Writers are notorious for giving their work away. “Sign up for my newsletter and receive a free book!” “My book is on Instafreebie!” “Every first book to all my series is permafree.” We hand out novellas and short stories like candy. We tweet poems. There is so much free content you could drown in words. Our Kindles are becoming black holes of free books downloaded in just a second, forever to rot in your device.
But this isn’t a post about too many books, or the quality of books, or another blog post on trad-pubbing vs. indie.
This post is about paying for services.
I was researching something a while back–I can’t remember what it was now. How to price a series, or how much to charge for something. I have no idea. But I came across an article that forever changed my way of thinking about giving my books away. I can’t refer to the author or the website because I can’t remember, but if I ever come across it again, I’ll link it up. See, the article was about . . . why writers are expected to give their work away, but no one else in a creative area is asked to do so.
Indie writers who research publishing are told from the get-go to hire out. Hire out your editing, hire out your cover design. Hire someone to format and convert your files. You can even hire someone to write your blurb for you. You want a professional looking and sounding book, don’t you? But what no one tells you that if you do, indeed, hire all that out, you’re spending thousands of dollars. Editors alone make a mint–and sometimes you need more than one. Developmental editing, line editing, proofreading. Sometimes you can find someone who does a mix of those, but that doesn’t make it cheaper. Anyway, so you hire out, do all the things you’re supposed to do. Then what do you do? You give your book away.
Why is it writers are expected to do this, but no one else? Cover designers don’t give their work away unless maybe they are part of a giveaway or something. Editors don’t edit for free unless they are donating their services for some odd reason. Even formatters want five bucks for setting up your margins and gutters in your Word document.
I understand the backlash of indies doing things themselves. I even told a friend not long ago that if I were a reader now I would be pissed off. In one of my Facebook groups, a woman posted a lovely looking book. The cover was amazing, she had a great blurb, and the premise of the story hooked me. So I went into the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon, and the first page was riddled with head hopping. We were in the heads of at least three different people on the first page. The author obviously didn’t have her book edited. Maybe beta read by friends who didn’t want to tell her the truth, but that didn’t help. It made me wonder how many unsuspecting readers have been burned by indie books. Does buying a book now really have to feel like looking for a new car? Is the salesman going to talk you into a stinker then pop the champagne when you drive off the lot?
I don’t pay to have anything done to my books. I edit myself; I do my own covers. And I don’t give my books away, either. I’ve never used the promotions available to me on KDP Select. I enter my books a couple giveaways here and there for my paperbacks, but nothing in my library is “permafree.” Not even .99. (Except my short novelette I would feel guilty charging more for.)
So indies are expected to “invest in their futures” as the industry likes to call it, but then we’re supposed to turn around and give our books away for free. How are we supposed to have any return on that investment?
What I’m proposing is that maybe “investing in our futures” would be a lot easier to choke down if we demanded top dollar for our work the way other creatives do. Maybe it would be easier to pay out the $300 for a cover, the $500 dollars for the editing and for the other odds and ends you need to make your book look good. Maybe we would be more apt to do that if we knew it wouldn’t take 10 years to recoup those losses.
I know it’s a Catch-22. You can’t sell books if they don’t look and sound good, but you can’t afford to hire out unless you’re making money. I’m in the same boat. I can’t afford to pay $1,000+ per book to publish it. Almost no one I know can. But I’m not saying I won’t when I can afford it.
Pricing your book sucks. You want it to be cheap enough to draw people in, but you want to make money, too. You deserve to make money on something you spent so much time on. Writing is hard work, and you won’t find anyone who will tell you it’s not. You deserve to get paid.
Stop giving your books way to people who join your newsletters. Stop posting your book on the Instafreebie site. Stop pricing your book at $0.00 on Smashwords and everywhere else. It’s not working anymore, anyway. There is too much free content. Would you rather have someone download your free book and never read it, or choose to spend the $4.99 on your e-book and actually read it and possibly review it? It’s a known fact that if someone spends money on something they put more value on it.
But it’s up to you to make your book valuable to your readers.
Trash is free; antiques are priceless.
Do you give your books away? Tell me what you think!