It set me to wondering whether we, as writers, are our own worst enemies. And it was reinforced by another short piece I read a little while ago at Digital Book World that says research shows that only 60% of books downloaded are actually read.
Are we devaluing books by making them too cheap or even free? Do people, as a general rule, value those things they get free or at a bargain price? The evidence suggests they actually value an item more if they pay more for it. For example, look at the extravagant amounts applied to perfume. A small bottle of water with a few drops of aromatic oils sells for many tens of pounds, when the content is probably worth no more than a couple of quid at most. In fact, it’s often the case that the packaging is more expensive to make that the contents! People value it as a ‘luxury’ product; something they wish to be associated with because of its perceived value rather than because of its actual worth.
Free newspapers are routinely tossed into the bin on receipt, unread. Free ‘gifts’ with certain consumables are consigned to the rubbish as a matter of course. Many other ‘free’ items are now viewed with such scepticism by the majority of consumers that they have lost all value as enticements to spend.
Do we, as authors, want to join this marketing debacle, to reduce our work to the status of a plastic dinosaur in a packet of cornflakes or a knockdown end-of-line ‘bargain’?
I currently have one book I give away. It’s a seasonal short and humorous piece I wrote specifically as a gift to my loyal readers on my blog. It’s still available free, and will remain so, since it’s my way of saying ‘thanks’ to readers rather than a marketing ploy to draw them in.
But I also fell into the $0.99 trap when this was so popular. So, I’m going to remove my books from that pit and try them at a price I think is valid for their content. I’ve no idea whether this will affect sales, but I have come to the conclusion that discounting books down to the very cheap or giving them away free is doing the whole world of books no good, so I’m opting out of it. It’ll take a little time to change the prices, but I will do it.
How about you? What’s your attitude to free and/or cheap books as either reader or writer? I’d love to know.