Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Of Cliffhangers, Free Books, and Cheap B*stards...

This isn't at all the post I imagined I'd be writing, but it's weighed on my mind for the past two days so heavily I haven't thought of much else in my spare time.

Recently, I made the first book in my Jefferson's Road series permanently free. I am told by many on and other kindle-centered sites that this is a particularly effective marketing strategy employed by many authors to entice readers into trying a series. And indeed, nothing sells quite like free. Since going free, my book has been downloaded almost six hundred times (not just Amazon), and I've seen an uptick in sales of the other books in the series. And everything was going along swimmingly, until I received the following review:
I get it. Authors write books to sell and make money from their sale. This author can not be blamed for his effort, his writing abilities, or his product. I very much enjoyed the partial book I just finished but his total overt intention was for the readers to buy the next partial book, the next partial book and the next and so on. Most writers do this but Kindle editions are becoming less than desired due to this process. This partial book would have received 4-5 stars except for the presentation of the alleged ending. Sadly, the author's interest was more in selling his next book than providing enjoyment. I will not fall for it by buying the entire story.
He left me 1 star.

1 star?!! On a book he so clearly believes deserves a 4 or 5?

What really incensed me is this term "partial book," as if somehow, I did not bring Jefferson's Road: The Spirit of Resistance (shameless marketing plug and link inserted) to a full, complete, and satisfying ending.
Which is simply not true. Now, this is what I wrote in response:
Partial book? Seriously? You get a book for free, and then complain because why, the rest of the story isn't free as well? I tell you what: go to my website and contact me directly through the contact form. I will GIVE you the next two book in the series. But don't call these partials. It'd be like calling the first season of a TV show incomplete because they wanted to make a second season. Book one can and does stand on its own, but the story can and does continue on from there. 
The thing is, the Jefferson's Road books are cliffhangers. Each one is designed to end on a massive plot hook that carries you into the next installment. That's the point of the cliffhanger. It is a completely legitimate and rather ancient art form, dating at least as far back as Scheherazade in 1001 Arabian Nights. Now, in Scheherazade's case, she wasn't employing a marketing strategy or trying to sell anything. She was simply trying to stay alive one more night. Her goal was to live one more day, and over time, to make the all-powerful sultan fall in love with her.

Frankly, as a writer, I'm doing the same thing. I'm trying to survive one more day in the cutthroat world of fiction, and hoping to make the all-powerful reader fall in love with me. I don't want the reader's money (per se: because let's be honest, I am trying to earn some dough) as much as I want the reader's heart.

My goal is simply to make the reader say, "I read all six books practically in one sitting, and I simply could not put them down!" as has happened a few times already.

I believe this reviewer would not have given me 1 star if I made the rest of the series free as well. The books each run well over 300 pages, and they take some time to write. That's why I haven't released it as one single, massively long narrative (who am I? George R.R. Martin?). If I had, I seriously doubt I'd have as many readers as I do. Think it has something to do with short attention spans, or people not wanting to give that much time commitment to a new, unheard of author.

Which means, to me at least, this reviewer's chief complaint is that I dared ask him for a couple of bucks, as if selling books is somehow distasteful. Actually, that's not right, either. I didn't ask him for anything. I made a book available for free, which he chose to pick up of his own free will. And he liked it, too. But now he wants the rest free as well? Maybe some day, when I don't need book sales of a single series to help me make my grocery bill, I can offer the entire thing for free and just let the readers enjoy. But for now, I just want to scream,
"Hey buddy! Amazon is a BOOK STORE, not a LIBRARY!"
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