Tuesday, July 1, 2014
And then there's the Internet. Do you want to find all the web pages that talk about kittens? Do a google search and you'll get hundred of links to sites related somehow to kittens. And what did you have to pay for this? Nothing! It's free.
If you have a smart phone, you can go online to one or another web site and search for applications. And if you're lucky, there's an app for that. And most of the time that's free, too. Which is great.
If you're a writer, particularly an indie writer, you may have noticed that your biggest problem is obscurity. The people who know you look up your work on Amazon or wherever, and they can buy it for a nominal amount. But you aren't rich and famous because nobody knows to look up your work on Amazon.
One approach that indie writers adopt is giving away free samples. You can find some of their stories for sale for $0.00. This is in hopes that you'll realize you like their work and you'll buy other stories at $3.00 or more.
If I change roles, and think of myself not as consumer, but as producer of software, of ebooks, of cell phone apps, of music, of videos, etc. I have a problem with this attitude. As a producer of works art, I'd sort of like to get paid for it, otherwise I'll starve. Or do something else.
So, I've got an opportunity to build my reputation online via giving away freebies, but I can't start charging for anything I've been giving away. Once I start charging, it's like the girl who's been giving you sexual favors announcing that henceforth she's raising her prices to match the hooker standing on the corner. It changes the entire dynamic.
However, suppose you've enjoyed the sexual favors of some toothsome lass and after you're enjoying the afterglow, she casually mentions her favorite brand of champagne, or chocolate. This will transfer some of the good feelings you've recently gotten from the free goods to these other goods. You may then realize that you're thirsty for champagne or hungry for chocolate.
What I'm saying here is this:
The only thing you can reasonably expect from a freebie give-a-way is a referral.
Suppose you give away a really great iPhone app. You won't be able to raise your prices, but if that app creates value for a lot of people those people will think well of you. And if you ask them to refer their acquaintances to a related-but-different product, I think you can reasonably expect them to mention it. For instance, I might give away the sound track, but sell a movie. Or give away an iPhone app, but sell computer consulting.
The trouble with indie writers giving away book A in hopes of driving sales to book B is that the reader of book A holds in her hands proof that the book can be reproduced so cheaply you can give it away, so there's little reason to believe book B is not produced just as cheaply.
If you're an indie writer who wants to drive business to your stories, you'll have to find something related-but-different that you can give away freely. And all you can expect from that freebie is some gesture of gratitude on the part of the recipient. I don't quite know (yet) what that related-but-different freebie might be, nor do I know how to create a system that enables gestures-of-gratitude.
If you have any ideas, let's hear them.
Posted by steve poling at 11:25 AM