When is “free” just a slap in the face?

After doing some browsing on Amazon last night (can’t tell I do my posts by the skin of my teeth, can you?), I really think I see the problem with the serious lack of sales that the majority of indie authors seem to experience: There are STILL too many bloody free books out there.

I went looking for something new to read and checked out the mystery and the science fiction categories. Clicked the “Price: Low to High” sort. And found every blood sub-category had at least a page (and the broader ones five to ten pages) of $0.00 books.

They may not be publicizing them, or allowing the big former-freebie sites to do the same much anymore, but the free books are STILL very much in evidence. It just takes an extra click to get to them, that’s all.

Who’s going to bother buying anything when you can still fill your Kindle with free books. It’s not just classics and old public domain books, either – 95% of the free books are brand new, mostly indie and self-published titles. The closest I found to a “big name” in the slush pile was a David Drake sci-fi novel on special. But if you can get a plethora of titles in the genres you like reading, why bother paying for anything?

I downloaded about twenty titles that looked mildly interesting tonight, and out of those twenty, I bet three-to-five will actually get read this year. When your Kindle’s a library, you can leave titles sit on the shelf forever. Just like a real library. Or bung in the trash. ,Just like a real library. So whatever advantage these authors who like giving away their hard work think they might be getting is almost completely imaginary. No reviews. No sales upticks, other than by happenstance. No fan bases. Zilch. De nada. Goose eggs Benedict.

The advantages of free books are mostly illusory. And you’re giving away your own hard work to maintain that illusion.

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2 thoughts on “When is “free” just a slap in the face?

  1. I’m not an indie author, but your point rings true. I’ve been a girl scout leader, and one of the pointers they taught us was to always charge the families something for special events for the girls, even if the troop could cover the cost. That helped families to remember and value the opportunity. If you didn’t charge something, you’d have no-shows the day of the event, which not only cost the troop money but meant the girls missed out.

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