Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Freebie Sidebar

Back in September, I started getting a lot of Romantic Times-generated flack because of an RT article accusing me of undercutting the advances of other writers by my practice of giving away free e-books for my readers. I believe Melanie Lynne Hauser was the other author who was attacked for the same thing (note to self: go check out her free content.)

At the time I chose not to respond to the attack for two reasons: 1) I never actually saw the article in question and 2) it is quite possibly the stupidest thing I've ever heard. But like most publishing conspiracy theories, this one evidently refuses to die. After I recently talked about free content over on Tobias's blog, I got a few e-mails from unhappy people who actually believe this nonsense.

Here's my take: free e-books are an an excellent way to promote the work and give something back to the readers. Feedback from my free e-books usually tells me what works for my readers and what doesn't, which helps me decide what to pitch to publishers. Free e-books kept my StarDoc series alive and convinced me to re-pitch the Darkyn series.

And you know something? I get a kick out of writing them, putting them together, making the cover art, all that stuff. I like having complete creative control over the final product. And I love knowing anyone can read them whenever they like.

There will always be writers who expect readers to pay for the privilege of reading every single word they write. Alas, I'm not one of them. To suggest that my freebies are a determining factor in how much other writers are paid makes me feel really powerful, though.

So okay, I give up. I'll take the blame.

I did it. I'm the reason you have a day job. I'm the reason your advance sucks. I'm the reason your genius continues to be ignored. Forget about Melanie, it was 100% my fault. Yes, it was all, all me. You authors out there, be warned: mess with me and I'll write more free stories!

Oh, and while we're on the subject, global warming? My bad, too.


  1. For Godsakes! You have got to be kidding! Thank you from the bottom of my Darkyn-loving heart for your free e-books. I spend probably 2K a year on books and your free e-books don't change my purchasing an iota.

  2. Oh, and while you were at it, you also started the California fires, posted Hillary Clinton's picture on Drudge, and wrote Norman Mailer's award-winning bad sex scenes for him!

    Some people just need to get a life.

  3. I knew it!!! Had my suspicions, but now they've been confirmed. (eyes you warily from afar) *ggg*

  4. So, um, when are you doing the next free e-book challenge? I'm still getting hits from the one in 2006 and will definitely participate again. I'm actually thinking about giving another story away for Christmas if I have time to edit it a little.


    P.S. Evermore is the topic of my Thursday Thirteen this week!

  5. Yup, that global warming thing--totally your fault.

    It's good to see you owning up to your responsibility for all the evil in the world. Those darn free ebooks.

    I knew no good would come of them.

    Don't make me ready *any* more of your ebooks. No, I wouldn't want to contribute to the downfall of western civilization as we know it.

    *evil grin*

  6. LOL...Kelly Armstrong gives away freebies too. Some folks...silly.

    And a belated thank you for the Stardoc teaser.

  7. You're the reason I wrote a free ebook. As a reader, I love it when authors give out freebies. So when I became somewhat authorial, I decided to do all the things I'd appreciated from other authors. You know, to treat my potential readers how I like to be treated as a reader. And as a strategy, free ebooks have their benefits--I've purchased a number of books because I read the author's free stories on the web.

    Writing Ember (my free ebook) was one of the most positive writing experiences I've ever had. It was great not to think "Will this sell?" but instead to just write what I wanted. Amazingly enough, some people like to read what I like to write. I've gotten a lot of positive feedback.

    Some readers said I should have tried to sell it, but, honestly, I wouldn't trade the exhileration of writing for the sheer joy of it for anything. Every now and again, it's good to remind yourself that you write because you love to write and not just because you want to make money.

  8. If you do something for free, people will pay you greatly for it.Thank you for the freebies. And about global warming, I let it slide this time! LOL. Thank you again for the freebies!!

  9. So you're the reason I can't get published. All those editors and agents reading your free stuff crowds out my stuff.

    I feel so much better. Thanks, Lynn!

