I guess with summer comes the great debate about art being free. Every May or June, I get people asking me why the rest of my books aren’t free and if I’m willing to just give them whatever books they want. I think it has something to do with vacations and vacation mentality. Two weeks ago, I got one of those dreaded private messages… I love the D&R series, I grabbed Tortured & Elysium for free. But when I went to get Mercurial Dreams, it said it was $.4.99. Why do you charge for it? (And or a variation on that “Why do you charge so much for it?”)
Why do I charge for them? Because I don’t want to spend 40 hours a week working at a gas station (or other job) and then another 40 hours a week writing. It saves us all a lot of hassle that I can charge for my books. Even at the incredibly outrageous price of $4.99 per ebook.
For some reason, when it comes to work that is “art” or “creative” based, people seem to think it should be free… all the time. Now, I love a good free ebook, but I don’t expect the author to give away every book they write. That would be unfair to them. Currently, I offer five free ebooks: Tortured, Elysium, Dysfunctional Affair, Short Stories To Read Before The End of the World, and Dark Cotillion. I think that’s fair to me as well as to readers. And I suspect that by the time a reader gets around to Mercurial Dreams, they will either like the series enough to buy book 3 or they will realize they don’t like it enough to pay for it and stop reading it. Of course, the longer I publish the more I realize this is a pretty lofty expectation, because some people do not believe they should ever pay for a book and the internet has made pirating them fairly easy.
Anyway, I responded with I have expenses as a writer. I have to pay for book covers and editing. As well as any promotions I might do. Also, the reason the series has 16 books published with 2 waiting to be published is because since people buy them, I can afford to pay my bills, which allows me to write more books in the series.
The response I got was a first… You expect me to pay $70.00 to read the entire series?
Yes, as a matter of fact I do. I think that’s reasonable. There’s approximately 70 hours of reading in the series meaning it averages out to a dollar per hour of entertainment. Now, I know some get through them faster than that. I read very fast, I would probably spend 40 hours reading the 16 published D&R books. But that’s still less than $2.00 an hour… which means it is still really cheap entertainment. And if you truly love it, then you can easily get more than 70 hours of entertainment out of it, since you own them and can re-read them anytime you like.
Furthermore, if you were to buy every ebook I’ve published, you’ve still spent less than $101 (in US currency). I have friends who work in other fine arts areas (painting, sketching, pottery, etc) and they all say the same thing, people ask why they should have to pay for their artwork.
My final response was to tell that person to talk to their library. I offer special pricing to libraries who buy digital copies. The library can order it and add it to their ebook catalog through Overdrive and a few other services. They might need friends or family to make requests also, since most libraries have a “minimum” number of requests for indie books before they’ll order them.
However, most likely, the inquirer will find a pirated copy and grab it. The point is, I don’t think an artist should be expected to work for free. Whether they paint or write books or create web pages, all of it is a ton of work (I average 500 hours per book on writing, editing, etc).