Since February of 2020, across all of my currently released books, I’ve given away 2,348 copies through Amazon’s free promotions, another 358 to users who have signed up for my mailing list, and another 47 ARCs. That’s 2753 complete novels out in the hands of the world at zero cost to the reader (except those email addresses for those who signed up that way). What I get in return is eyes on my stuff and the occasional rating and/or review.
The rest of this post is just me blathering, but I do have a question for other self published authors: Do you have numbers like this? Is it worth it? How do you see freebies/giveaways/promotions and when do you consider yourself more valuable, if ever, than this?
I don’t know enough about the rest of the world, but it seems like the arts get the brunt of this push to give away your work for free or for very little. (I have just a love/hate for the $0.99 novel!) Of course unpaid internships are worse (and should be illegal), I’ve just been pondering those jobs you have to do for free until someone’s willing to pay you. Husband pointed out it’s somewhat similar to starting a new job and putting in unpaid overtime and working extra hard to try and get ahead or just recognized. He’s not wrong, and it all kind of stinks, but I don’t know another way for creatives to do this.
But then it’s not just writing for free, which I guess most people who don’t write look at as a hobby anyway–it’s pouring money into your writing and then still giving it away for free. This isn’t to say it’s not worth it to possibly succeed someday, and I’m still not advertising yet, so maybe that will change everything, it can just be so degrading to look at the numbers. When I see how many downloads I have, I actually do get incredibly excited. I think about all those people who potentially have my book on their Kindle and might just deign to read a page or two, and it fills my heart with absolute joy, but them the reality settles in that people don’t really value what they get for nothing, and I know most of them aren’t reading it.
It’s been hanging on me heavy for the last day or so, and I think there’s a certain depression that it’s easy to fall into post book release that I’m in now. All of this hard work has been wrapped up, and the anxiety and excitement has finally been spent, and I’m just left with…what? More work. Work that I love, don’t get me wrong, but without much of a paycheck or recognition, those things get replaced with fear and doubt. Is this what I should be doing? Am I making the right decisions? Will anyone remember any of this in a year’s time? It gets weirdly morbid, and usually I love that kind of stuff, but not in this context because motivation is significantly more important right now.
So there are 2700+ copies of my word vomit floating in the world which is ultimately pretty cool. There are a few more copies that have actually been purchased which is totally rad and doesn’t go unrecognized, it just doesn’t negate the musing on what all this is for. And to be clear, I’m not looking for pity or encouragement, I just want to find a way to be better and worth it.