  10. Kelley Armstrong offers a bunch of free online novellas and I have to say it has made me a bigger fan. I have bought each of her books that were published, even her latest hardcover (which is a big deal to me since I tend not to buy hardcover). I would say part of the reason I did, is because I feel like she's given so much to her readers that I should support her by buying her books.

    The great thing about your e-books is getting a piece of the story that I wouldn't have gotten otherwise. Thanks for your generosity and keep up the great work!

  11. Anonymous12:50 AM

    This is not a new concept, selling by sample has been the standard practice of every industry that is sustained by sales. So naturally if the author has a free story or an ebook for the readers and I like it, I will definitely purchase the books of said author, including their backlist.

    What boggles the mind is that this doesn't "cost" the author much, only effort and time. So when you compare it against how much they spend in advertisement and promotions (that only benefit the owners of websites, magazines or the useless book trailers) it is stupid not to consider giving a freebie like a free story.


  12. Ah-hah! I knew there was a reason for people bookmarking my short-story blog, and for the inquiries as to where people can buy my work!

    Oh... you are evil for sending people my way with your high standards, encouragement, freebies and no bullshit attitude.

    Should I become successful, I know who to blame.

    Those who can, lead by example; those who can't, pout.

    You are priceless to us, Lynn; nyah, nyah to them.

  13. I'm the reason your genius continues to be ignored.

    I KNEW there was a reason.
    Lmao! :-D

  14. Anonymous4:06 AM

    Not only are you probably guilty of all that, but also of corrupting the minds of countless (yes, COUNTLESS!) aspiring authors of copying this folly of a business practice.

    (Me being one of them).

    It is actually interesting that these people doesn't see the benefits of this - it keeps your older works alive, well after the publishers have stopped to actively market your stuff.

    It also gives you a possibility to expand on story elements that did not fit in the original MS and such, without having to write (and more importantly - land a deal for) a series.

    AND it brings YOU more readers. Personally, I think I found your litterature through "Familiar" and now I have ordered four of your books.

    I don't have any illusions that anybody chooses to download a free book by You, instead of buying one from Me. And anyone who have any real such concerns, should probably be more troubled that they are plagiarizing you ;)

    I can only see one small problem with you giving away free e-books...

    ...that whole "end of civilisation" thing. ;)

    Blessed be this holiday season, all.

    (I'll even be so politically incorrect as to wish you a Merry Christmas. There! I said it!)

  15. "it is quite possibly the stupidest thing I've ever heard."
    Certainly ranks up there.
    Good God.

  16. *messes with PBW*

    *holds hand out for freebie*

    bwa ha ha!

  17. But..but...can't it be a little bit my fault, too??

    I was very proud to be in the same company as you, Lynn. I would never presume to tell other authors what to do with their work, but evidently others don't feel that way. Whatever - it's fun for me to give this gift, and frankly,it's not as if by doing so, I'm in danger of running out of things to write for publication, too. But maybe that's a fear of some writers - that their personal well of creativity isn't really that deep.

    Or maybe it's just about the $$. And fear of the unknown.

    Anyway, again - I'm tickled to be in such exhalted company!

  18. I'm not following the logic here. How is your -- or anyone's else's -- giving away of free ebooks undercutting the advances of other authors? I don't see the connection. I'm notoriously lame when it comes to business stuff, so please explain in words of one syllable, if possible.

  19. Your kidding, right? Seriously?
    If I weren't so darn lazy, I'd definitely be putting free stories on my site. But man, the power they have given you---responsibility for the decline of book sales and author earnings everywhere. I am honored just to leave my little comment here...
    Maybe you could hand out free samples of I don't know... toothpaste and bring down the entire free trade world!

  20. Anonymous9:54 AM

    That is really ridiculous. What a greedy bunch of whiners. Also, maybe they're a bit concerned that you make them look bad because they don't give anything away for free. It is usually people like this who expect everything for nothing, though, coincidentally.

  21. You probably put all that ice on my sidewalk too. Git out there and scrape it off, please. I'll wait in here reading my freebies.

