Is “Free” Killing the Indie Publishing Industry?

Since I use Amazon’s KDP platform to self-publish on Amazon, I have access to the KDP forums. I sometimes poke my nose in there and peek at what folks are chatting about, but don’t actually participate, since I’m not a forum-loving person.

While there are some very knowledgeable and helpful people on those forums, I find it discouraging how much bad information and advice floats around and people take it as golden truth. However, I don’t claim to be an all-knowing source of knowledge and fully recognize my own opinions are just that — opinions… so again, I stay out.

Lately, though, there have been a LOT of complaints about all of the authors who publish free books. Many forum users believe that these authors are ruining the self-publishing industry, cutting into their sales, and casting a shadow on the indie reputation.

With that, I completely disagree.

Yes, there are a LOT of terribly-written free books out there. However, there are also a LOT of terribly-written books that cost .99, 1.99, 2.99, etc.

However, there are also some very well-written free books. And some very well-written books that cost money.

Free is a marketing tactic, even a book that is permanently free. It gets interest, it gets downloads, and if readers enjoy it, hopefully they will check if the author has more. I utilize that strategy. Go Deep is free — and in my opinion, should always be free.  It lets readers access a full sample of my work without laying down some cash.

I believe Go Deep is well-written (and well-edited), but I realize I’m biased in saying that. However, perhaps the ten reviews on Amazon, averaging 4.5 stars, are a more objective demonstration that Go Deep is written well.

Yes, I could easily charge .99 for it, like I do for the rest of my short stories, but Go Deep was always intended to be 100% free. I wouldn’t feel right charging .99 for it.

If I’m interpreting the forum users correctly, when they wish Amazon would banish the ability to make books permanently free, they are hoping that all of these authors with free books will simply disappear. That’s a fallacy. If the absolute minimum people can sell their books for is .99, then all of these free books will simply be sold for .99… not disappear.

The self-published authors who do not take the time to carefully craft their stories and undergo an objective editing process, but then publish a shoddy work for free, will not go away if it’s impossible to “sell” for free. They’ll just all be .99 authors.

If these forum users are concerned about the reputation and respectability of self-publishing, then they need to realize that these authors they dislike will always be selling alongside them. If these forum users believe that “free” is a marker of absolute trash, then by removing the free option and having these authors sell at .99, then these forum users would then believe .99 is a marker of absolute trash.

The self-publishing industry is in the midst of a revolution.

With the mega-corporations losing their strangle-hold on the industry, publishing is now seen as attainable by the average person — as it very well should be. I believe the best mix for the industry as a whole is a combination of big presses, medium and small presses, micro presses, and self-publishing. However, with that comes the stuff these forum users complain about. To somehow forbid these “bad writers” from publishing implies there needs to be some oversight to the industry… like a big company… It seems these forum users want to self-publish, but long for the reputation from the days when the big houses controlled everything.

Here’s the secret to success and the secret to standing out in the crowd…

Ready for it…?

Write a good book. Edit it. Publish it. Write another. Edit it. Publish it. Repeat.

The key to success and respectability in the industry is NOT to get rid of those you disagree with or those whom you believe are bringing a bad reputation to the industry. The key to success is to be so damn good that people flock to you.

If these forum users want the free books to disappear (and I’m sure they actually mean the poorly-written free books), then the best strategy is to ignore them. Poor writers will get poor reviews and their downloads will eventually dwindle. As well, there’s really only so long a poor writer offering only free books can continue with this hobby. (It’s not a business if you’re not trying to make money, so these people are writing as a hobby.) They will eventually fade into the woodwork. They will be replaced by other poorly-written free books, yes, but they, too, will fade. What will remain over time are the well-written books — both for free and for money. An impressive backlist with glowing reviews will ensure success, and no amount of poorly-written free books will impact you.


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Filed under eBooks, Editing, Publishing, Writing, Writing Tips

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