I love free stuff. Free stuff is stuff that I didn’t have to buy with my own money, which means that said money can go to other things. Let’s face facts: free is everybody’s friend. I’m not to proud to admit it.
Still, sometimes it’s tough to know what free stuff is good, and what free stuff isn’t. For example, I used to get free toys in my Happy Meals as a kid. Those toys actually kind of sucked, but they were free. There are other free things that I get now. This blog is free. I don’t pay a dime to wordpress to host my blog, and they get to have their name in my URL. Well, technically it’s their URL. But that’s just semantics. Bottom line: free stuff. I also use a free word processor. That’s right, instead of paying good money to Microsoft, I downloaded something comparable for free. I’m not dissing Microsoft – they make a quality product – but I’m tight with my money.
Some of you probably think I’m picking on Microsoft. By no means. I use a Windows PC. I’m just pointing out how easy it is to save some dollars. Self publishers should know how easy it is to spend thousands of dollars. If you don’t, you either haven’t done that research yet, or you got lucky and went straight to the free stuff. I’m looking in the direction of Smashwords, Lulu and Createspace when I say that. They may seem a little less than professional when you look at their websites, but they’re free. That means that anybody can use them with no upfront cost. There is a downside to that, though. Let’s face it, Publishers have editors, who act as gatekeepers to stop a publisher from losing money on a book that won’t sell. A self published author doesn’t have that gatekeeper. I can pay an editor out of my own pocket to improve my writing, but if I decide to just go ahead and publish, there’s nobody to stop me.
So, since I’m talking about free stuff, what about giving away some free stuff? Most of you already know about my free short story, “The Immortal”. You can still get a free copy. In fact, if you haven’t, go ahead and do that now. I’ll wait. Got it? Good. Now let’s move on.
I hear of some authors giving away copies of their books for free. Sounds good. How many? Depends on the budget. Keep in mind, it’s promotional. Maybe your first book can be free, as Many Smashwords authors have been doing. Me? I haven’t figured it out yet. Print is part of my plan, and giving away a free print book to anyone who asks can get pretty pricey.
Something else that’s been gaining popularity is artist patronage. This is actually an old idea, but it’s been given a new twist: fans can pay an amount of their choosing every time an artist produces art. That plan is used by certain podcasters to pay for the time used to create the podcast, while still keeping the podcast free. Would I use that method? I’m not sure. I kind of see books as a product, while writing is the process of developing that product. In the case of a podcast, I could certainly see a benefit. Podcasts cost money, but are usually free to the audience. Patronage presents an awesome way to cover the associated costs, keeping the podcast free to anyone who doesn’t want to pay. There may, indeed, be something to this idea.
I’m going with a fee gift for those of you who have patiently staffed with me, but I’m not giving details just yet. Suffice to say I haven’t forgotten you.