Author Katie Mettner

The Two Things We have To Stop As The Indie Writing Community


Hi, nice to see you here! If you're here, then my title intrigued you enough to click over, which I appreciate. Today, I'm here to talk about the two things we have to stop doing in the Indie writing community. They're simple, and they both tie to the one thing we aren't doing in the Indie community, and that's valuing our work. What do I mean by that? It's simple, we aren't putting a value on our work because we're too busy trying to build our brand and get readers. Many of you are saying, "Well, duh. That's what we're here for, Katie! Without readers our books sit on the dusty Kindle shelf unread." I agree with you. Without readers our books sit mutely. Read on to see why I say these two particular 'marketing strategies' have to stop in order for us to truly build a reading community that values us and our work. 


via GIPHY

1. DEATH TO FREE BOOK DAYS

This isn't a new idea. It's been brought up, hashed out, and fought over for years now. The truth is, while it's a marketing strategy many use, it is devaluing our work. In fact, some argue free books are the number one way we are devaluing our work as indie authors. Let's think of it in terms of classical conditioning or Pavlov's dog. We're conditioning the reader to expect our work to be free. Maybe not right away, but eventually, if they wait long enough, that book we're charging $3.99 for on Amazon will go free for a day or two and they can pick it up then. We've, as a community, conditioned readers to see a new release they want, add it to their wish list, and as soon as that $0.00 shows up on Amazon's listing they frantically download it. Unfortunately, for most books, that's where it ends. The free book sits on the dusty Kindle shelf for years, unread and forgotten about. Why? It's simple. They didn't pay for it. They have no skin in the game with a free book. Have you ever noticed that the Big 5 publishers never give away free books in the manner the indie community does? They always charge .99, 1.99 or even more if it's a popular author or book. The thing is, they know that if I go pay $1.99 for a Nora Roberts book, I'm going to read it before I read that free indie author's book I downloaded. It's human nature. For full disclosure, I've run two free book days. One for a short Christmas novella in 2013, and one for a contemporary romance in 2014. While I had great success with downloads, I had little success in getting reviews, which told me few people read the books once they downloaded them. I never ran another free book day because I quickly understood how few people read them, review them, or come back and buy other books, which is the basis for giving away a free title. Now, instead of giving away books free (other than at request or for parties etc), I have several marked at .99 every day, and several sales I do at .99 every month on various different books. What I've seen is a slow, but steady, building of readership following who are devoted, read the books, and review them on a regular basis. Isn't that what we want? We, as an indie community want more readers, but we want, and need, readers who actually read, and we want readers who are committed to reading so much that they PAY for our work. Now, you say, "but it's not all about money, Katie!" And I say, you're right, it's not. I've always said I'll give anyone a free book who asks for it, and I will. I'm not saying we have to stop giving free books to readers who ask for it to review, bloggers who want to review, as prizes at parties, giveaways on Amazon to build followers, giveaways on Goodreads for whatever reason sane people go to that website, or to your family and friends. Those are the kind of free books I love because we can control them. We have a reasonably good idea that if we give a copy to Blogger Joanne, that she's going to review it if she likes it. We have no idea if we run a free day where thousands of copies of one book is downloaded, if even one of those people are going to read and review it, but I CAN say, we just lost out on thousands of sales because now they don't NEED to buy it, we just gave our hours of hard work away for free.


2. ANTHOLOGIES AT .99

This applies if it's a group of authors doing an anthology not a box set of the same author's books. The reason I say this practice has to end is twofold. The first is, if you're selling 10 or 20 books for .99, no one is making any money. The charity be touted to get the money won't actually see any, it's simply a veiled way to get onto the bestseller list (I actually received an email from an author in one of these anthologies who laid out exactly how they managed to push their anthology into the bestseller list so they could each claim they were a bestselling author, and exactly how they each spent thousands on advertising and on gifting people books<----- This is a problem!). Anthologies, like any book, need to be priced to show they are valued by the authors involved. If you price an anthology at even $2.99 the authors are telling readers they all care about the work included in the volume. It also tells the reader the authors care about the charity they are raising money for. Asking .99 for ten novels while claiming it's for charity is quite pointless. Personally, I stay away from them on the principle of the price, but also because I wonder about the quality if they are asking so little. Value your work! I'd be better off taking the story I was going to publish in the anthology and publish it myself, then donate the entire royalty to the charity. We'd both come out farther ahead. The idea that you have a group of authors promoting the same work is a good strategy, if the anthology is priced to reflect its content AND honesty and integrity is in play with marketing it (see above).



The burning question you're asking is why? Why does it matter what other authors do? Why does it matter if people give thousands of books away? That's their business. While you aren't wrong, it is hurting everyone. The answer to the why is one word: AMAZON. Have you noticed they have different rules for indies than they do for the Big 5? Why? Because the Big 5 don't give away books or try to manipulate rankings. They also value their authors' works because they invest money in them (which we also do, and that's why the idea of giving it all away for free still stymies me), and they know giving away books isn't a sustainable business practice. They also know that readers will BUY books when they don't expect to get them free. The fact is Amazon has allowed the free days with their KDP enrollment and even allowed permafree on their site, though an author does have to get other people to manipulate Amazon into lowering it. As long as we are giving away our work and undervaluing it, Amazon will never consider the Indie community on the same level as the Big 5. We can't control a lot of things in the Indie community, but we can control how we value our work. We can control what marketing tactics we use to build a reader base, and when our main goal is to get readers to read our books, free is no longer a beneficial marketing goal for anyone. However, until we come together and say we're done giving our work away, we will continue to be looked at as less than in the eyes of the people who distribute our books and who read them.

How do we come together to do this?
  1. If you're an author, don't put your book on the free days for Kindle. Lower the price to .99 for a sale, but ask something for the book.
  2. Don't be part of anthologies that won't charge more than .99 for their collection (Unless it's a short sale or the content are short flash fiction style stories). You'd be better off publishing the story you were going to give them yourself and charging for it. Sure you might lose out on that anthology going to the top and being able to say you're a 'bestseller', but is a bought title worth it in the end?
  3. Don't download free books. Especially if you don't plan to read it and are only doing it to help lower the rank on the book. 
  4. If you're going to run a Bookbub ad, charge .99 for it. It costs more, but when people have some skin in the game they'll actually read the book. When they read the book, they might review it. If they like the book they come back for more, which means you are being valued for your work.
It seems like an insurmountable task to change the ideas of so many people, but if enough authors start standing their ground about valuing their work, eventually more and more authors will decide their work is valuable too. A movement needs to start in the Indie writing community to value our work, produce high quality novels, and take back the title as most valued in the industry. We are the only ones who can offer readers something different, something fresh, and maybe something they've maybe been craving to read for years. I think that's worth valuing.