Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Should Indie Authors Give Their e-Books Away?

I admit to coming into this blog with my mind made up, but to be fair, I did some research and read some articles. There are people who believe that giving e-books away is a good thing and some who don’t, so I’m going to present both arguments in brief form.

There are some good reasons to have free e-book giveaways. First, in theory, it’s a way to get more reviews. When people read the freebie, some will review it. Second, it’s a way to develop deeper customer relationships by directing readers to newsletters, webpages, or author pages for interaction. Third, it could motivate the e-book reader to actually purchase a printed version if they genuinely enjoyed the e-book. Fourth, in theory, it could motivate readers to purchase additional books by the same author, especially if the free book is part of a series. Fifth, of all the gazillion titles available on Amazon, the vast majority aren’t free, so free books could possibly zoom up the charts and get exposure that an author could never get for purchased books. After the free days, and the book is re-priced for purchase, sometimes there are residual sales, so that is when royalties would be made. And sixth, it gives unknown authors an opportunity to get their books into the hands of people who otherwise have never heard of them and wouldn’t be willing to risk money to give the author a chance.

So what are the reasons given to not have free e-books giveaways? The first reason is that the market place has become oversaturated with daily free e-books. Books are no longer zooming up lists and having the residual effects that they once were having. Secondly, because consumers are seeing so many free titles available, over time, they are beginning to devalue the worth of books. Free books are so abundant, that readers are less and less willing to spend money. Thirdly, the free book giveaways, especially in the flooded market, are not doing what they are supposed to do—get reviews, develop customer relations, and generate sales on printed versions or other works by the author. Fourthly, no other professionals in the book business are expected to work for nothing. Editors, designers, promoters, publishers, bloggers, and advertisers are all making money on an indie author’s books. If the author hadn’t created the book, there would be no need for anyone else, so why is the author the only one who isn’t expected to make money? Fifthly, what other profession do we ask the proprietors to give their work away for free? An author puts in time, sacrifice, worry, and discipline. An author develops and perfects and practices his or her skills and craft. What an author does is worthy of compensation. Finally, people are accumulating so many free books that there is almost no chance that they’re reading them, but even if they do, and they like a specific author’s book, there are so many other free books available, that they’ll wait around for the author’s next giveaway, rather than purchasing the books.
shameless self-promotion
I have to say, as I researched and wrote the pros and cons, my opinion didn’t change. I don’t think authors should do free book giveaways. I’ve given two books away—my first two of five that I’ve published. I gave the second one away first, and it worked—about four full years ago. A couple thousand people downloaded it. Afterward, in the next few months, my sales improved dramatically. I made some money. I didn’t see an increase in the sale of my first book, however, and though I kept waiting for reviews, there were only a couple that may have been from the free downloads. About six months later I tried my first book. The number of downloads was embarrassingly low compared to Skeleton Key. I saw no sales jump in either of my books, and I didn’t get a single review that I felt might have come from the giveaway. It didn’t work at all. So I’ve had both experiences. But I was a newbie. I wanted to get my book in people’s hands, and I had more than one book, so I thought giving one away would help sell the other also. Times have changed in the last four years, however, and now I don’t like the idea at all.

Here are my reasons.

First of all, though I’m sure there are many exceptions and many people will disagree, what I’ve been reading and hearing is that most authors are seeing no significant evidence that giving away their books is getting them additional reviews and the expected increase in sales once the book is no longer free. For other books the author has written, there is little to no increase in the amount of sales either. It used to work better, so why are the numbers low now? I think it’s because the market has been bombarded with free books. People download gobs of them and never read them. Do you know what books they read first? Books they pay for. Those are the ones they’ve invested in. I’ve downloaded a ton of free books. I don’t think I’ve read any of them unless they were from new author friends or were books friends recommended. I have so many paperbacks on my shelves and books on my Kindle that I purchased because I genuinely want to read them that I doubt I’ll ever get to the freebies. That means I won’t buy the author’s next book. I won’t review it. If I ever read it, it might be years from now.

Secondly, there are so many free books on the market that I could go without ever purchasing another book if I so chose. The market is saturated with them. I have an author friend whose writing I love. I’ve read three or four of her books, but I have nine of them on my Kindle. She keeps writing good books, and she keeps giving them away, and I keep downloading them. I’m not cheap. I purchase lots of books, but when I see hers for free, I nab them in case I get a chance to read them someday. I have another author friend who gave away a zillion free books years ago when she first started writing. People were buying them too. It worked. Then her second book came out and she gave it away also. And a lot less people bought that one. After her third book—which she also gave away—she reached the conclusion that her “fans” were just waiting for her to eventually give her new books away. It was like she had to start all over and find a new fan base because she was hardly making any sales.

