Does Giving It Away Really Help?

By Neal Comment

Bloggasm considers authors who give their books away online and whether it does them any good, using some case studies that’ll be familiar to longtime GalleyCat readers, including Nick Mamatas‘s Move Under Ground and Peter Watts‘s Blindsight. In that second case, Watts says the online attention not only helped ensure a second printing for his science fiction novel, it may even have tipped the scales in terms of getting the book on the shortlist for this year’s Hugo Awards. But that kind of success won’t necessarily last, he realizes:

“What happens when everybody releases their work through a Creative Commons licence? Then it’s no longer newsworthy, and while it will certainly continue to make my work more accessible to people who already know of my existence, it certainly won’t lure in any new readers the way the Blindsight campaign has done. It’s a niche strategy, in other words. It only works as long as most artists aren’t doing it.”

Marketing expert Seth Godin was a little more optimistic than that last week, when he suggested everyone should write an ebook. Then again, the situations are slightly different; Godin’s not just talking about providing free online editions of your print books, but creating new material strictly for online distribution—and his approach may be best suited for non-fiction writers who want to spread ideas rather than stories.