I confess--I do go to Amazon to check my book stats, leaving me either elated or depressed each day. I know. Pathetic, isn't it, but I can't help it.
But if you click on my name the first book that appears is The Amersham Rubies. It's a short story that my publisher had me write to entice new readers to Molly Murphy. It says clearly A Molly Murphy Story on the cover, and it also contains a teaser for the next book. Oh, and it's free.
And it was also the first time in my life that I got one star reviews. Why, you may wonder. It's actually a good, fun story but the one star reviewers were bitching that it wasn't a full length book. "I feel cheated" some of them wrote. Did I mention that it was free? That they were getting a free Rhys Bowen short story to entertain them?
The problem is that there are now plenty of authors out there so desperate to have their work read that they are ready to give it away. Amazon readers have become used to finding whole books given away free. I find this a dangerous and scary trend. I am a writer by profession. It takes me half a year to complete a book. This means essentially that these Amazon readers expect me to live on air for six months. The government doesn't fund me. There is no generous charitable foundation slipping me money. I write for a living. It's like calling in the plumber to fix a leaky sink and then expecting him to complete the job out of the goodness of his heart.
But because so many writers are now willing to put up their work for free, readers are feeling entitled. So what is the answer?
Another worrying element is that many of these books are what we in UK would call UTTER RUBBISH. They are poorly written, poorly constructed and are crying out for good editing. I'm not saying that all free books are like this, but a good number are. They haven't sold elsewhere with good reason.
This should be good news for me and fellow writers who write good books, you would think. But I'm worried that someone who decides he might like to read a mystery and tries one of these give-away books will decide that mysteries are not worth reading because they are poorly written. He will then trash all mysteries.
I'm not sure if there is a solution to this. One can hope that good literature will always find a market. But I'm waiting for the entitlement to spread to other industries. The day they start handing out free designer fashions, I expect I'll be first in line.
So let's hear what you think--are free books a good way to discover new authors? Do you think writers should give their work away for nothing?