I had someone recently complain (after seeing a post about an upcoming free promotion) that my books weren't free NOW. Which kind of made me want to put things in perspective.
I love free books, who doesn't? Especially when it's a newer author. Why spend money on something that's a gamble?
But you have to look at the other side of the coin as well.
Most authors run free promotion for marketing purposes. NOT because we we've made so much, we'd now like to gift it to the masses. NOT because we can't sell any copies and giving it away is our only option. Authors run free promotions to generate a larger audience. Our books move up on the 'lists', you know, when you type in a genre or key word, the books that show up on the first few pages of results? Those are the lists. If we get a ton of downloads, our book moves up. Now more people will see our book when they type in those keywords/genres.
We also run free promotions for reviews. Reviews seem almost impossible to get unless you're paying for them. Seriously.
And we tend not to count family and friends because, let's be honest, we have no idea if they're only giving it a good review because they feel obligated.
No, we want the reviews from total strangers, avid readers, fellow writers. Those will tell us if our book is good.
So we hope that when we give it away for free, maybe a few people will review it. You know what the estimated odds are for getting reviews during free promotions?
Reviews MAKE our books. They make sales. They tell people what to expect. They get the reader to click 'buy' when they were skeptical. Reviews, even negative ones, help an author sell more books.
Yes even negative ones. If they were all 5 star reviews, I as a reader, would be suspicious. I'd look like Mr. T in the picture above. Like I've said in MANY of my posts, you can't please everyone. Someone will dislike your book. So if every single one of your reviews was all sunshine and rainbows, I'd doubt the authenticity of them.But that's a blog post for another day.
The lack of reviews can of BREAK a book. They are the lifeblood to making sales. And we only get one, maybe two reviews out of a thousand books that we are GIVING away. Kind of depressing.
As for reviews, yes, some people actually pay a company for 'honest' reviews. Most of us offer a free copy of our book in exchange for an honest review. And I will tell you, some of them will be brutally honest. Some of them will hate it. AND post that they hate it on Amazon. Just because they got your book for free doesn't mean they'll have anything nice to say about it. Which is a real downer. Some of us authors, myself included, do not make much, if anything, selling our books. So giving out free copies, whether print or digital, costs us money. All in the hopes that some total strangers may like it and tell the world so via the world-wide web.
What's more depressing is, that a lot of times, our fellow authors, who know EXACTLY what if feels like to not get reviews, won't even review other books. They would probably jump on the chance for someone else that's offering to review, but never offer such a helpful service themselves. They KNOW how hard it is to make it as an author, yet they won't help other authors. So the cycle just keeps going. No reviews, no sales, no help.
Most of us write to provide for ourselves and our family. It's our career. Some of us, well, we'd LIKE it to be our career. But that's hard to do for any of us when the only people interested in our books are the ones that don't want to pay for it.
Let me clue you in on how much an author might make from a book sale. I'll even give you an example from my own sales. For a self-published using CreateSpace for print copies and Kindle Direct Publishing for eBooks.
My newest book is $10.99 print and $4.99 eBook.
If you order the print directly from CreateSpace (that NEVER happens for me), I get $4.70. If only people would buy books directly from the publisher, I might actually be able to consider quitting my day job. But since I first published over a year ago, not ONE PERSON has ordered any of my books this way. They usually order print copies from Amazon. I get $2.50 for that. Out of $10.99, that's all I get. Now here's the real punch in the gut. If someone orders my book through Barnes and Noble or a library/school orders my book, I get an astounding .30 cents!!!! Yep. That's me 'making it big' with my books people.
Now for the eBook version, every time my book is ordered from Amazon, I get $3.45. Which is a much higher royalty than the print version. That's because there is no cost for production. Amazon takes their piece out for distribution and services and I get the rest. I won't even mention what I get for books that are borrowed from Kindle Unlimited/Amazon Prime users. Because I hardly ever actually see any profit from them. You see, if my book is borrowed, I'm supposed to get a percentage of the 'global fund' made by the fees those users pay to be able to get books/borrow books for free. I only see a royalty from those books if the reader actually reads 10% of the novel first. And that doesn't happen often. Most people that get books that way have a huge stockpile of books and mine is way down on their list.
*Update: in 2015 Amazon changed it's Kindle Unlimited policy. Authors get paid out of the same global fund but now they get a percentage based on how many pages are read. If a reader reads three pages, or the entire book, I get something out of the global fund. But the same problem applies. Most people have a huge stockpile of books they can read that they've gotten for free via Kindle Unlimited. My book might sit in their kindles for years before they bother opening it. Meanwhile, I'm making absolutely nothing. *
I sell more eBooks than print. By a huge margin. Which is why I make my eBook price half, or less, of the cost of the print book. If it's affordable, more people will purchase it, and since I get a higher royalty back, I prefer to sell more that way.
I see NY Times best-selling authors selling hundreds and thousands of copies of their eBooks for $9.99 without people complaining that they aren't giving it away more often. That must be what's so great about being traditionally published.
Now some might say: It doesn't cost anything to write a book, why are you charging so much?
Well aside from the above mentioned costs that the middle man (IE amazon, publishers, etc) takes from our sales, it DOES cost us. Even if we only use pen and paper, we have to buy the pens and paper. We have to have a decent computer. An up-to-date writing program. The internet/phone for research and interviews. We might have to pay for the art or photo for our covers. We might be paying hundreds or thousands for an editor. Someone to format. A cover designer. A marketer. An agent. The list goes on, and on, and on. For some lucky few, it won't cost much, but for most of us, it can cost thousands to get our book into your hands.
So do you see why it's somewhat depressing when readers get upset that I'm not constantly giving away my books for free? Because that seems to be what I end up doing anyway.
Of course, my version of things may not be what everyone else deals with, but it's my bet that it's pretty close.
So whether you're a reader or an author, here's some points to remember:
1) Free books are great, but getting a book for under $5 is ALSO great
2) Every time you purchase a book, you are helping support an author
3) Every time you review a book, you are helping support an author.
4) If you download a book for free, please leave a review