Loree Lough

With nearly three million books sold, best-selling author Loree Lough’s titles have earned 4- and 5-star reviews and dozens of awards. Reviewers and readers alike call her “a gifted writer whose stories touch hearts and change lives.” Her 9/11 novel From Ashes to Honor (#1 in First Responders series, Abingdon) hits bookshelves to coordinate with the 10th anniversary of the tragedy. Loree lives near Baltimore and loves spending time at her teeny tiny cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, where she loves to show off her talent for correctly identifying critter tracks. Visit Loree at http://wwwloreelough.com.

Loree's Lough Down

Everybody Loves Free Stuff … Right?

Lately, while leading workshops and teaching classes, chatting with fellow authors at book signings, and just plain commiserating with writer pals, someone eventually mentions the publishing industry’s latest sales tactic: free downloads of our books to Nook and Kindle owners. Once that proverbial door is open, it’s a pretty sure bet that someone else will ask, “How can we ‘up’ our sales stats if publishers keep giving our books away?”

The topic is one of many in a long list of “new industry trends.” It wasn’t so long ago, as you’ll recall, that we sat around pooh-poohing the at-the-time new trend: ebooks. “They’ll go the way of record albums and eight-track tapes,” we snorted, “because those reader-type gizmos will never take the place of print-on-paper in the hearts of true-blue book lovers!”

Mmm-hmm, and weren’t we just all shades of shocked and surprised when “ereader” and “free download” became household words that struck fear into the hearts of authors for whom “piracy” roused images of captains Hook and Kidd. (Remember when the opening pages of every novel said, “If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property; it was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher received any payment for this “stripped book.”? I guess we can cross that worry off our What to Fret About lists, because there will always be a plethora of Jack Sparrows among us, searching out clever new ways to steal.)

But I digress.

Purists contend that the purchase price and battery life of an ereader, together with the cost of downloads, will add ereaders to the endangered species list. And on the other side of the aisle, industry analysts point out that the high cost of doing business is responsible for the declining number of brick-and-mortar bookstores.

In that strange and eerie place where the two meet, some genius threw the “Give ’em away!” idea at the wall … and it stuck. That means we authors had better figure out how to embrace the philosophy if we want to stand out in the ever-increasing pool of talented writers, because those glory days, when companies pampered authors with huge advances and high-falootin’ book tours, are as gone (to quote a song) as a Civil War soldier. And that means kicking in a few bucks to show our willingness to increase their bottom line: Book Trailers, bookmarks and postcards, pens and key chains … and our cooperation when publishers give away dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of free copies of our books.

But as one friend and published author (I’ll call her Freddie) said, “How can we show good numbers [during each royalty period] if our publishers continue giving away so many copies of our books?”

“We have to look at this giveaway practice,” said another published pro (aka Bub), “as a marketing tactic; if offering a free book inspires a reader to buy one copy of your next book, it was worth the investment. Done properly, your name gets out there. Done enough times, and your name goes viral. And in this business, exposure like that equals success.”

So, is Bub correct when he says that giveaways are a growing trend? Is Freddie’s argument—that free stuff devalues the writer and the book—valid? Should we line up behind Bub, who believes people don’t value things based on what they cost, but on what others think they’re worth? Or follow Freddie, who can’t wrap her mind around the concept that she’s expected to show an increase in the number books sold per royalty period, when the giveaways aren’t counted as sales?

Maybe, just maybe, it boils down to this:

It’s more important than ever that we authors continue writing the best stories we can, while praying like crazy that God will put them in the hands of people who will appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears that went into each. Do that, and we can hope that, after reading a free download, readers will boost the sales of our print books by way of that old-fashioned method: word of mouth.


Honor Redeemed