Daily Archives: September 14, 2011

E-Free: savvy or stupid?

Lucky me, I woke up to a FREE newspaper this morning.  In fact, every house in town had a neatly rolled up paper just waiting in the driveway for unsuspecting homeowners to fall in love with.  And order a subscription.

Two days ago, Dear Hubby checked out the fitness center in town and came home with a card that gained him access to a FREE week of membership.  Ya know the “Try us out.  If you like us, come back,” kind of thing?

I also got a Buy One, Get One FREE coupon in the mail the other day from a shoe store. 

Seriously, free seems to be the new…well, old…marketing model.  Businesses have well-learned that a sample goes a long way in attracting customers.  Some of those customers will enjoy the services/product so much they will become loyal buyers.  Others will swoop in for their freebie and never be heard from again.  Some will turn up their noses and throw the coupon away in disdain, for obviously, free means inferior.

And still more land somewhere in the middle.  They will read the paper, check out the gym membership and pick up two new pairs of shoes.  At times, they’ll come back to work out whenever possible, doing so in cycles as it works with the rhythm of their lives.  They will pick up a news stand copy of the paper when the fancy strikes them and definitely remember the great selection of shoes the next time they need some kicks. 

So, is free savvy or stupid? 

Do we give away too much for the little return on life-long loyalty?  Is the sheer quantity of freebies given worth the quality of future buyers?  But what if nobody buys?  Or what if everyone buys and they hate the product and will never, ever, ever under duress of life and limb purchase another membership, shoe or paper again?  What if they tell everyone how much they *gasp* hate their free product, essentially poisoning the sales well for life?

And how does this apply to the writing life?  Well, brick and mortars allow readers to browse through books, feeling the cover, sniffing the pages and reading a chapter or two before exchanging gift card credit for a new novel.

In my opinion, astute e-book authors–whether self-pubbed or traditionally published–will allow readers to view a sample chapter or two.  That’s akin to the week of free membership.  And I’ve NEVER heard anyone complain about that before.

More convoluted, however, is the debate over an entire FREE book.  Arguments against this tactic include:

  • the author is selling herself short both on time and talent, 
  • the author doesn’t believe he has a superior product and must give it away to be read at all,
  • and free books will become the rule and readers will expect to read all their novels without paying a dime thereby destroying the very essence and livelihood of every author everywhere.

Without aruging for or against the practice of free-ness, I ask a few simple questions. 

  • Does the free newspaper on my driveway diminish the integrity of newspapers all across the country and threaten to destroy this mode of news gathering forever?
  • Does the BYGO philosophy only pertain to crappy tennies and ill-fitting sandals, or can you still get quality kicks for a deal?
  • After cashing in a coupon, do you always expect the same deal forever and ever, amen, or is your tweeter tickled simply by virtue of getting a good deal at that moment in time?
  • Can a name-brand shoe not only cost more, but also give it’s wearer more corns and blisters than a cheap pump?

I don’t mean to be so cheeky, but I can’t help but wonder about the double standard for free e-books as a teaser. 

Author and writing friend, Calista Taylor recently unleashed her first novel, Viridis, on the cyber world.  She describes her reasoning behind the pricing scheme for her steampunky goodness (and provides links for the free version and the $0.99 copy).  In fact, many bloggers post on this topic because it is so widely debated. 

So, let me ask you, dear readers, how do you feel about FREE?

  • I think free e-books diminish the integrity of the written word. 
  • I think only self-pubbed writers give away free e-books and therefore would never “buy” one because the quality is sure to suffer.
  • I refuse to pay full price for anything.  My (insert e-reader here) is chock full of free books.
  • I use free to check out new books and authors.  Some I love and some I hate.  But the marketing plan worked and got me to try a sample I otherwise might not have.
  • I have downloaded free books, grown to love the writing and bought–with real money–more books from the same author.

Curious minds want to know.

PS- in case you’re curious, Calista Taylor has a traditional publishing deal for a nonfic book.  Self-published doesn’t mean can’t-cut-the-mustard.  If you don’t believe me, check her out.  She rocks my socks off.

PPS- my spell check isn’t working, so forgive any spelling errors.  I didn’t sleep well last night!