One of the lessons I learned early on about the internet in my previous job – and the world, for that matter – is: users don’t value free stuff as much as things they pay for.
I know my better half also actually PAYS for books, but doesn’t usually break the £4/$6 mark. It’s almost a psychological thing and goes back to what I was saying about value. But that value’s skewed. On the one hand you’ve got indies and self-publishers selling books for under £1/$1 and on the other, traditional publishers often charge MORE for an electronic copy of a book than they would for a hardback.
How does that work? Does it really cost more to produce a digital file (a matter of formatting, primarily) than it does to produce a dead tree version which has to be stored in a warehouse and distributed? (Most people would agree the answer here is ‘no’.)
Yes, I’d probably say traditional publishers have got it wrong – I mean £13 for an ebook! – but still, a) that’s their prerogative and b) someone’s obviously paying it. Does it represent good value for money? I’m inclined to say ‘no’.
I also had another author friend, who’d crossed the line from a traditional publishing environment to self-publishing, at the London Book Fair state that “even at £1.50, I’m making more in royalties than I ever did selling paperbacks!” Fair enough and that’s a valid point to make. Yes, the money can be better, but it’s dependent on how well the author does his job in the first place and how well their marketing and networking works for them.
I read all sorts and have found some very good indie books which put traditional publisher’s attempts to shame. Go read John Logan’s The Survival of Thomas Ford if you don’t believe me. It’s worth the money.
How to get readers to pay – The armchair psychologist
Listen, if I knew the answer to this, that house in France would be more than a dream. I can only continue to do what I can do and build those communities one link at a time.
Look, I’m not one to cut my nose off to spite my face – if the free thing still has legs, I’m sure I’ll be offering copies. In fact, for a limited time, you can get a free download of my book, Death in Amber.
BUT. If you take one and then give me a bad review as Russell (remember Russell?) says, “the clowns will eat your face in a ditch.” I hate clowns.
So I’m with him on this one: I probably won’t be offering a lot of free copies at this point. And I’m going to charge a reasonable rate for my work. Because that’s what it is – my work.
Now I just have to convince you to buy my books.