In accounting there's a sort of bizarre concept known as "Goodwill." It happens when there's a merger and one company ends up paying more for the other than it's technically worth. I guess the idea is you need a way to balance the books without fudging numbers so you throw in this thing called "goodwill" which is kind of like saying, "Well, we paid too much but you got to spend money to make money."
Authors know all about paying for benefits that aren't immediately tangible. Free books. Bookmarks. Ads. All the costs of conventions. Or even if you buy a new computer or pen or whatever. (In my case also frappes at Biggby Coffee, Starbucks Coffee Beanery, etc.) Think of all the money and time and energy that goes into writing, editing, publishing, and then promoting a book--especially for a self-published author.
|Can you believe this asshole spelled the title wrong on the fucking cover?|
Here's the rub: when I look at my MailChimp stats, what site are most of the "clicks" from the newsletter for? (Ie, which link do people click the most?) The FREE book, of course! When it's one of my books for free, the clicks go way, way down because people probably already have that book. One time I couldn't find anything good on the list so I put up a link to a book on sale for 99 cents by another author. Clicks nosedived to hardly any at all.
Look, I get it, we all love free shit. I love getting books for free as much as anyone. I'll scoop them up if I'm alerted to a sale. I use Amazon's borrowing once a month quite often to get one book for free--though at least the author does get a small portion from the pages read. Prime members can also download some other books like the first Harry Potter, a couple of LOTR prequels or whatever by JRR Tolkein, short stories by some better known authors, and some volumes of Marvel comics for free. So hey I take advantage of that. Again I assume the authors get a chunk of the pages read or something. I don't, however, stoop to piracy sites. Not just for moral reasons, but also I worry too much if those will give me a virus or spyware or malware or whatever that could help Trump win another election.
In the early 2000s like many other people I used some file-sharing services like Limewire, Bearshare, etc (not Napster) to download music. This was before iTunes, Amazon music, etc made it fairly affordable to buy a single. I will say, though, that many of the songs I first downloaded for free I later bought legitimately because I wanted to hear more of the band.
Now that's where we get back to Goodwill. What's supposed to happen is I offer you a free book and you go and pay to read my other books. Or in the case of my newsletter I offer you someone else's free book and you say, "What a guy this is! What a prince among men!" And you go check out my books. But too often I think people are like someone who goes into the supermarket, eats all of the free samples, and then leaves without buying anything. People can do that and they get fed, but the supermarket doesn't make money. In fact, the supermarket is losing money not just on the food but on the electricity, wages, and so forth. There are all these hidden costs for that "free" book.
So I guess the irony is that 10 years later or so I finally get you, music industry. It really sucks when people just take shit for free.
That's not to say it never works. I mean one day in August I sold 44 books, which was maybe an all-time high. Since the counter jumped from like 2 to 42 in the span of an hour and there was no rush on one title, I assume it was one person (or small number of people) who read a book and wanted more. Just like I sold a lot of copies of Second Chance and Last Chance by giving away Chance of a Lifetime for free. Now still I gave away probably many, many times what I sold of the other two books, but it was not completely terrible. That's the chain-reaction an author wants. That's why we're giving away the books and the "swag." It's why we have a booth at the conventions or posting ads on websites. Just like the big authors, we want to make a living doing this. Sure there's some love involved, but we also need money because this is a capitalist society. So if you want us to continue writing books, you need to actually BUY books. And not buy them and then return them within the week like a dick, but buy them and KEEP them so the author makes his or her 70% from Amazon. That's how you keep us in business. And, duh, selling books is a feather in our caps so the more people buy the less insecure we are. (See what I did there?)