I conducted a wee experiment: to find out how many free books I could amass in a two month period, but not just any free book. I carefully screened and evaluated each giveaway for genre, blurb, writing style and author (based on familiarity, claims to being best selling). In addition, I deselected any that were short stories, novellas as prequels to series, single teaser chapters, or collections of first chapters (faux box sets: buyer beware, these are often touted as 99c box sets on Amazon and elsewhere).
The genres were quite diverse, though heavily weighted to contemporary MF and MM romance, but not exclusively. I scored books in the gayfic, SF, SFR, LitFic, mystery & suspense, cozy mystery, chicklit, high fantasy, paranormal, dark urban fantasy, YA and NA, and some indeterminate genres.
Many of the books were fed through Instafreebie which acts like a tree: chose a book in your choice of format, then three more titles pop up, select one and three more appear in random order vis-a-vis genres.
A lot of those freebies come with a price tag: an author newsletter, which isn’t a burden IF and only if they aren’t weekly—sometimes even daily, flirty, chatty, invasive of my time and patience—emails that require evaluation, then an unsubscribe. In other words, it demands my time… an upfront cost of doing business, but the real challenge will come when I start actually reading my newest acquisitions (and mind you, I have >850 titles on the Kindle Fire alone, most unread and unrelated to this experiment).
So, how extensive is that list of freebies?
Well, I tallied up the curated inventory and, as of today, it stands at 149 books. Mind you, this is a *small fraction* of what was on offer. I had to go to the Amazon page, read the blurb, scan the reviews, and read the “Look Inside” feature before making the final decision to download the mobi file, usually via Instafreebie.
Note that this exercise does not include free books offered on Amazon which downloads directly onto my Kindle Fire. Nope, these selections go to a special computer file for later transfer to Kindle #2.
Instrafreebie is the succubus of word herders, but it’s not the only one. There are other services (paid or otherwise) that offer steeply discounted or free books, many with no strings attached and you can specify which genre is of interest. They will tailor their offerings to you, either monthly, weekly or daily depending on how you wish to interact with them.
Then there are the periodic groupings of authors in similar sub-genres who combine resources for limited time offers, often themed to occur with holidays or with specialties (western romance, biker romance, M/M romance, etc).
It is truly staggering.
And it is rather disheartening… at least from this author’s perspective. We’ve been led by the short and curlies into believing the only way to attract attention in a sea of possibilities is to bribe potential readers with free content, above and beyond the blog, or Twitter and Face Book ramblings.
And I get it, I really do. It’s a HUGE ocean and we’re all just tiny drops…
But… big but… if the average reader consumes less than five books a year (and, gawd, for some it’s one and done), and even if you discount the voracious nature of readers of all things romance, that’s still a staggering number of free books and that number is growing exponentially… Every. Single. Day.
When, from down the endless tunnel of despair, an author whimpers, “But I tried BookBub and [insert link for a very expensive service to help giveaway your intellectual content] and still sales are flatlining or tanking or…” it makes me wonder who is more at fault: the reader for expecting, nee DEMANDING free books, or the author for being so desperate for instant gratification that they cave to advice that flies in the face of logic and economic viability.
Sigh, I’m waiting for the next guru to come along and affirm what the entitled internet generation has been avowing since its inception: if it’s digital, if it’s on the internet, then it should be, ought to be, must be… FREE!
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m investing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to create a product called a book or an audiobook, so how exactly does my giving the results of that effort away serve to feed anything other than reader avariciousness? Heaven knows, it doesn’t pay my mortgage or put food on the table.
As for my own sputtering writing career, I haven’t completed any of the six books I’ve started, and it’s coming 15 months since I published a new title. I have reasons for that, most I’m keeping close to the vest because they are hot button topics (more on that another time).
Writing is who I am, it’s not a hobby. Never was, never will be. But there are other ways to self-flagellate that require fewer pieces of my hide and far fewer hits to my limited budget, yet still allow me a measure of peace and fulfillment.
Yes, I could write for myself… but the question is: why?
I’ve always viewed writing as an interactive process—the execution being solitary for the most part, indeed—but the endgame is a sharing of stories that reflect our cultural values, challenge our beliefs, entertain, or any of hundreds of other ways that words become woven into the fabric of our perceptions, our hopes, and our dreams.
Sadly, I have no answers.
But lordie, Mizz Scarlet, I sure as hell have a boatload of new books to read.
For those of you who celebrate this day, either as Easter or Passover, blessings to you.
Wishing you all peace, contentment, and above all… love.