everywhere I can make them so.
(Did I emphasize that enough? I can probably make it bigger . . .)
Does this mean that everything I write from here on will be free? Again, fuck no. First of all, Talman and Narecen and the related short stories are being written for The Ed Greenwood Group, so their pricing will be out of my control, which I’m fine with since I’m playing in somebody else’s sandbox. (I can’t give more information on that right now because I can’t tell from the way the website is laid out what’s stuff anyone can see and what only people who are writing/illustrating/etc. for the company can see, and I wouldn’t want to give a link that doesn’t work for everyone. New website is supposed to be up later this month.) Second, as I’ve said, I could use more money. People are more willing to buy novels than short stories. No More Lies will not be free. But anything under novel length . . . using the Hugo definition of 40,000 words and up? Those will be free.
Print versions are also not free. But since I can easily account for every physical copy I’ve sold, I doubt that really matters.
Now, obnoxiously, I can’t make the ebooks free everywhere. A self-published author can’t set their work to free on Amazon without it being a Kindle exclusive, and I refuse to do that. Why? Because only about 60% of ebook sales are through Kindle. Cutting myself off from 40% of the market is bloody stupid. (I, by the way, am in the 40% I’d be cutting myself off from. I buy from Kindle only when I can’t get a book any other way. I have more reasons, but mostly it’s an aesthetic thing. I prefer the font choices and stuff like that in other apps better.) Anyone can, however, report that something is free elsewhere and maybe, maybe if Amazon gets enough reports they’ll make the book free. I’ve been waiting over a year for them to change the price of “Once A Hero, Always A Hero” though, so I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen. I also can’t change things to free on Nook, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to report that it’s free elsewhere. So, sorry if you’re someone who only purchases books from one of those. (If you purchase from Amazon because the only format you can use is theirs, drivethrufiction.com has my stuff — except “Once A Hero, Always A Hero” for some reason I can’t recall, but am pretty sure is “because I forgot to upload it” — in .mobi too, and they’re free there.)
Also, please remember that this is just my works I’m making this the policy for. I have no control over what Stolen Time or any future works by anyone other than me cost. I can make suggestions, but other people have different philosophies and priorities than me.