I’m Not Interested In FREE Books

Buy my book it's free_r

This came up in conversations with two different writers today: the growing frustration that what “conventional wisdom” tells us—that authors are either to give their books away or sell them dirt cheap—is essentially throwing the incomes (and perceived value and professionalism) of writers under the bus. I concur.

Why are published authors not seen as professionals whose work deserves remuneration on a par with other professionals? Why are writers admonished for daring to price their book any higher than a few dollars? Why is appealing to those who only want “free stuff” considered a marketing strategy? We very decently pay our plumbers, our doctors, our gardeners; hell, even our fifteen-year-old babysitter gets more financial consideration than an indie author! So why are even the most skilled and talented of our storytellers persistently relegated to the bargain heap?

That would take a thesis to analyze; something about how the internet has created a culture that thinks everything online should be free, that “anyone can do anything” (fuck expertise or true talent); that artists are of less value simply because “anyone can do anything,” and so on…(perhaps we’ll discuss all that further at another time).

But I’m having none of it. I pay for my downloaded music, I make sure artists I admire get my dollars along with my admiration, and believe me…I am not interested in free books. I’m not interested in cheap books. The ONLY books I’m interested in are books with a premise that intrigues me, a cover that suggests a necessary level of professionalism, and solid reviews that authentically offer insight. If that kind of book is free—or being sold for $3—I may buy it, but with the thought that the author might be selling themselves short (particularly if they’re an indie struggling to build a name). If a book like that is $10, I’ll buy it knowing that the writer values their work, and I’ll be happy to contribute something to their coffers, usually a pittance of what their time and talent deserves.

But don’t holler at me about “FREE BOOKS.” Holler at me about truly gifted writers selling their work with pride, a sense of professionalism, and at a damn logical price. When most people will easily spend $6 for a latte, $15 for a movie ticket, $18 for a glass of wine, or $30+ for a video game, you will never convince me that a book someone spent years writing, and countless dollars producing and promoting, doesn’t deserve a fee commensurate to that effort.

For more on the topic, see my Huff Post piece: Free Books: Marketing Genius or Devaluation of Writers?

LDW w glasses

Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

‘Share Stories About YOU’: Advice From a Twitter Follower

Little LDW...waiting for the cows to come home.
Little LDW…waiting for the cows to come home.

Self-promotion. It’s a crazy thing, isn’t it? 

It doesn’t matter whether you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram; it makes no difference if you’re famous, not famous, flinging commentary, sharing jokes; promoting books, movies, restaurants, mascara lines, or family pictures, everyone’s in on it. The rushing, churning, never-ending flow of information being pushed, shoved, bandied, and sometimes battered online. 

I regularly scroll through my Twitter feed and am amazed at the sheer volume of information rolling down the screen: this or that meant to snag my curiosity enough to make a click that leads to a link that, hopefully, compels a read, a retweet, or, most desirous, a purchase. It reminds me of those street bazaars where you wander through narrow aisles of merchandise as sellers wave items and hawk their wares in a rush of cacophony…or those scenes in movies where cars get stuck in traffic to be bombarded by rowdy street kids chattering over each other for a hand out. Frankly, it’s exhausting.

And I’m right in there with the best of ’em.

Yep, like every other self-whatever, I’m jostling along with the crowd, jumping up and down in earnest effort to grab attention for my work. Why? Well, first of all, because it’s worthy, and second of all…we have to. It’s what you gotta do to be viable in today’s world. It’s mandated by the “welcome to your self-career” handbook. 

But, despite business need and protocol, what you discover when you become part of that hand-waving, ware-hawking, book-bandying horde, is that you sometimes feel akin to a polyester-sweating used car salesman dangling bizarre freebies in hopes of closing a sale (“Buy today and we’ll throw in a toaster!!”). I know it’s part of the gig—dear God, I know it’s part of the gig—which is why I’m delighted to be working with a publicist in launching my upcoming novel, Hysterical Love. But beyond that thrilling collaboration, to the more day-to-day, “takin’-it-to-the-streets” stuff, damn if I don’t covet my own full-time carnival barker! 

Today was one of those days. So I posted this Tweet:

“Sincere question: what kind of tweets make you chk out a book? Cover? Blurb? Quote? I see so many & wonder what works. Feedback appreciated.”

And the first, almost immediate, response was:

“The WRITER! Share stories about YOU…”

Fascinating. I can’t say I’d have thought sharing stories about me was a particularly welcomed way to interest potential readers—what with our many unwelcomed narcissistic cultural trends—but I got the meaning. And it was appreciated.

Because, though I’m not shy, I do tend to steer away from anything that blares of self-trumpeting. I’d always rather talk about you than about me. And I’d certainly rather talk about the work than share personal anecdotes. When I spent my time years ago writing two-four articles a day for various publications, I figured people learned enough about me via my politics, my views, my philosophy; my take on things. Even now, I still write the selective essay that offers my perspective to anyone paying attention. But beyond what is gleaned from all that jabbering, I’m not much of a self-promoter. I’ve never taken or posted a “selfie” (and won’t); any travel pics I put up are usually bereft of images of me, and I’m not much compelled to participate in TBT. I will share special events or notable information related to my work, but, really… is there that much about ME that’s pertinent to selling my books?

Beyond my quick-commenting Tweeter, a business-savvy friend of mine says “yes.” She concurred that people want to get a sense not only of the book (movie, restaurant, mascara line) they might choose to enjoy, but of the person who created it. Which, okay, I’ll concede: considering how much I myself enjoy the interesting interview with people I find interesting, point taken.

So in a nod to my responding Tweeter, I offer this little anecdote…yes, about me! 

Though I was born in Chicago, I grew up in a tiny farm town in Illinois—Richmond (does every state have a town named Richmond?)—and when I was a little girl, my father threw out our TV and demanded we spend our free time reading books. He’d bring home boxes from the Chicago library and, despite my true annoyance at not being able to imbibe in Saturday morning cartoons and the like, getting those boxes was like a never-ending literary Christmas. It did, no doubt, have much to do with sparking my love affair with words and writing.

My favorite writer during that period? Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her books transported me to a time and place I could actually see, touch, and feel. As a young country girl surrounded by prairies myself, I became part of that big, frontier family she chronicled. It was a transformative experience. She later became an inspiration as both a tenacious female author, and one who didn’t have success until later in life, two things to which I  can relate!

And, this last fact might intrigue you: the same father who encouraged my passion for reading was also the one whose enigmatic journals incited the story behind AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH… 

There. How’s that? A little something about me. I hope my Tweeting friend enjoys it! And maybe I’ll try it again some time… you never know, this could be fun! 🙂

[Btw, the photo at the top is a favorite of mine from our days in Richmond; one day—either before or after that shot was taken—a cow rambled by that same swing set without much notice of me and my siblings playing in our scruffy back yard! Gotta love the country!]  
LDW w glasses

Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.