    Yo, at least RT gave you some good FREE publicity!

  22. Well, that explains it. Nice to finally understand why my genius is so un(der)appreciated. *wink*

    Happy Holidays to you & yours, BTW!

  23. PS If bonnie's right and you wrote that Mailer sex-scene, you really are reprehensible.

  24. Anonymous10:26 AM

    You are so guilty. You are so guilty. You are so guilty...that the only reasonable punishment is to do it all again. So, hum, when can we expect another group of free ebooks?

  25. Sheesh. I started a Valentine's Day E-book Challenge after yours, which was a huge success. So they should be yelling at the Divas, too.

    And if you really ARE the cause of global warming? (you have a cauldron on the stove now, brewing something, I bet.) Gore ought to be thanking you.

  26. Anonymous11:23 AM

    I buy loads and loads of books a year and check more out of the library... and I read your free books too... I also read other authors' freebies.I can guarantee freebies do nothing to my purchasing except increase it... I love being able to fall in love with an author's words before I buy, and I love being able to add more personal enjoyment from an author I already read by reading freebies. It is the writing that attracts me, the personal connection that author has been able to establish with me by his or her words and the story they create; the bond between my heart and mind and theirs. If the author is able to do that, I'll read them. If not, free or not,why should I give them moments of my life?
    Seems to me by the same reasoning, the authors would also have to hold libraries responsible for their losses, since that also offers an avenue of many reads for only one purchase!
    Keep doing what you do :) Earplugs are relatively cheap :)

  27. Fourteen of my last fifteen book purchases/money donations to authors have been direct results of *freebies*.

    The last six of those were your books (StarDoc 1, 2, and 3; Darkyn 1 and 2; and The Way of The Cheetah), and there's no doubt I am now hooked on both series and will be ordering more of each soon.

    One of the things freebies does is invites readers into new territory: because of the genres/authors I habitually gravitate to, neither of your series would have crossed my path had I not ended up at this site and had you not been gracious enough to let me read some of your work for *free*.

    With that said, I really wish you’d have chosen deforestation over global warming.

  28. Anonymous11:35 AM

    a fair amount of your harder-edged humor doesn't work for me, either on the blog or in Stardoc (different strokes for different folks, blah blah blah), but I found this post absolutely hilarious (not to mention the WTFug? value of the original accusation). Thumbs up.

  29. I'm thinking the writing world needs to lighten up. I'm thinking jealousy from those who write too slowly or are too uninspired to do the same thing has reared its ugly head.

    As an author, aren't you supposed to promote your work the best way you know how? I'm thinking you are definitely stealing from these other authors because folks would rather read your free stuff than pay for their muck.

  30. Anonymous12:17 PM

    But these authors blog, right? Aren't they giving away their blog posts? And my goodness, some of them might be giving away free blog posts every day!

    I'm not seeing the difference here. Not much, anyway. I mean, when does it end? Do we start to charge for notes to the teacher? Letters to friends? Grocery lists? After all, those were written by someone, and it might have been very, very hard work for that person to write it too. :-)

    I like everything you write, Lynn, but especially, especially your blog. My day is more full and happy when I read it. Thank you.

  31. Hi Lynn!

    I sell e-books but give away short stories. Same principle though. Free samples are one of the most effective forms of advertising out there, regardless of what you're trying to sell.

    I don't have a problem with writing for money. It's work. It can and even should be paid. But why should we then turn our noses up at a form of promotion used by multinational conglomerates to push everything from make-up to food to gym memberships?

    If it works for them, I don't see a problem with trying to make it work for us.

  32. Anonymous12:36 PM

    I'm proud to be a fan of the most powerful author in the history of publishing! Holding all those talented people back with your demonic, anti-capitalistic sales-crushing free book distribution scheme.
    Yup, if I can't find free eBooks, I might have to resort to something radical, like visiting a public library.

  33. Not seeing the connection between your free ebooks and other authors' lower advances for print books. But since the glaciers above me are melting, I wish you'd knock off the global warming.

