It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
A couple weeks ago, TOR publisher offered its readers/subscribers a delightful treat – 4 free Martha Wells’ sci-fi novellas about Murderbot. The promotional offer signified a marketing campaign for the publication of a new Murderbot full-length novel, out this month.
Of course, the offer was limited: each novella was only available for download for one day, so the readers had to login to the TOR site for 4 consecutive days to get all 4 novellas. Still, it was an amazing gift to the readers. And it started me thinking about the writers who offer their writing for free and the ones who don’t.
Writers, with rare exceptions, are not rich. Should we offer our writing for free? Sometimes? Never? Does offering free reads actually work to increase our sales?
In my experience, it works for the writers who are already popular. The team Ilona Andrews, for example, posted all their Innkeeper novellas on their website for free as serials: a chapter every few days. Once a story was completed, it stayed on their website for some time, until the authors edited the texts and published the novella for sale on all the book-selling sites, simultaneously removing it from their bunch of free offerings.
I read all the novellas for free on their site, but later, I bought the paper versions of the first three novellas. I’m sure many of their fans did the same, so yes, it worked towards their sales: an advertising gimmick at its best.
On the other hand, I’m not sure it works equally well for a relatively unknown writer, although I encountered many instances when a writer made her first book of a series available for free in hopes to attract the readers to the next books of that same series. Does it serve? I don’t know.
Some writers offer free reads occasionally, like short stories on their websites, as a thank you to their readers and fans. So do some publishers: TOR and Baen among others.
I also encountered the opposite approach. A well-known speculative writer Wen Spencer (one of my favorite writers) not only never offers her fiction for free but also built her blog on Patreon, so you can’t even read her posts unless you pay. Truth to tell, it makes me upset with her. I own all her books, love them, bought them all as soon as they were published, and I expected some sort of recognition, maybe a willingness to communicate with her readers, in return. I understand a writer’s need to earn a living, but I think a blog on Patreon is an overkill and shows the author’s disrespect for her readers. How does it affect her sales, I wonder?
What is your stance on the issue? Do you offer your writing for free? Does it help your bottom line?