You Can’t Give Your Book Away

These past few days, one of Miss Crankypants’ colleagues has been over the moon . Her novel, on one of those free Kindle download campaigns, has broken into the top ten. No wait! Top three! As this dear author goes giddy over Amazon’s biggest joke, it makes Miss CP wonder: Why do we authors get so excited when our books reach the stratosphere in the FREE Kindle download category? Nobody’s buying much, after all.
Oh sure. Miss CP knows the drill: If thousands of freeloaders get your book for nothing, they’ll help spread the word and boost your actual sales. In Miss CP’s case, it was boosted by twelve whole books bought with real American dollars! But what really happens behind the scenes? Miss Crankypants hates to burst any writer’s bubble, but the Truth is Out There.

  • It sounds cool to say your book got 50,000 free downloads in a week. But what do you get? That’s right. Zippo. Nada.
  • Many of these readers are on a hate crusade, looking for new unsuspecting authors’ books to download for FREE, then write horrible, scathing reviews. It doubles as primal scream therapy, where readers get free material to rant about instead of whacking that awful mother-in-law who never shuts up. Can you say one star?
  • Number One on Amazon can mean anything, people. If your book hits #1, it could mean that there was either a country-wide brownout or a total site crash and only one little old lady in Iceland (probably your Aunt Hilda) was able to log on. Everything’s relative you know.
  • If you reach the heights during a free campaign, rest assured that, while you may rub elbows with public domain classics such as Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, by the time the campaign’s over, your book will probably sink back into oblivion. You won’t be able to GIVE that puppy away. Miss Crankypants feels as bad for you as the next ruthless, cutthroat author, but suck it up.
  • Next week your publisher will probably do another freebie.Then you can revel over your #1 free Kindle download ranking alongside Mark Twain. Oh wait. He’s dead. Well, now. Does anyone want a free copy of a terrific book? No? That’s what Miss CP’s talking about.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

9 comments on “You Can’t Give Your Book Away

  1. Ah, but you missed an important aspect. Some of us write with ministry in mind. The book you mentioned and the author (moi) is seriously hoping there will be lives touched as a result of new readers discovering this particular story, as well as the sequel which will be discounted, but not free.

    Do I expect to get rich as a result of the free download? Not hardly. I wouldn’t have chosen writing Christian fiction if I longed for that to happen. No stars of wealth and fame shine in my eyes, rather hopes and prayers that something I’ve written might touch the hearts of readers.

    Nasty reviews? Yes, I already have one who I’m sure didn’t read it, just read the premise and blasted it. But that’s ok. I didn’t write the book for the reviewers, but for the readers. And most of the nasty reviews are so slanted and obvious that readers don’t take them too seriously. At least I don’t when I visit another author’s page and see those type of reviews (that obviously hate Christian fiction and are on a campaign to denigrate it).

    I’m sorry you feel I’m a ruthless, cutthroat author. I happen to think I was led to this as a calling and a ministry, and whether I sink or swim financially, God is in control. Not me. Not reviewers. God. I’m giving Him the glory for the rising ranking, as well as thanks to all the people who are posting about it. I’m thankful for all the wonderful, caring people who come alongside struggling authors and lift them up.

    I hope you have a good day and don’t get too cranky–it’s bad for the digestion. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Miss Crankypants regrets to say she has indigestion from too much foot-in-mouth. Miss CP is an equal opportunity griper so please don’t take anything she says personally. She should have said that all these Kindle promo horrors are based on HER OWN experiences and in no way resemble any person living or in Mark Twain’s case, dead. Sorry!

  3. Linda, I think you bring out some very important considerations. I for one appreciate the reality check and the confirmation for my feeling all along that there is a flip side to the celebration. I love the idea of ministry and I don’t expect to get rich or even make a living from my books – should they ever be published. I just wrote an article on entitlement and I feel the free Kindle download frenzy is only adding to the mentality in this country that we should get something for nothing. People appreciate things more when they pay for them. I wonder myself how many of those “downloads” actually got read. This is an issue worth a lot of thought and consideration. Don’t eat your words…they are food for thought. You are Miss Cranky Pants after all ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Poor Miralee thought Miss CP was an anti-Xian crackpot. NO! A crackpot but never anti-Xian!She has since realized that she mistook Miss CP for someone else. I couldn’t eat my words cuz my mouf was full of foot! Write on, people!

