The Independent Publishing Community is a vast demographic full of incredible talent. Many whom have become best-selling authors.
A common and constant theme I have noticed among this community is a seemingly endless stream of writers who are giving away their content for free. Whether it is through provision of samples of books or all-out free downloads of electronic versions of their books.
Let me say that I certainly respect the choices that people want to make with their product. However, I struggle to understand how this can be a successful marketing strategy.
Most of us in this business are in it because of the drive. Because of the passion for the craft. To be in this business is an incredible privilege. Being able to make a few dollars while doing it is a great part of that privilege. Most writers work hard to attempt to convert those talents into earned income. Many (and I do mean many) hours are spent writing content that may not see the light of day on the printed page or screen. Even best-selling authors and widely read journalists face rejection no matter how well-respected they are.
This is part of the trade.
However, I believe that many writers are selling themselves short and undervaluing their content. One needs to also look at copyright laws in their respective areas. If a writer gives away a file sample of their work for free, or an entire copy of their book and then someone copies it, your copyright laws may not fully protect you from a potential theft of your work.
When I have done some book promo where it involved sending an electronic copy to a media outlet or editor, I have always sent it with the express understanding that they cannot copy the file and freely share it. In many instances I have been fortunate to have editors ask for permission to flip those files on to colleagues who may want to talk to me about my work. This has translated into a few more sales and more press. Giving away content for free will not necessarily translate into more book sales.
Please keep in mind that I consider this very different from giving away copies of printed content. Book giveaways are fairly common throughout the Independent Publishing World and Mainstream Publishing. Printed materials appear to have more copyright protection in place so action could be taken on any possible theft in the unlikely event it were to happen
A fine line must be drawn. Ultimately it is up to the writer to define that boundary. It may be something that changes in order to best accommodate your marketing plan. It is something that may take months to figure out.
The large community of Indie Authors is a tremendously supportive one. So I suggest that you reach out to colleagues and seek input on what has worked well for them. Even those who may have given content away for free, electronically and in print, will have some great advice to give.
If you are uncertain about your copyright laws, it is imperative that you obtain the correct info. I highly recommend that anyone who wants more info on copyright law consider contacting legal counsel who can provide you with more information. Investing a few hundred dollars for that advice could be some of the best money you might ever spend in your career.
Consider if giving away your content for free is truly beneficial. Why sell yourself short?