I just realized that I forgot one of the books I read last month. Not sure how or why, but I failed to repost on The Magic Bakery: A WMG Writer’s Guide by Dean Wesley Smith. I am actually happy that I left it for its own post because I found it to be a very important book. It didn’t really change the way I am writing, but it encouraged me to get back and finish these books and get them published. (I am almost done with final edits before formatting of the second book, Once that is done, I will format it and then go back for a final read-through of the first book.) Smith’s point in the book is that you need to have more product available for sale if you want to really sell anything. After all, if you went into a bakery and there was only one pie or only one cake, would you really buy it? He says we probably wouldn’t. So I am working in my writing again, and that makes me happy.
This book also changed the way I look at the books I buy and the books I read. As I have said frequently, I primarily get free books either for my Kobo or my Kindle. I have tons and tons of books I have gotten that way. Some of them have been great and some of them have been not so great, but overall, I have been happy. Smith says that an author might want to think twice before offering a novel for free, and I understand his arguments. He doesn’t say not to do it, but he raises some good points. He says free should be used to help sales. He seems to favor free chapters of the next book included in the current one or free short stories on your website. In Chapter 6 he says:
The key in sales are LIMITED and SHORT TERM. Keep free short term and limited and never put it on a bookshelf anywhere.
And that makes a lot of sense. He compares it to the free samples you often see in grocery stores. You don’t get a whole pie there, but you get enough to decide whether or not you want to buy a pie.
He also talks about pricing your work. He talks about new writers who feel they have to give their stuff away or price it at 99 cents. And he says that is wrong. When we walk into a dollar store, most of us assume the low price means poor quality. As a reader, I find myself sometimes feeling the same way. If it is free or 99 cents, I don’t care so much if it isn’t a great book. But if I pay even $3.99, I expect it to be a good book, a well-told story.
As a reader, I should probably value my time more and demand higher quality books all the time. As I writer, though, I hesitate to think my books are worth even $1.99, much less $3.99! That is an issue I am going to have to come to terms with here soon.
Smith talks about readers like me who (generally speaking, at least) only read free or 99 cent books. He dismisses us as not his customer. And that made me stop and think. I found myself wanting to be his customer. And since I have read many of his books, I think I am his customer. So what does that mean for my addiction to free books?
What it has done is made me decide that I am going to spend more for books. I will buy fewer, probably, but that is OK. I have a lifetime of reading on my ereaders if times get tough! But I owe it to authors whose work I enjoy and those whose work I might enjoy to support them by paying money for their books. Actually, I had started doing this already. I have for some time now spent money for the next book in a series I was enjoying. But now I am more committed to that.
I am also committed to continuing to buy books through StoryBundle and HumbleBundle. That way I support authors and can support charity. I am paying more than I have to now, and it is still a good deal for me.
I don’t think I have adequately explained the way this one book has affected my life, but I hope you can get a vague sense of it, at least. And yes, I really recommend the book to any writer out there who is struggling to get published. All of Smith’s books on writing that I have read have really encouraged me, but this one just came at the right time to have a big impact.