Wednesday 2 July 2014


When you start talking about giving away your work for free, people tend to freak out.

Doesn't it devalue your work?

Why would they buy something if they can get it for free?
Because the purchase has value.

But my work is worth paying for!
Of course. Using free samples will help you sell more.

No one will ever buy books again!
Sales of ebooks are up 38% over the last 2 years (AAP 2014).

All the questions above focus on a sort-of adversarial relationship with your reader. How can I get them to value my work? How can I force them to buy it? Instead, you need to look at ...

Sorry for the interruption, but The Artist Unleashed posts have moved to a new domain. Please click HERE to read the rest of this post and for the opportunity to comment.


  1. Thanks, Jess and Susan...or Susan and Jess, whatever the case may be...I'll let you duke it out for who gets top billing.

    It's like drug dealing—you know, my day job—get them hooked on your sh!t by giving free samples, then watch them crawl to you all sweaty, nervous, jumpy...needing their fix. Yeah. That's the ticket.

    And start them out young...the younger, the better. ;)

    M.L. Swift, Writer

    1. Exactly! I've actually had people "complain" me that giving that first hit of my fiction "free" wasn't "free" at all... the kind of complaining people do when they say "shut up, take my money, and write more." I can't think of a higher compliment. :)

    2. I love that comment M.L.!

  2. Thanks for posting today, Susan. I think people would be so much more better off if they took your approach (and now mine, because you're so very persuasive ... and RIGHT.)

    I have a question for you. I've been thinking of making my debut novel, String Bridge, permanently free. Problem is, it's so very different from what I write now. Do you think this will pose a problem? For example, people who purchase other books from me after reading String Bridge might end up disappointed that the genre/style is a tad different? Yeah, my first three novels are all family drama, but they are all so very different in style from each other. And add to that, my forthcoming novel is a psychological thriller--totally different.

    What do you think?

    1. Just my three matter the genre, your writing is your's good. The reader will see that with "String Bridge." Although subsequent books may be different genres, the voice that is Author Jessica Bell still resonates through each piece. I think one of the things the reader falls in love with is that voice...that style...that je ne sais quoi, and will value that in the other pieces, as well.

      M.L. Swift, Writer

    2. Nice points, Mike. Thanks!

    3. Thanks so much for having me, Jess! And I've watched this "free" argument evolve over the last couple years, and I'm hearing many fewer objections and many more converts - quite simple because it does work (for the vast majority of authors and books).

      To answer your question (and I like ML Swift's response):

      There are three kinds of reader (actually there are 6B kinds of readers, but we're oversimplifying for the moment): true fans, genre fans, and story fans.

      True fans will read everything you write; genre fanswill read anything you write in a specific genre, and story fans will read your particular story/series as long as you write it. You will have some of each kind of reader.

      True fans are the ones ML Swift is talking about. They will sample String Bridge, then go on to read all your work. They are smallest in number, but its hard to overestimate their value - they will rave about your stuff, handsell, review, and purchase. I had a reviewer recently state they had never read a steampunk novel before, but they tried my steampunk because it was a Susan Kaye Quinn novel. LOVE THAT. When you do things to reward your readers, these are the people you are mostly reaching - treat them well!

      Genre fans will read everything you write in a given genre, but may not cross over to your other works. If they liked your family drama novel and you start a new family drama series, they will give it a try. These fans are a little more flexible - if your psychological thriller is similar enough in tone or storyline to your family drama, they might bite. Or that might not be their thing. There are many more readers who will be your genre readers - this is why it's important to write more than one book in a genre (eventually) in order to get the most out of building a fanbase there. And why it's helpful to have at least one free book in every genre you're writing (eventually).

      Finally, story fans - largest in number (for your most popular series), for whatever reason, a particular story/series will appeal to them. They will buy everything related to that work. Having the first work in a series like this free can bring a steady foundation of sales that keeps continuing on and feeding the rest of your series (in case some love that series so much, they're willing to try something else). As long as you write in that series, these fans will be happy. My mindjack series is a classic case of this - I haven't published a novel in that series in a year and a half, but I'm certain that if I did, I would have a lot of people buying it - many more than will buy my new steampunk book that's coming out next week.

      So, strategically, I would plan to have a free sample whenever you're asking fans to cross over from one kind of reader to another.

    4. Holy crap, that was a whole post unto itself. ;)

    5. But a damn good one! Loved that, Susan, and spot-on. I'm still diversifying, so to speak...I'm all over the map with my stories and haven't settled on a specific genre...honing I value set #1, which is essentially all I currently have. People who've read my shorts in various venues and "follow" me because of my style, rather than the genre (or series/story).

      Love this post and your insight, Susan!

    6. What fabulous advice. Thank you so much, Susan!

  3. Great advice. I think putting yourself out there and letting people get to know you and your writing is the best thing an author can do.

    Some people think that readers who read "Free" books are different than the people who pay for books, but even if that's true, getting someone to read your work and potentially talk about it is priceless advertising.

    As a reader, I've picked up books by an author because I got to "know" them through social media and blog post. I liked their humor or personality and thought I'd also like their books. Non-fiction, blogs post, and other non-fiction writing things have introduced me to new authors. BUT, I've also had the opposite happen. I've seen authors behaving badly and it really soured me on their writing.

  4. Oh good to know about the posting of content! Didn't think of that.
    Yeah, once I get my series out, I plan to go free with the first... if that day will every get here. Baby steps. :)

  5. I'm completely sold on the concept of a free sampler and have prepared properly for the launch of my debut crime novel, Invasion of Privacy, next month. But, with only the one novel to my name, there was no way I was giving it away for free. My solution? During the editing process, I removed a fairly long prologue and replaced it with a completely different version that was much shorter (I needed to reduce overall word count anyway). But the old prologue was pretty good and so I came up with a complete parallel story and wrapped it around the old prologue. And voila, I've created a standalone 50-page prequel novella that I will give away for free from day one. As long as people enjoy it, then hopefully they'll want to read on to Invasion of Privacy. That's the plan anyway!

  6. Susan always has good advice. Hi Susan! Free is good. It helps me do reviews for fellow bloggers that might not get done, and it helps those writers have more reviews. There must be reciprocity. That's a fair exchange.

    I get to read a variety of books by the author gifting me and will promote that author if I like his writing, whenever I get the chance, on my blog and on Amazon reviews. You Jessica, are one of the four authors who have offered free copies for reviews or who frequently gift their readers. As a blogger reviewer and fellow writer, I thank you.

    1. After all that, I forgot to say I joined your October Blog tour for White Lady. . .

  7. I'm totally looking into this for research for my east-Indian steampunk fantasy romance. ;)

  8. Thanks for your info! Helpful - let's blog! One of these days I will send you something for Wednesday! Checkout my book - Sto-ology (amazon etc) - a holistic philosophy for the 21st century. 800 references in the bibliography - 550 in link form to go deeper into the varied subject matter.

    Peace & Prosperity,


“I'm using my art to comment on what I see. You don't have to agree with it.” ~John Mellencamp

“Allowing an unimportant mistake to pass without comment is a wonderful social grace” ~Judith S. Marin

“I don't ever try to make a serious social comment.” ~Paul McCartney

“I'd make a comment at a meeting and nobody would even acknowledge me. Then some man would say the same thing and they'd all nod.” ~Charlotte Bunch

“Probably what my comment meant was that I don't care about the circumstances if I can tell the truth.” ~Sally Kirkland

“We're not going to pay attention to the silliness and the petty comments. And quite frankly, women have joined me in this effort, and so it's not about appearances. It's about effectiveness.” ~Katherine Harris