The Allure (and Danger) of “Free”

I get that people like to get things for free, but pirating a book when you know it’s stealing baffles me. Maybe I’m more sensitive to it because I am a writer myself, and I know that the author likely spent years on that book.

I really could not understand the pirates’ belief that somehow they DESERVED to have this for free. That they were ENTITLED. Why would anyone feel that they deserved to get a product for free? Where does that attitude come from?

I never understood it—until I experienced it myself.

I played with the idea of changing the look of my blog, so I browsed the Free Themes section. And I got irked because none of the free themes did the things I wanted. I saw a few paid themes that looked like they might do the trick, but WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO PAY? Is it too much to ask that JUST ONE free theme does what I want?


There’s that entitled attitude.

A lot of stuff on the Internet is free. That is a wonderful thing. The problem is, all that free stuff (a lot of it good-quality free stuff) primes you to want more free stuff. If they give away X free, why not X+1? And then because you got Level 1 free, you feel somehow cheated when you can’t get Level 2 free.

How well this equates with the feelings of a book pirate I don’t know, but I think the same basic theory applies. “Some books are free, why should I have to pay for any?” While I’m sure the psychology of it is more complex than that, it leads me to the dangerous part of “free.”

Devaluing a product is a slippery slope.

With the rise of ebooks, many authors use free books to prime the pump. They use 99¢ books to draw readers. They keep their books priced $2.99 or less to attract downloads. All of those promotional strategies are fine in themselves, and I’m all for using them in small doses. But when it leads to scores of books always selling for under $3, readers begin to believe the value of ALL such work is under $3—and don’t want to pay more.

They value your years of research, writing, and editing as worth less than a throw-away cup of coffee.

Once your work is devalued, it is almost impossible to bring the price point back up. People come to expect—to believe they DESERVE—your work at the lower price. This devaluation of our worth is in part what agency pricing was meant to stop.

What happens to the authors when all ebooks have to be priced under $2.99 or no one will buy them?

Pricing is deviously hard—but so is writing. Be sure to consider the value of your time and effort when pricing your book.

YOU deserve it.

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