Thursday, July 11, 2013

Going Indie: A Change of Heart

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After careful consideration (and lack of sleep, chocolate and oxygen), I decided to make A Little Book About You free for the month of July.

Now wait a minute. Didn't I say something to the contrary a few, short months ago? Why the sudden change of heart?

Well, there are several factors that went into my decision. First, ever since Amazon was granted a patent for a possible (and likely) second-hand used e-book market, I pondered how it might negatively impact me as an author. Over the past two years, I've given away tens of thousands of e-books. Were those about to come back to haunt me? If I suddenly had to compete against copies of my own work that I had unwittingly given away for free, I might never sell another again. Why feed my own demise?

Amidst the chaos, a court case involving Capitol Records and ReDigi surfaced, offering a preview of what's to come. In the end, a federal judge ruled against ReDigi for redistributing previously used copies of digital music, and agreed that Capitol Records' copyrights had indeed been violated. Thus, ReDigi cannot resell perfect digital downloads without express written permission from the copyright owner(s).

Here are a couple of articles about the ruling:

If ReDigi had prevailed, the results would have been devastating. I truly believe that the very fabric of the digital market would have collapsed, and artists might be forced to focus on physical copies of their work in hopes of getting whatever they can from them. After all, why purchase a digital copy at full price when you can wait a week and buy a "used" one instead? If such a market were allowed to exist, publishers and therefore authors wouldn't be able to earn a decent wage off their endeavors. Worse yet, second-hand markets don't imply that a single penny goes back to the creator. Quite the contrary.

As long as publishers keep prices reasonable for the consumer, the motive for such a market evaporates (a point championed by J.A. Konrath). Besides, it’s our duty not to gouge the consumer for ever penny we can (though I suspect there are others who would disagree with this assertion).

With this ruling in hand, the specter of a used digital marketplace has waned in my feeble, old mind, and I feel obligated to provide readers with a taste of my work.

Besides, it's good business.

Second, the most valuable asset for a writer is the free giveaway. Sure, tweaking prices can lead to surprising results, but there's no better way to generate instant enthusiasm for your work than by setting it free. It’s also an excellent way to get unsolicited reviews. Sure, not all reviews are glowing, and in fact, most of my 1-star reviews come from trolls who didn’t pay a dime, but I tend to accumulate more positive reviews in this manner than otherwise.

Third, marketing is invaluable, and I'd be a fool to pass up effective free marketing. Within my books are advertisements for other works (for better or worse), which frequently lead to sales. I use affiliate links in these ads, which nets me additional revenue when they make a sale in Amazon (and not necessarily for my work). With all cylinders going, it's hard not to make a hundred dollars per month off affiliate revenue, which is a nice, painless way to supplement your income. Providing readers with affiliate links can be just as important as selling a copy of your book. Occasionally people buy Kindles, which earns you $10-$15 per sale. Sure, it doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen.

To make this work, you've got to get your affiliate links out there—not just hundreds but thousands of them. Indeed, the one and only time that I reached $300 in affiliate revenue came as the result of a large giveaway. The more eyeballs on your work, the better the results.

Most importantly, even if the download doesn't result in additional sales or affiliate revenue, exposing new readers to your work is extremely gratifying. I know that someone out there will enjoy it, and hopefully, it will inspire positive change in the world.

That's how I feel about A Little Book About You. It's a simple picture book with a great message. Money should not be the deterrent. Sure, I'd like to make a sale off it, but I'd much rather have it in the hands of someone who can benefit from it.

So here, take it. No strings attached. Download it. Share it. Read it to your kids. It's my “little” gift to you. Enjoy!

P.S. And don’t forget to get your free Slurpee at 7-Eleven today!

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