My third reason is not theoretical or disprovable like my first two. My third reason that books shouldn’t be free is that it devalues the product. I spend hundreds of hours on my books, researching, interviewing, planning, writing, revising, editing, and promoting. I, like most authors, have even invested my own money driving, purchasing swag, and paying editors, bloggers, advertisers, and designers. Why do I spend all that time and money producing a work of art that I’m proud of and everyone but me makes money off it? Editors aren’t editing for free. Designers aren’t designing for free. I think you get the point.

Fourth—a point similar to my third—is that giving away the books devalues the author’s effort. Every other person in the world wants to get paid for their work. I go to craft shows and art shows to sell my books in public quite often. People aren’t walking through the show expecting all the vendors to give them their products. Those vendors spent their valuable time and resources creating the products, but more importantly, they put their talent into the work. Athletes, musicians, and actors get paid for their time and talents. Authors should too. But the more people who give away their books, the less a consumer is willing to pay for others.

I understand the theories that a new author wants to be discovered or authors want to get more reviews or authors believe by giving away one book, people will purchase their others. However, from what I’m gathering, those things used to happen but are no longer a guarantee. People with multiple books are seeing consumers wait around for the next free book. I’m convinced that there are Kindle and Nook download addicts that download book after book without any expectation of reading them, and authors are giving away book after book because a handful of fortunate authors praise the idea of giving them away. Some authors actually pay advertising companies to promote their free book! People with one book are actually giving it away, and there is nothing new for their readers to buy.

Here’s one more thing to consider. Every day I get emails from advertisers like Read Freely, Read Cheaply, Free Booksy, Free Kindle Books and Tips, and The E-Reader Café. Lately, I’m seeing books by some really well-known authors. I saw The Maze Runner recently, for instance. Those books have yet to be free. They’re surrounded by titles by indie authors for free, yet the well-known authors’ books are not. They’re discounted, but not free. Do you think the authors who are making money know something that we don’t? I think they realize that giving away books is no way to be compensated for all the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into their work.

If you’re an indie author and you’re thinking of giving away your books, how about giving them away to people who promise to do a review or as gifts in contests for people who follow your author page and interact with you personally? How about giving them to libraries or proofreaders or beta readers or family members or friends who you know will talk you up? If you want to do a special promotion, just discount your book. I know I, for one, am far more likely to read your book if I pay for it. And isn’t that what you want me to do? Read it? As this market of free books continues to explode, it’s beginning to put the rest of us out of business. You and I deserve to make some money on the ten or twenty or fifty hours of entertainment we give our readers. We need to stop letting everyone else make money off our books while we don’t. Remember, without our books, none of those other people could make a cent. Giving it away minimizes what we’ve done, so I’m standing on my soapbox calling out that we need to stop the insanity—or at least slow it to a trickle. I’m of the firm opinion that e-books have monetary value.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Baseball Quotes

I happen to love baseball. I played it all the time as a kid, actually hoping someday I’d make the big leagues. I was pretty good, but not that good. I read baseball biographies, collected baseball cards, and learned about the all-time greats. When I first started planning for a career, I wanted to be a Major League Baseball color commentator. I still think I’d be better than a lot of them. Today’s blog is about baseball. Quotes from TV and radio, movies, players, and books will be featured.

I’m starting with a couple of quotes from TV and radio:

“The immortal” Chico Escuela, who was said to have come to the US from the Dominican Republic, was portrayed by Saturday Night Live cast member Garrett Morris in 1978. After John Belushi introduced him, he got up, stood at the podium, and said in a thick Hispanic accent: “Thank you berry much. Baseball been berry, berry good to me.” Who hasn’t heard someone repeat that famous line about baseball?
After 55 years of broadcasting Major League games, including 42 years with the Tigers, Hall of Fame broadcaster, Ernie Harwell, retired and has since passed away. Often referred to as the Voice of Tigers Baseball, Harwell would open each season before the first spring training game by reciting the "Song of the Turtle," a stanza that celebrates the freshness of spring, renewed life and opportunities, and ushers in the baseball season for Tigers fans.

“For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”

Anyone who has been a long-time Tigers fan remembers Ernie Harwell fondly for how he helped us love baseball.

Now for some movie quotes:

The upcoming quote ranked #54 in the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 movie quotations in American cinema. This is a dialogue from  A League of Their Own.

Jimmy: Evelyn, could you come here for a second? Which team do you play for?
Evelyn: Well, I'm a Peach.
Jimmy: Well, I was just wonderin', 'cause I couldn't figure out why you threw home when we got a two-run lead! You let the tying run get to second, and we lost the lead because of you. You start using your head. That's the lump that's three feet above your ass.
[Evelyn starts to cry]
Jimmy: Are you crying? Are you crying? Are you crying?! There's no crying! There's no crying in baseball!
Because of this movie and Tom Hanks, anyone who’s played the game knows “there’s no crying in baseball.”
Here is a direct quote from the 1993 film, Sandlot. After being asked by Ham Porter if he wanted a s'more, Scotty Smalls replies several times with the question, "Some more what?" After his frustration grew with Scotty, Ham replies with, "You're killing me, Smalls." This phrase is commonly used to express discontent or frustration toward a person, and yes, it came from a baseball movie.

