Friday, April 11, 2014


by Lois Lamanna

Occasionally an author will announce they are promoting one of their e-books by pricing it for free. The news is greeted by me like fingernails scraping a chalkboard. I understand the argument for temporarily lowering the price. Supposedly, the promoted book draws in new readers and once they sample the work, they buy other books by the author.

Personally, I’m against giving away the product of my imagination. I spend hours writing, editing, and marketing my work. I expect to be compensated for my effort. I prefer to use means other than price to promote my book.

As adults, we have experienced negative connotations associated with the word free. We look for the strings attached. We know the free kitten carries the lifelong responsibility of the animal’s care and the requisite financial burden. Food, litter box, toys, veterinarian visits, and the occasional scratching post are the strings.

Not only do we look for the strings attached, we are skeptical of anything free. We measure something’s worth by the price tag. When the price is too low, we expect shoddy workmanship or poor quality materials. How many times has a homeowner rejected the lowest bid for a remodeling project in favor of someone offering to do the job at a higher price?

I’m not an art connoisseur. I go into an art gallery and make my purchase based on the reputation of the gallery, the reputation of the artist, and what I like. Price plays a big part in my decision. I naively buy at the top of what I can afford, thinking the piece must be superior simply because it is priced higher. A certain portion of readers do the same thing when searching for a book.

Authors are artists. We don’t use paint and brushes. Words are our medium. I don’t want someone to judge my work using free as the barometer for its worth (or lack of). When I check the e-book prices of more popular authors, the prices are the same or only slightly lower than the price for the physical versions. Which came first? Did the author sell his work at a higher price and the readers emotionally evaluate it as being superior or did the readers judge it to be better and the price commanded for the book follow? I suspect it is a little of both.

Maybe I have been caught in a web of strings too many times, lured by the word free, or maybe I am greedy, thinking I should be paid for my labor, but I will continue to argue that authors should not give away their books.

Lois Lamanna

Matrimony and Murder
Murder on a Park Bench
A Seminar on Murder
Facets of Murder
Clarity of Murder


  1. Lois, you've touched on a topic all writers are thinking about - or should be. We write to reach readers and, in trying too hard, we've de-valued our own work. No more "free" from me.

  2. So many times I hear of readers ONLY surfing for free books. I know we can.t stop writers from offereing their books free in the hope the next book will result in a cash sale, but Lord Love a Duck, we are partly in this to make money. THEN these same freebee readers will post a trash review on the book they didn't even bother to invest in!!

    I have to admit, I tried it once. But like smoking - didn't care for the after taste. I'll never do it again.

  3. Here's the other side of the coin. I have two short stories I've set free permanently. Each one celebrates a different holiday and one, Charming for Mother's Day, introduces my new series. Both have been widely received with (mostly) positive reviews and I can honestly say they have, indeed, done what I'd hoped: introduced new readers to my work. Many of the reviews say, "this is my first book by Gina Ardito, but it won't be my last..." and I've had new readers contact me to tell me they were introduced to my work from my free works and now absorb everything I write. Will I put my other books for free? No. These short stories were intentionally written for that purpose and I don't mind giving out a "free sample" in the hope it will encourage readers to find my longer, fuller stories.
    As writers and marketers, we all have to find what works best for us.

  4. Gina's fortunate experience aside, there is a school of thought regarding conditioning potential readers to expect 'free' from authors. I hold to the saying: "You get what you pay for." The occasional prize in a contest is one thing, but to give away months of work for free makes no sense to me. I think it sends the wrong message.

  5. And you all have given me much to think about. Hmmmm. (That's the sound of me being contemplative.) :)

  6. I need to add to my earlier comment. I agree that offering a free book as a prize is a good incentive and I have a couple of short stories available to entice readers to try my work to see if they like the way I write. But I doubt if I'll be giving away large quantities of books again. I guess you should never say "never" though. This business changes too fast.