Monday, July 9, 2018

You get what you pay for

I'm seeing a disturbing trend.
Readers are doing anything and everything they can to get a free book. Sweepstakes, newsletters for free ebooks (it's actually easier to give a book away than it is to promote one that costs something), hours spent on Facebook parties for a chance to win, blog giveaways, and more.
Nothing is wrong with these marketing tools. They're supposed to be ways to reach a broader audience, to interact with readers, and to win customers to a writer's brand. Those are all good things. We used to have to wait for books to come out in print, and then we had to go to a bookstore to buy a copy of a book we might or might not end up liking, and short of sending fan mail to our favorite authors, we rarely got any kind of glimpse into the writing process or the author's life. (Most authors, I think, liked it that way.)
It's not so anymore.
Don't get me wrong, I understand being poor as a church mouse and frantically searching for clean, sweet fiction with a Christian worldview. I scoured thrift stores, memorized names of publishing houses, read everything at the library, and searched for sets of used books on eBay before the almighty Kindle entered the world.
With the evolution of ebooks and self-publishing, everything changed. Suddenly we were deluged with free ebooks. We learned quickly those free ebooks were a hit-or-miss proposition. Some were great, some were dreadful. But it didn't matter—we reasoned—because we hadn't lost anything by downloading a freebie or spending a measly 99¢ to fill up our Kindles.
The publishing market was flooded with free and cheap books, and authors—from top-of-the-line bestsellers to up-and-coming newbies—found themselves in competition, all together, in a new world. Now, our marketing efforts have to almost equal our time spent writing and editing.
Every free ebook you download took hundreds or thousands of hours to produce by the author, the editor, the cover designer, the publisher, and so forth.
The intent of a promotional deal is to attract new readers. Are you a new reader? Great! Get that book. If you like it, buy something else in that author's library at regular price. Are you already familiar with that author and enjoy their work? Let them know by paying a fair price for their labor.
We're more willing to pay our coffee baristas than we are to pay our authors, and that's a shame.
We need to change our mindsets, especially as Christians. We should be willing to pay for the things we value. The Bible is filled with instructions to pay the laborer his due, to reward those who work with fair pay, and... in a nutshell... to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
What's a story worth to you? If nothing, that's what you'll end up getting.

Niki Turner is a novelist, journalist, blogger, and the co-owner and editor for the Rio Blanco Herald Times weekly newspaper in northwest Colorado. Niki is also the current president of the ACFW CO-Western Slope chapter. Married 27 years to her high school sweetheart, she is the mother of 4 adult children and "Mimi" to 4 grandchildren.
She currently has 11 published novellas, all available in collections or individually on
Connect with Niki at:

Facebook Author Page


  1. I'd definitely say that my promotion/marketing time is equal to the time I spend writing. It's a quick way to get burned out. I love seeing that our Inkwell reviewers 'buy the book'. Many reviewers are able to receive free books because they've made a practice of providing word of mouth (the most coveted of promotion!). Reviewers receive them as advanced copies (paper and ebook). But even with all that, they still buy books by authors they love. I'm willing to say that overall most publishers and authors are seeing less income because free and discounted books (and there are hundreds of thousands of them) definitely fill the spot. I used to buy one book a month at Borders books, using a coupon when possible. That 10-15$ purchase was my budget, so I was very picky about what I bought. Now I have hundreds of books on my kindle that I may or may not get to. And if I start and it doesn't wow me, I put it aside. My favorite purchase is the 'sale price' of $7-9 on a kindle and the accompanying audiobook for 1.99. Definitely a heck of a deal.

    In a way, we've devalued our own work and I don't see changes. The 99cent or giveaway book is a good way to find new readers, but that book better be one of their favorite books of the year to gain purchasing the subsequent stories at full price because--yup--we're all spoiled by bargain basement buying.

  2. "We're more willing to pay our coffee baristas than we are to pay our authors, and that's a shame."

    What a terrible notion...that coffee means more than authors and their hard work. 😢

    If a book is by a never-read-before author, I will try to find a novel or novella free, or .99. If I find I love the author's style and story, I then buy the author's books at regular price because I want to show my support. I know this can be expensive, so when I can't afford to buy the books I go to my library and request they buy the books so I can check them out.


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