Guest blogger Paul D. Marks on writing for free.
Why is writing the only profession where your customers, whether magazines, producers or readers, feel they shouldn't have to pay you for your work? If you were a plumber they would expect to pay you.
I come to this having just done my first free-for-Kindle promotion on Amazon. My new award-winning thriller White Heat normally sells for $3.99 (now $2.99), which I thought was a pretty reasonable price. And it started with a bang, making it to number one on Amazon's paid Hot New Releases chart a couple weeks after release. But then sales fell off, despite good reviews on and off Amazon – and mostly from people I don't know. So how do you crawl out of the pile? How does the wheat get separated from the chaff? It seems that one way to do it is by having a promotion where you offer your book for free.
But why should we give away the product of our labor?
In another life (well it seems that way anyway) I was a "script doctor." I would often take meetings with producers at their houses or restaurants. One particular incident stands out: I went to meet two producers up on Sunset Plaza above the Sunset Strip in L.A. This is a particularly good and expensive neighborhood. I pulled up to the house to see two Jaguars in the driveway. The house was very well appointed inside and out. And to make a long story short, while they wanted to hire me they also wanted me to work for free, at least on the first draft. These were people with a track record, not just starting out. These were people who supposedly were signatories to the WGA. These were people who were either putting on a good show (not unknown in Hollywood) or who actually had the money to back up the veneer of success they were putting on. So why did they think they had the right to ask me to work for nothing? And that's not the only time that happened.
Though I'm still ambivalent about freebies, I decided to give my book away for free myself. Why? The difference is now I'm the one making the choice to offer my own book for free with the payoff that I will gain new readers and word of mouth for my book and future books. I am giving new readers a chance to find my writing and hopefully come back for more and at that point be willing to pay something. It is a never a bad thing when there is demand for books, be they free or $2.99 or $12.99. The important thing is getting the book out there and getting it read.
So I ask - do you think writers should write for free? I hope to hear from some of Dixon's readers as to what you might think.
Dixon says: I've had the pleasure of reading White Heat, Paul's awesome novel of a man on a quest against the backdrop of the L.A. Rodney King riots, and I recommend it highly.