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No Free Lunches for Writers

Free Books
Free BooksPhoto by Chris Jackson/Getty Images

There are no free lunches for writers. So why are writers giving away their work for free.
There is a trend, as of late, where novelist are self publishing their work and giving it away for free, or at cost. The idea behind such a odd enterprise is to build an audience by giving out a free taste. That's fine if you're talking about an article or short story, but when writers give away entire books, it creates a false market.
Book authors typically spend several months and sometimes years developing a novel. They often spend their own money for services like editing and cover art on top of the thousands of hours spent working on the book. So it is not unreasonable to ask the reader to pay a few dollars for the privilege of having the book. Even an E-book has value. Yet some are giving the whole cow away by posting complete works on the net or selling on the major distributors for pennies.
The assumption by these non-profit authors is that they can do what they want with their work and giving it away doesn't hurt anyone. Unfortunately, the latter is not true. Most work that is given away often lack the investment in both time and money to make it a quality work. Even the best writer needs the critical eye of a good editor and the diligence of a skilled proof reader. So when these underdeveloped works hit the market, they are scooped up as a bargain over other quality work. The result is a bad rep for the web site that sold the book, missed sales for well developed books and a bad rep for the writer.
The biggest loser is the consumer who is left with guessing a new books quality on its price tag. A number of writers who publish quality books still make very little on there books, as they take a minimum royalty in an effort to keep the work marketable, a fair price for a good product. An endeavor that becomes more complex in a new age of digital products. How is the person who has a love for good books to choose? Imagine shopping for a car on-line. Half the cars range between $5,000 and $25,000. The other half range between $100 and $3000. Which ones do you check out first? Assume that on the surface the cheep cars look just the same as the expensive cars, have the same specification and even claim to be the same quality. Do you still assume the cheep cars are lemons or do you take a chance on a great deal? Now consider logging onto your favorite web site that sells new books. Most sell a wide selection from most publishers. It can be nearly impossible to tell the difference from a self published book from a big name publisher. Can you judge a book by its cover? Give it a try.
Living in the digital age has made it easy for anyone to be a writer. Computers check spelling and correct grammar. Yet quality can very easily be substituted by quantity. The only thing that will prevent the industry from becoming a sad shadow of its former self is the consumers. If those who love books take the time to educate themselves and only purchase quality works, then the freebees will die away on the discount rack.