So, why do free eBooks exist? Why would any person go to the trouble of typing so many words on a page, then spend money to create a cover for that electronic book, only to give it away to people with no expectation of a monetary reward?
It’s because we need reviews.
Reviews of our free books help to perpetuate sales of our books that are not free. In addition, free eBooks generate interest and publicity by getting our work into the e-reading devices of a lot of people. And a LOT of people love free stuff. Hopefully if they really love it, they’ll leave a review.
Of course, we love it when we get really good 5 star reviews. Honestly, I’d rather someone just not give me a review at all than to give me less than 5 stars. But even the bad reviews can be helpful for writers, especially those of us Indie’s who aren’t backed by publishers.
We can promote our websites all the livelong day. I can post free eBooks, Tweet until my fingers get sore, do the whole social media explosion… the thing that’s gonna sell my books are good reviews. There is currently a glut (I’m quoting from a forum I read this morning) of Indie books on Amazon that are really good but nobody’s buying them, simply because being on Amazon isn’t good enough. Reviews help us stand out from the rest.
I am not looking to get rich. Material possessions mean pretty much nothing to me at this point in my life. Financial stability, however, is a necessity. I was hit extremely hard by the recession in 2009 and I am just happy to have health insurance and a job that pays the bills these days.
This is my only wish – to make enough money as an Indie writer that I can quit my 40+ hour/week day job to write full time.
And why is that my only wish? Because I LOVE to write. It’s new for me, but I love it fiercely. I also love self-publishing. I’d love to spend more time helping other self-published authors get their books noticed. At heart, I guess I’m a tree-hugging hippy. Doing things out of purpose is more important to me than doing them for money. I just think Indie writing is great and the publishing industry sucks.
Here’s my problem – I need money to survive. Thankfully, my bills are really low (the result of growing up poor and choosing never to live beyond my means) and I don’t need a lot of money. I just need to pay this crap called ‘bills.’ You know, stuff like a mortgage, car insurance, cell phone, groceries…
Here’s my other problem – I love to write so much that I want to do it all the time instead of going to a day job that I merely tolerate. I find it hard to concentrate on the job that actually affords me the not-so-posh lifestyle to which I am accustomed.
You know that saying “do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life?” That’s how I feel about writing. I love it, and I merely can not afford to do it as much as I’d like. I know it’s not just me. Any other Indie author who may stumble upon this post feels the same way, I’m almost certain.
Most writers have to work a day job in addition to writing. I think it’s actually 90% of writers, if memory serves me correctly. It’s an unfortunate truth. I realize my dream may never come to fruition, but I’ll be darned if I’m going to sit around and throw my hands up in the air without trying to make this happen for myself. I’m not the kind of person who does anything halfway. I’m all-or-nothing when I find something I love.
And this brings me back to my original point. Why are reviews of free eBooks so important? Because people like me, Shaina Richmond, need to generate interest in their work to be able to create a decent living. Reviews of free books help sell books that aren’t free. They put us at the top of “highest rated” lists. If someone likes our free work, they may be more inclined to buy some of our other stuff.
Isn’t this obvious? Why did I even bother to sit on my couch and write this on a Sunday afternoon when I could be writing part 5 of my series?
Because, even though I absolutely love it when someone writes me an email to tell me how much they loved something I wrote, it would be even better if they would just take a few minutes to log in to Smashwords or Amazon or Barnes and Noble and leave me a glowing 5 star review to tell the world what they just wrote in that email. Because then, others may be more inclined to read my work, and then maybe a few more.. and maybe a few more… and then maybe somebody will absolutely hate it and write scathing things about me… but still, interest will be generated.
And when interest is generated, sales increase. And when sales increase, guess what might happen? Shaina might get to write full time for a living!!! Instead of dreading that horrible alarm clock in the morning, she’ll get out of bed even earlier than that alarm would’ve gone off so she can start writing (which happened last week when I took a day off). Shaina’a mental energy will not be exhausted throughout the day doing something she doesn’t like very much. She will, instead, get to write more. She’ll be a better writer because she’ll have more time to work on her craft. And eventually, if sales are good enough, she’ll write free books just for the heck of it because, even though her audience is small, she will love her devoted cult followers enough to want to dazzle them with her crafty story-writing skills which will be insanely good by that point.
She will also try not to write blog posts where she annoyingly refers to herself in third person.
It took over a month for me to receive any kind of feedback at all about the series I’m currently working on. I did nothing to promote it and didn’t tell any of my friends about it. I was ashamed because I’d never really written anything before and I thought it might be garbage. I saw hundreds of copies of my books were downloaded but I thought maybe people were either indifferent or they just hated it. At the time I had another story posted – one that has been removed for personal reasons – and it got really good reviews right off the bat. That made me feel even worse.
Suddenly, after publishing part 2, I got an email. Then I got another email. Then a few more. Then part 3 came… more emails. And the best thing about the emails was that people seemed to really get involved with the story. They noticed things I wasn’t sure anybody would notice. Some even noticed implicit nuances I didn’t mean for anybody to see until parts 5 or 6 when I decide to make them explicit. And the best part was that they looked past the “erotica” portions of the book. Yes, parts of it are quite graphic. Especially the first three parts of the series. But it wasn’t really my goal to write erotica or erotic romance. I just had a story in my head for a very unconventional romance. It was mostly because I couldn’t find any romance novels that contained what I really wanted to see – a long-haired male lead (blame it on the hair band obsession of my youth) in a story that wasn’t a paranormal romance. No offense to the highly lucrative paranormal romance industry, but it just isn’t my thing.
Oh, and if there were sex scenes I wanted them to just be real and not filled with flowery prose or words like “manroot.” You know what I’m talking about…
Anyway, in response to my emails – aside from the ecstatic physical response of tears coming to my eyes and near hyperventilation – I try to nudge people to write a review. And rarely will they do it.
Come on! If you like my writing that much, leave me a review!! It might spark a few others to read my book and leave a review. And then maybe a few more.. and then maybe I’ll get some bad reviews but it won’t matter because the good will outweigh the bad… and then maybe sales will increase.. and then maybe Shaina won’t have to listen to that blasted alarm in the morning….
Don’t make me write all that again.
I think I speak for all of us who are trying to make it in self-publishing. I freakin’ love self-publishing. Even when I find books that are just really, really horrible. The fact that we live in an age where you can sell your books to people without going through a publisher is pure excitement to me. There are no worries about keeping your number of words to a minimum for the sake of preserving shelf space (even to the point where it hurts your story). There are no book agents, no editors… nobody telling you what to do.
Oh, wait a minute… there are no agents to get you noticed… no editors to help you refine your story… no proofreaders… no marketing department.. I think I need a drink… this is hard! How am I supposed to publish my own eBook and promote it myself and make a living at it without driving myself crazy?
One step at a time. I’ve made money online in the past. It can be done. It takes hard work, time, diligence, accepting criticism and using it to your advantage, and finding your target market. It’s not easy, but it can be done.
And reviews help! Especially if the same people who write me long, adoring emails would just freakin’ log in to a website and shout their praise from the rooftops. Because then, maybe my work will find it’s way into the e-readers of even more people who are quirky and wonderful and interesting, who somehow long for the unique brand of cookies I’m making over here.
I speak for Indie writers everywhere. If you read our free eBooks and you love them, please write a review. Tell the world how much you loved the book. If not for the eventual monetary payoff, it’ll be a great boost to our ego’s. And bigger ego’s lead to more – and better - writing.