Tag Archives: Amazon

In Defense of “Free”

Last week I came across an interesting post by social media maven Kristen Lamb about the dangers of authors making ebooks available for free. You should read the full post for yourself, but the general theme of the post was that because the ebook market is flooded with free stuff and most of it is worth less than a barrel of turds (because, hey, at least turds make good fertilizer) so making your book available for free could do more harm than good merely through the power of negative association.

As some of you may know, I’ve had some experience with the free side of the ebook market in the past, both as a seller and a buyer. And while I’ll concede that there are dangers in offering your ebook for free, in my experience there are also some advantages.

Last year Amazon made my ebook Derelict available for free without my prior knowledge or consent. It hit me as a shock, but it was perfectly within Amazon’s rights to make the change, and rather than gripe and moan about what was happening to my book, I decided to take a positive outlook on the situation. After all, it wasn’t like I was burning up the internet with that story before it was offered for free, and at least now people were READING it. And more than just reading it, some people responded with generally positive reviews.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago when Amazon took the book back to its original price. Of course it didn’t move in the same numbers as it did when it was free, but it still outsold the rest of my fiction by a factor of a thousand percent (that’s a multiple of ten for those of you who ain’t so swuft with the math stuff.) Today it continues to sell just as well.

Which is why, when I recently released another short story, The Fisherman’s Nightmare, I chose to make it available for free on Smashwords. Of course the free book selection on Smashwords is even worse than what it is on Amazon, and the traffic there isn’t nearly as heavy which means I didn’t have terribly high hopes for the story, but not only did it move at a reasonable rate, it also drove a few sales for my other paid books as well.

Now this is only anecdotal evidence, and I’m not trying to say that everything Kristen said in her post was wrong, but I do feel like there’s a little more to the story.

We all want to get people talking about our writing, and as an unknown author it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, lost in a sea of other authors of varying ability, all them trying to break through to become the next Amanda Hocking. There are lots of ways to get the message about your books out to the world, but the core of the equation remains: are they any good?

And whether you choose to spread the word via social media, or making your books free, or hiring out a plane to do skywriting, people aren’t going to respond if they don’t like your work.

Remember, there is plenty of bad self published fiction out there, and at whatever price it makes the rest of us look bad.

Do your part. Don’t make it worse.

A Book By Its Cover

A picture being worth a thousand words, I thought I might just post this and be done for today.

A Prairie Home Apocalypse or: What the Dog Saw

It was created by John Hornor Jacobs of atomictomato.com. If any of you are looking for cover work for your selfpub ventures, I cannot recommend John highly enough. He responded to my inquiry quickly and finished the work in an extremely timely manner. Also (and this is the big one for me) his price is accessible for even a lowly Walmart associate like me.

Bottom line, I’m rather pleased with the result.

You can see more of John’s cover work here.

And don’t forget! A Prairie Home Apocalypse or: What the Dog Saw will be going on sale for Kindle (and other eBook device thingies) on Tuesday. Tell your friends. If your friends aren’t interested in reading a book about a dog facing the zombie apocalypse, then club them over the head with a brick and steal their credit cards so you can buy one for them anyway.

Differently Normal

I always used to pick on my friend [name omitted], because he’s very particular about the things he likes. Specifically, if a lot of other people like it, he doesn’t like it. I never used to understand this.

“But [name omitted]*,” I’d tell him. “If it’s good, it doesn’t matter how many people like it. Good is good right?”

But he’d always stick to his guns, and I’d always leave feeling a little confused.

Well, yesterday I got a little taste of his perspective.

Allow me to set the scene. I was shopping in Target a while back when I came across a book simply titled Room. I picked up the book, read the synopsis, and thumbed through the first few pages. In that span of time, I was hooked. I knew I had to own that book. So I went home and logged on to Amazon to order it with the gift card my parents gave me for Christmas. I thought I might even feature it in the Bizzaro Book Review since it was such a wonderfully unique concept.

Fast-forward a few days. I was walking into Walmart to clock in with the book in my hands and some random stranger stopped long enough to tell me “That’s an amazing book.”

Okay, cool. Most of the people I see at work don’t strike me as reading types, so it’s nice to connect with another librophile.

Then on my lunch break I checked my tweets and there wass one from someone talking about how much they were enjoying reading Room. Okayyy. Coincidences happen right? I mean I’m not the only person reading the book in the world.

But when I’m going to clock out the big bomb dropped. One of the girls who works the night shift saw the book in my hand and said, “Oh hey, I heard on the news that was supposed to be a great book.”

The news? They’re talking about it on the news? At this point I started to get a sinking feeling. I didn’t know this was going to be a popular book. I mean, If everyone is reading it, it means I’m not special anymore, right?

It took me almost until I got home to realize I was taking the exact same position my friend [name omitted] had taken about various movies and comic books, and I further realized that I needed to take the same advice that I had given him. I didn’t fall in love with the book because it made me unique or special. I fell in love with the book because it seemed like a really interesting story told with a unique voice. If everyone in the world was reading the book, it shouldn’t make a difference. Twilight aside, popularity does not automatically imply poor quality.

But it is easy to fall into the lone wolf trap from time to time. We all like to feel like we’re discovering something that everyone else is too blind to see; we love feeling special and unique. But the truth is we’re not special or unique. Well, I’m not anyway. I’ve got my quirks, and I don’t see eye to eye with everybody on everything, but when you dig right down the the core of my humanity I’m not that much different than anyone else out there.

Maybe that’s why I like Room so much. Because I want to be different, just like everyone else.

*Conversing with [name omitted] is an exercise in verbal gymnastics. It’s really hard to pronounce those brackets.