A writer friend of mine, Russell Blake, has been posting about his experiences lately as an indie author, particularly about free books. Basically, he thinks it’s nearly game over for the freebie for your Kindle, and I think he’s probably right.

Oh, it’ll probably carry on for a while as people continue to promote their books (and themselves) by giving stuff away. But the evidence in Russell’s posts seems to show that its effect on actual sales has been reduced – on Amazon, at least.

And I won’t rule out another giveaway myself, but I think it’s worth having a plan before just throwing loads of free copies out there.

What is the value of a book?

The Voynich Cypher (Dr. Steven Cross Series #2) by Russell BlakeThe value of a book is entirely based, in a retail economy, on what the buyer is willing to pay for it. ‘Perceived value” as opposed to ‘intrinsic value’. That’s one of the benefits of a market economy.

One of the questions that occurs to me has been ‘how does giving books away for free affect their value?’ Taking a step back, does it affect their value?

Based on my experience of giveaways, both giving copies of my books away free and receiving free books, I’d say it does.

Okay, I can hear you arguing, a lot of free books aren’t very good – I’d be pissed if I actually paid for the thing! And yes, a lot of books need an editor. (This is my main piece of free advice for aspiring self-publishers. Go review the book on Amazon or Goodreads and point this out. Maybe it’ll sink in.)

Back to the point: in this short space of time of the giveaway – it’s only a blip on the internet timeline – have we set the expectation that books should just be free? Possibly.

It feels a bit like the music industry in the book world at the moment, with the same arguments:

  • Authors/musicians should be paid for their work
  • Books/music should be free
  • It’s not stealing to download a song/book

I’m afraid we’ve got a whole sector of society that feels “the internet wants to be free, so why should I pay for something?” And the argument that if they don’t pay, the source of music/books/movies dries up doesn’t seem to wash; they do that mental shrug and keep downloading the torrent of the latest TV series.

Tune in Wednesday for more on Value for money, pt 2


Russell Blake’s Voynich Cypher is available on Amazon US / Amazon UK