  4. The last eBook I ran free, I gave away over 12,000, but I sold over 700 eBooks in the two weeks after at a price point of $5.99. (My profit was 4.00 a book.) This does not include the sales garnered by my other four books. Sold over a 1,000 eBooks that month.

    I’m sorry free didn’t work for Miss Cranky Pants, but it certainly does work for some of us.

    Running my first book free in my angel series always gets me a jump on the sales of Books 2 & 3, plus it increases sales on my series book which contains books 1 thru 3.

    I know of several (more than a handful) authors who are making five and six figure checks by offering the first eBook in their series free, and then charging for the rest. I have an agent reviewing my Angel Series now (at the behest of the movie producer) and if he doesn’t sign me, I plan on releasing Book 1 free permanently on Smashwords (so Amazon, B&N, itunes, Kobo, Sony, and Deisel will do automatic price matching.)
    Why run free?
    Because it might work. Word of mouth is the number one way an author gains readers. Getting your book in the hands of potential readers is the only way to gain fans. You lose nothing by getting thousands of books out there. The ones who won’t read it, won’t read it. Don’t worry about them. You’re looking for the ones who will and then will tell their friends, “You’ve got to read this book!”

    Lots of traditional authors are getting back their rights to their backlogs and are discovering they can make much more money following this strategy.

    I’m geting ready to run two books of my six (New one releasing next week) free again, and my sales on average keep going up. My fan mail keeps going up too.
    Viva la free!

    • Viva le free indeed! My publisher does periodic freebies and it really does help the numbers. My 1st campaign was a weeklong freebie just before Amazon quit counting paid & free separate. My book THE FENCE MY FATHER BUILT totaled more than 40,000 DLs, was Number One overall (paid and free) for more than two days and I got a mention in the LA Times. So I’m all in favor.
      It’s only Miss CP who always sees her glass half empty–AND she sees something floating in it! Let me be perfectly clear: This is a HUMOR BLOG AND I love these free giveaways!If they didn’t work, we’d all stop doing them. Thanks for your comment, and congrats on a successful campaign. Miss CP aka Linda

    • Oh and Lisa: If you know of any 5 and 6 figure earning writers who are looking for a solid investment, Miss Crankypants is willing to invent a reason why she needs a benefactor of the 5 and 6 figure earning variety. She can’t tap dance and has to type one-handed (true story, I swear!)but she is willing to wear a sandwich sign in public. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Miss CP aka Linda

  5. In defense of Ms. Writerly, her points are valid for some writers as well. And, for Ms. Writerly, her experience was only 12 paid books so one might see why she would be rather, well, cranky about it. After hearing the arguments on both pro and con,(I’m hoping that my writing touches hearts as well, even though I’m in Creative non-fiction and not Xtian), it seems like it’s a good gamble so long as you don’t mind not getting paid and not getting trashed in the reviews. The old saw, no such thing as bad publicity probably applies just as well to FREE publicity, too. So, to Ms. Crankypants? I say, keep on bringing us the cynical bad news truth out there so we don’t ride in on pink clouds only to fall through to our demise when the bad reviews and zero royalties start flowing! jaz

    • Jaz, thanks for your comment! Miss Crankypants is always excited to bring the cynical bad news truth to a riding-on-pink-clouds-public. Her mission is to help all writers understand the risks and folly of this profession, and have a giggle while crying into their beer (or Shirley Temple for the teetotalers). If you’re a writer, you know how much the biz is crazy, wonderful, horrorific and more fun than a frequent-flyer mileage redeemer who’s been bumped off the flight to her own wedding. Hope you’ll visit often and please tell your friends: Miss Crankypants can give your miserable existence as a writer new meaning and maybe a laugh or two! ~Miss CP aka Linda

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