Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Giving It Up For Free

When first starting out, one of the biggest issues we, as writers, run into is how to establish ourselves with a public that has no idea who the hell we are.  Stephen King and Stephanie Meyer can get by on name recognition - when they publish something, people will flock to what they've written simply by virtue of loving the previous work.  But how does an unknown do so if he or she doesn't have the budget for a large promotional campaign?

At the beginning, it's all about circulation, and one of the best and easiest ways to do that is by giving your stuff away for free.  Yes, we're in this business to make money - at least I am - but most people won't fork over copious amounts of cash on someone they haven't heard of.  The idea is to be prepared to give away now so that people will return to you in the future.

I'm not advocating not charging for your work at all, only providing free copies in select circumstances, as well as encouraging your work to be passed around.  Those who become a member of Amazon's KDP Select have the power to post their work for free for limited periods of time.  Amanda Hocking and a few others used this feature to get people to give their stuff a chance, and it paid off in spades.  For those that create paper books, scheduling give-aways at local bookstores and college campuses have the potential to get people interested without them writing you off as a hack because they have to pay to read an unknown.

I also think that we need to encourage others who do read our work to pass it around to their friends.  Too many get so caught up in payment at first that they forget a large number of book sales are generated through word of mouth.  If a friend of yours likes you book, encourage them to pass it to another friend, and don't pout about losing revenue.  At the early stage of the game, it's not about the money - that'll come later.

Of course, this is an anathema to lots of people, and those people fail.  Some will huff and puff that they deserve to be paid for whatever they produce, and good for them - they and their greed will be eating bologna sandwiches long after the rest of us are making a comfortable living.  Remember, you might think you're great, but not everyone knows that yet, and most of them are cheap.  If you can pull them in by promising them something for little to no risk monetarily, you have a greater chance of getting your foot in the door.

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