By Kyle Perkins
Yes, I am aware this post may piss some people off, and yes, I am aware this is the sole marketing strategy for some people. I am also aware that for some people, this strategy totally works. That being said, this is why it’s killing the industry.
When I first started out as an author in what seems like a decade ago(a year), the only way to really get noticed or onto someone’s radar was by giving them free books. At first, that worked. It brought me a ton of loyal fans that to this day I love to death. However, I have been hearing from a lot of people in the indie community, that their book reviews have been on a steady and dramatic decline over the course of the last year. So, I did what any sane person would do, and I asked my fans themselves what the problem was.
The answer, overwhelmingly, was that each of them had no less than a few dozen books and ARCs on the back burner that they wanted to, or felt obligated to read. So, with so many people giving away free books and ARCs, there is no way possible for any one person to read everything, especially with the volume that all of the authors promote. Like I said, I am guilty of this, too. I have given away a lot of free books.
The problem is, the book community is generally too nice. So, when someone asks them to read an ARC, or they want to send them free books, they’re going to read them. Other people in the community only sit around and wait for free books, never buying a single book at all. A lot of those people just like “winning,” those competitions, then have no real plans to read or review the books. I mean, we can’t force anyone to read our books, and shouldn’t even if we could, but I think the readers in the community are being completely overwhelmed. How can we expect them to get excited about our new books when a dozen new authors that are popping up every day and shoving their books down their throats?
To make matters worse, if you want to stay competitive, you have to do it, too. The readers have come to expect free books. We started out by undercutting the competition by charging less and less, and for a while that worked, until people started doing it for free. Now, even the people that give them away for free don’t have an edge because everyone is doing it. So, if you’re approaching a new reader with a free book and they’ve never heard of you, your book is now worth less than nothing. It just gets put in a queue along with the hundred other books that have been crammed in their faces.
So, is there any way to fix this? Sure, by every author raising the prices of their books and not giving away free books at all anymore(so that people read them based on merit, not because they’re free), but that won’t happen. Even if 99% of authors did that, the 1% that gave them away for free would be all that people read, because readers have come to expect it. It would shoot them to stardom, while the rest of us fade into obscurity. In short, there is no way to fix this. We have all had a part in this vicious cycle, and now it’s snowballed.
At this point, I don’t foresee any new indie authors making anything close to a living, unless they get picked up by a big publisher that takes their books worldwide. Amazon has made it easy and convenient for everyone to get books, no matter where they are in the world. The indie community has made it easy for anyone to get free books, no matter where they are in the world(which makes it hysterical to me when people whine about their books being on piracy sites, considering most of the people that complain about it give their books away to anyone that asks).
With that being said, that’s why readers for the most part can’t even be bothered to leave reviews anymore. After people started lowering book prices, other people had to make them free to compete. By giving them away for free, it came with the understanding that the reader would review the book at the very least. That’s not even the case anymore. Some authors don’t even care if you review their books, they just want to push free books out to anyone that will take them for a little bit of exposure. That’s the bar we’re at now. We’re at the point where you can spend months on a book, give it out to a hundred people, and maybe ten will review it. If they like you enough, and aren’t weighed down by a thousand other free books clogging up their kindle.
For a lot of authors, this is nothing more than a hobby and a way to gain friends, as well as a bump in status in their social circles. To those people, they don’t care if they ever make a single cent off of their books. Those people, the vague-booking socialites that just want more “likes,” on their statuses, and people to pat them on the back, they will not understand this, and how it affects people that do this for a living. So, there will probably be people that disagree. The people who don’t really see this as a career, and more as a hobby, and the people that still want a bunch of free books(which, rest easy, the free books aren’t going anywhere).
If it sounds like I am bitter, or being salty about this… I’m not. It’s just the way things are, and it’s an observation that I’ve made spending over a year in this community and hearing from many readers and authors that agree with me. Some won’t, and that’s okay. At the end of the day, my article isn’t going to change the habits of even one person. This is just where I go to write down my thoughts. My live journal of this social experiment in time known as the amazon indie book community.
Anyway, rant over. Hope you enjoyed.
Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment, can’t wait to hear from you.
PS: If anything I ever say offends you, don’t stress yourself out. Stress kills. Instead, just block me and not post vague statuses to garner attention for yourself. =)