  34. Aha! So you're the reason I didn't get a half a million advance for my next book. And I'm pretty sure it's going to be your fault when those brownies I ate with my coffee show up on my hips.

  35. Anonymous1:45 PM

    I've never posted a comment anywhere, but here goes. That is a bunch of bullpucky - yes it is. I found your site mentioned on another author's site so I checked it out. You have one of the best designed sites out there. On the strength of your online reading material alone, I bought the first 5 star doc novels site unseen. I had them order them for me at my local Borderstore. Since I ordered them I find they keep them on the shelf more often than not now. I then checked into your darkyn books of which I've now read 3. I buy a lot through Amazon and Borders but tend to watch for specific authors. My one true weakness in my spending life, books. You are now on that list of authors to watch for..I keep a list of books and their release dates. So in January, I'm watching for Carrie Vaughn's Kitty and the Silver Bullet, Briggs' Iron Kissed, Wilks' Night Season, and your EVERGREEN. Your on my list due in large part to finding your website and reading your material. Yeah, RT is full of hooey, and I mean hooey with a capital H. So this is probably my first and last posting of a comment anywhere...hope it was worth it.

  36. Anonymous3:26 PM

    uh, so is now not a good time to tell you I want more short stories set in the Stardoc world?

    You know, maybe something else from Duncan's POV?

    :P I blogged about the free reads when I read the article and I couldn't believe the things people were getting upset over.

    Heh. I can't believe you're getting grief about that!

  37. Anonymous8:33 PM

    Writing Ember (my free ebook) was one of the most positive writing experiences I've ever had.

    I feel the need to point out that Bettie's ebook, Ember, is one of the best fairy tale twists I've ever read. If you like fairy tales or love dark fantasy, and you haven't read it, you need to.

    Now I just want the rest of it.

  38. Anonymous8:50 PM

    I refuse to buy books now without reading sample on a webpage or in the store. Since I buy more online than in store online freebies are the #1 selling tool to me.

  39. I'm doubly late to the party. I only recently discovered the world of Darkyn and just read my first two e-books - from the list on the sidebar here. Now I'm hungry for the full "Worthy" story! I would happily zip over to my neighborhood B&N to purchase the hardcopy on laydown date.

    Oh wait! - are you responsible for the gas price hikes? Guess I'll have to order it online. *g*

  40. Sorry I didn't get to comments before now, but I had to pitch Robin's book and then deforest some things for Shawn.

    Press release: I am not responsible for the gas price hikes, Norman Mailer's sex scene, or where Darlene's brownies end up (no comment on the condition of Miss Kate's sidewalks. Those buckets of water behind me are only there in the event something catches fire.)

    I am reinstating Melanie Lynne Hauser as my advance undercutting co-conspirator. In addition to giving away free books, she has better hair and is way funnier than me.

    It was a tough day here in Global Warming Central, but you all kept me laughing through it. Thanks.

  41. Ms. PBW, (it's late-I'm punchy)
    Have you found that freebies are good for transitioning readers to other genres you write-or WISH to write in?

  42. I agree with what you said about the free e-books: they are great promotion. I gobbled up all the Darkyns i could get my hands on, and in the interim, found this great blog AND a free ebook in the Darkyn series. Some people are just so meanspirited about anything that does not subsriber to their idea of the "publishing model." You really showed your professionalism by not ranting back at those people, and i applaud you for it.
    oh, and happy holidays, PBW!

  43. Totally OT but I have to add my kudos for Bettie....that's some of the best writing, bar none, I've ever read.

    As for the free ebooks I know Raine and I still get hits off them!!

    *sigh* People need ot go smoke crack or something

  44. Anonymous10:47 PM

    Unbelievable. I enjoy your free reads, this blog, your books, and your willingness to lay it out there. Maybe if the nay-sayers spent a bit more time working on their poor manuscripts or developing a writing schedule (yes, I'm a cheetah :)), instead of snarking on those who "ignore their genius," they wouldn't have time to quibble. Just my opinion. lol.


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