From Field of Dreams, I included two dialogues that I love. One made me laugh and one touched my heart.

The pitcher knocks Archie Graham, the doctor who goes back to his youth to get a second chance to play with professional baseball players—the rookie—twice into the dirt with high, inside fastballs.
Archie Graham: Hey, ump, how 'bout a warning?
Clean-shaven umpire: Sure, kid. Watch out you don't get killed.
Shoeless Joe Jackson (talking to Archie): The first two were high and tight, so where do you think the next one's gonna be?
Archie Graham: Well, either low and away, or in my ear.
Shoeless Joe Jackson: He's not gonna wanna load the bases, so look low and away.
Archie Graham: Right.
Shoeless Joe Jackson: But watch out for in your ear.

The next one is Kevin Costner getting a second chance with his dad. Ray is Kevin Costner.
John Kinsella: Well, good night, Ray.
Ray Kinsella: Good night, John.
[They shake hands and John begins to walk away]
Ray Kinsella: Hey... Dad?
[John turns]
Ray Kinsella: [choked up] You wanna have a catch?
John Kinsella: I'd like that.

Here’s another movie quote I hear all the time from Major League. Rookie sensation, Ricky Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) was pitching his first game, sans the thick-framed glasses. The stadium was empty and Harry Doyle (Bob Uecker) was announcing the radio play-by-play. Sheen uncorked a wild pitch about six feet outside that bounced off the stadium wall behind, and what did Uecker say for his listeners?  “JUST a bit outside.”  

Next are some quotes from Major League Baseball:

"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” Lou Gehrig said this at Yankee Stadium the day he officially retired from baseball. He was dying of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord—Lou Gehrig’s Disease), yet because of baseball, he considered himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

Before signing Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey (the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers) made it very clear that: “I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back.” Rickey was looking for an individual who was both a great athlete and a “gentleman”—a person with the inner-strength and self-restraint who could withstand intense hostility and aggression without being reactive. He needed an athlete who wouldn't perceive “not fighting back” as a sign of weakness or lack of courage. In Mickey Mantle’s auto-biography (which I read as a kid) called The Quality of Courage, Mantle explains how not everyone liked Jackie Robinson but he’d never run across anyone who didn’t respect him. Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, so he gets credit for ushering in a huge percentage of my favorite players.
Ernie Banks, nicknamed “Mr. Cub” and “Mr. Sunshine,” was a Major League Baseball shortstop and first baseman for 19 seasons from 1953 through 1971—thanks partly to Jackie Robinson. He loved the game and his words are often quoted on a beautiful summer day. “It’s a great day for baseball. Let’s play two.”

“It’s a round ball and a round bat, and you have to hit it square.” Pete Rose or Ted Williams or Willie Stargell is credited with this quote. I included it because I like it, plus I once heard a humorous description of a square ball and a square bat and a player trying to hit the ball around.
A reporter asked superstar, Joe DiMaggio, "Why did you play so hard?"
"Because there might have been somebody in the stands today who'd never seen me play before, and might never see me again.”
I like how he felt obligated to give his best every day.

Here are a few quotes from well-known authors about baseball:

“[Baseball] is a game with a lot of waiting in it; it is a game with increasingly heightened anticipation of increasingly limited action.” ― John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

“Baseball is a good thing. Always was, always will be”…. “Baseball is also a game of balance.”― Stephen King, Blockade Billy

“My instinct is a winning coach, and when it said ‘Batter up,’ I didn't argue that I wasn't ready for the game. I gripped the bat in both hands, assumed the stance, and said a prayer to Mickey Mantle.”― Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

“Baseball isn't just a game. It's the smell of popcorn drifting in the air, the sight of bugs buzzing near the stadium lights, the roughness of the dirt beneath your cleats. It's the anticipation building in your chest as the anthem plays, the adrenaline rush when your bat cracks against the ball, and the surge of blood when the umpire shouts strike after you pitch. It's a team full of guys backing your every move, a bleacher full of people cheering you on. It'” ― Katie McGarry, Dare You To

And finally, from another sports biography that I read as a kid, Jim Bouton, author of Ball Four, said, “You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”

Yes, baseball has gripped me my entire life. It’s been “berry berry good to me.” It’s America’s greatest pastime. And Smalls, like “The Song of the Turtle,” it has showed renewed opportunities, broken the color barrier, united father and son, made us laugh and cry, and showed us a slice of life that stays in our vocabularies and gives us images of people proud enough to give their best every day. “It’s life” so why not play two?