Free Giveaways: Authors really can’t afford them

Quiet, but here
February 8, 2017
Meet Joshua Robertson and JC Boyd
February 15, 2017

Today, for as part of Legend‘s release plans, I am participating in a Facebook multi-author event. Pretty standard stuff right? Not exactly. The event is called Our Books Are Not Free.

Yep, you read that right.

I’m one of  over one hundred participating authors not giving away a book or awarding any prizes during the event. Expectations are exactly the opposite, so it seems a little counterintuitive, doesn’t it? An after effect of the “atmosphere of resentment and entitlement that caused the growth of peer-to-peer that plagued the music industry” predicted back in 2010 by a TeleRead article, I’m surprised someone didn’t come up with this idea sooner.

Why something like this is so important

Experts advise authors to treat their writing like a business for tax purposes and sanity reason. The first thing any savvy business person learns to watch is their bottom line, or return on investment (ROI). ROI is defined by the resources put into a product or endeavor (eg time and money) and the benefit that is produced by it.

Businesses fail because of negative ROI. Why should authors suffer the same fate?

Freelance writers are paid a wide variety of rates for their efforts.  According to an interactive Venngage article, I’d have to write MacBeth (or 15,738 words) every month to survive as a freelancer in my metropolitian area. To put the figure in perspective that’s roughly 19% of Legend per month.

Creative writing is structured differently. Authors don’t get paid unless someone buys their work.

Like freelancers, story writers still make a huge up front investment in their time and effort to write. The story writers then either go the indie route and invest in the materials they need for their work (cover design, editing, etc.) or the additional time and effort to pursue a publisher or an agent. Both have to worry about marketing. Traditionals less than indies, sure, but it’s still a consideration.

Passion vs Money

There are successful authors out there. Stephen King, Jim Butcher, and JK Rowling come to mind, but they too had to struggle before their big break. For most writers, passion must drive the creative process. Money can’t be counted on to do much more than provide a few extra perks. That simple fact is the reason authors balk when asked to give their work away for free.

Rose Montague, the driving force behind the Our Books Are Not Free event, put it this way in her August 2016 post:

The problem is that when just about every Indie author is doing it [giving their stuff away for free], it lessens the chances of actually selling books because there are so many freebies out there. It devalues our work, in my opinion. I would actually like to get to the point where I can afford to write full time. In order to do that, I need to sell some books rather than give them away.

In her October 2016 article, CG Blade, a fellow SF writer, urges readers to consider that:

You cannot expect anyone to continue to give you great material if they do not get paid for it. It costs me approximately $500.00 to $1000.00 to put out a 70K novel. I cannot imagine what cost it takes to produce eleven songs, go out on tour, and keep writing great material.

So yes, it might go against the grain, but I’m proud to be part of this protest.


  1. I’m in this too! I still give a free e-book a month through my website, but the raffle winner has to be ACTIVE on my site to be entered: Sharing, commenting, participating in games, sending in interviews & articles, reviews.

    • Ani Manjikian says:

      It’s like me offering two chapters of Legend for free as a reward for a newsletter sign up. There is a benefit for both sides.

  2. Not only do I not give away free books, but I’ve noticed that Kindle books seem to carry the risk of being freely distributed to friends, family, neighbors, and virtually anyone who wants them. I’ve noticed on Daily Motion that someone is offering a free .pdf file of my book, “Pope on the Dole.” The only thing is, my book is only available as a paperback. Had I published it as an e-book, I’d be the victim of this internet scam.

    • Ani Manjikian says:

      Yeah, this risk of getting copied is there, but an author has to go where the audience is. I would love for Legend to be in paperback and one day it will be.

    • Jeanne Felfe says:

      David – I thought a Kindle could only be shared one time with someone. As for sharing books with friends… I’m much more likely to do that with a paperback than I am with a Kindle book.

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