Tag:

marketing

4 Nov 2011, by

Free or Not?

NEWSFLASH: Zero Sum, Book 1, Kotov Syndrome, my Wall Street thriller serial trilogy, has just been reviewed by acclaimed author Steven Konkoly, whose The Jakarta Pandemic just got its 100th Amazon review, and who just released Black Flagged. The review is a wonderful deconstruction of the trilogy, and is recommended reading for one and all.

MAJOR BREAKING NEWS: Justin Bogdanovitch just published a poignant and touching review of An Angel With Fur. It’s really a must-read review. And the Pet Wall also gets spotlight coverage at Justin Bogdanovitch’s blog. Great pooch photos too. And the book is currently back in the #2 position in Animal Essays on Amazon UK!

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I have had a number of comments from author buddies that question the wisdom of offering Book 1 of Zero Sum, Kotov Syndrome, for free.

The sentiments range anywhere from the idea that it cheapens the perceived value of the work, to that I deserve compensation for my efforts, to that I will attract a type of reader who expects something for nothing, and thus won’t have any legacy value.

So I started to think through the question, and I can see both sides of it.

On the one hand, you have the largest single hurdle as a new author, which is generating name recognition and building a base of readers who will ultimately appreciate, like, and buy your work. It would seem to me that offering some of that work for free isn’t a bad way to crack the nut of getting decent exposure. With Zero Sum, Book 1, I decided to offer the first book in my serial trilogy for free, figuring that would give readers a chance to see whether they like my work or not. If so, super, perhaps they’ll convert into fans and purchase other work. If not, I haven’t really lost anything, as they likely wouldn’t have bought anything at any price.

But it does raise an interesting question; namely, is it a good idea to give your work away to generate buzz and get exposure?

The marketing guy in me says, hell yes. Every business has a marketing budget, and when breaking into new markets, you have to spend money to make money. So the value of the work you give away is part of your sunk cost into marketing. It’s like offering a loss leader, in the hopes that enough qualified buyers will become familiar with your work to convert into legacy customers over time. It’s why manufacturers do free tastings at Costco, or drug dealers give you the first time for free.

The author in me says, if I’m going to invest countless hours into creating a compelling work, and then further invest my money into hiring qualified editing and developing a professional cover, then I should get paid for going that distance. There are plenty of poorly written, badly or unedited works with horrendous or free covers, and I’ve taken the expensive steps to elevate my product above that bunch. Thus, the product is worth something, and then the battle becomes what is the product worth? That’s a different question. The point is, the artisan in me would like to be compensated for delivering value.

But the marketing guy says, screw it, give it away!

So what do you think? Where do you stand on the subject? What’s your take? Is giving away a part of a trilogy a viable marketing strategy, or cheapening the work? Or should you just give an entire 150K word novel away free? By giving product away for free, am I likely to attract perennially dissatisfied cheapskates who expect everything for free, and who troll the kindle store and the web for freebies? I can certainly appreciate that there’s a subset of folks that expect everything for nothing, just as there’s a subset who sue when coffee is served hot. I naively believe in human nature, and believe that most people will not have a problem buying work once they believe it has the quality they’re looking for. Yes, there will always be those looking to take advantage, or who feel entitled to everything for free because they’ve gotten free stuff before, but in the end, I think most adults, and certainly most erudite adults sufficiently literate to read a lot, are basically fair, and will have no problem exchanging value for value. There will always be predators and malcontents, but I tend to believe most aren’t.

But where do you stand? What do you think? What are you willing to do to get exposure, and what aren’t you?

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