Should You Give Books Away For Free?

I deleted my account on “GoodReads” today. Yes, the sneer quotes are intentional.

I already feel better.

The place had been bothering me for quite a while. Since the first day, really.

Tech glitches. Way too many drive-by reviews (people just leaving a star or two, not taking the time to elaborate on why the drive-by slam), way too many people writing critically about others’ writing while making writing errors themselves. I snapped on that shit this morning and that was that. Buh-bye!

Even if GR really represents a deep vein of my “readers” (or my potential readers) — and I doubt that it does — then so be it, I am leaving them. I’ll go down in flames. I haven’t far to go anyway! But really, I can’t deal with hypocrisy. If find it just that abhorrent. I do.

Some of the bad over there is my own damned fault. I admit that. It started way back when I gave my books away using Amazon’s “free” runs (with Kindle Select, which is now in a tailspin, I hear, as a program, and may even be on its way out). A lot of people (users of GR, e.g.) would grab books for free and then do these drive-by “reviews.” Ugh.

Bottom line: I learn as I go, and I’m a bit thick sometimes. The big painful lesson here for me is this: I won’t give books away for free ever again unless it’s a one-time thing to one person, a blog reader, a subscriber, a fan. Unless it’s from my heart. Corny as that sounds. Because I put myself into the crap er I mean writing that I do.

This is NOT about cash or fame.

It’s about the devaluing of work. Someone who grabs a copy for free simply doesn’t value it. There’s no stake in anything. No commitment of any kind. That’s just my opinion. I think getting a book for free like that predisposes one’s attitude, even if it all remains subliminal. You’ll not convince me that this undercurrent isn’t there on some level: “Yay, scored another free read, probably a piece of shit or she would be selling it somewhere, but I got nothing better to do and fuck it, it’s FREE.”

When I get something for free in life, I know I always devalue it instantly. I assume it’s cheap crap. Don’t you? Has someone given you a Rolls Royce? Or have they given you a garishly designed coupon for fifty cents off with fine print that says it expires in a week and you also have to buy $25 worth of something else to claim the fifty-cent discount? Heh. Well, you see my point, I hope.

Anyway, goodbye GoodReads. Oh, and have a look at this awesome flowchart, “Should I Work For Free?” It’s really pretty much applicable to any work someone produces (Jessica Hische, the artist who did it, is a hugely successful professional letterer and graphic designer with an amazing portfolio and client list; she knows whereof she speaks).

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