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 Amazon.com.
Connect with Niki at:
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