Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Generosity marketing is not marketing

I delved into this a little in today's video on Jason Chatraw's blog but it has been the hot topic of speculation since Amazon started its freebie program: is giving away books going to kill us or save us?

Guess it depends on which "us" you are in. I don't want this to be a writing blog, but this is a fleeting historic opportunity to explore generosity marketing, or my preferred nomenclature of "idea gardens." Getting on a million Kindles for free is great for sharing your ideas--who knows whether most of the books will be read, because even though it is voluntary, it takes very little investment on the reader's part. See, click. And with hundreds of sites and Twitter feeds constantly pumping out free book links, we may already be past the point where "free" has value.

And there is a dark side. Free books often get to people who don't want them and don't value them. They will write negative reviews like (yes, this is real), "I got this because it was free but I don't like ghost stories" and the new manifestation, the "Blame the author One-Star" where someone is mad because a book they were told was free (often because the reader stumbled across a days-old blog post) is not free when the reader finally shows up to get it, or they clicked and it didn't download for some reason.

Although this is mind-blowing to me, I hear some writers try to scam by announcing a book as free and then secretly making it not free in hopes of netting unwilling purchases...that is a suicidal tactic in every possible respect. The larger point is that free is not free. It is still a transaction of time, energy, resources, ideas. Fundamental principle of free: once you give it away, it isn't yours anymore.

You are giving away your idea (your seeds, your book) to a reader (who may not be a reader at all, especially not your reader) and hoping the idea blossoms on the other side, in the other person's garden. Whether the other person's idea in the exchange comes in the form of their time or money, or both, it is now in their garden, not yours.

If you can give away without any expectation of return, that is "generosity marketing." That's how the garden works. And the irony is if you don't want or need or expect a reward for your gift, you are more likely to benefit. Because you win either way. If you're going to be free, let free be free.

Free today: Missing Pieces story collection for Kindle
Reading: Robert McCammon's Mystery Walk
Touting: The Epic Kindle Giveaway blog for free kindle thrillers
Warning: Mystery Dance: Three Novels is free for Kindle Friday-Sunday (please review it if you've read the three books in it--Disintegration, Crime Beat, and The Skull Ring.)
Watching: Recently watched District Nine, Inception, and one of the Twilight movies where Pattinson sulks (does that narrow it down?)


Stephen T. Harper said...

Well said, Scott. I've had a lot of luck with the free days on K Select since December, but I've also had both extremes as far as reactions to the material. A couple of peculiar and nasty reviews, but also some terrific reactions from readers who mentioned in their review that they did pick it up when free. Personally, I'm just glad they are reading it.

I think there is a ways left to go before things shake out enough to form dependable patterns. The new world remains exciting and fascinating.

Phil said...

Hi there, Scott. I was fumbling about looking for a new author to read when I came across your name. I freely downloaded Red Church for my Kindle and absolutely LOVED it. As a direct result, I will be pay downloading your entire library, one at a time, of course, as I read them.
Generosity marketing worked on me!
Thanks for your works!


Author Scott Nicholson said...

Hey Stephen, good luck at the roulette wheel!

Phil, wow, you may be the last human on earth who is actually buying ebooks! Thanks.

David L. Shutter said...

Great point Scott, thanks.

And you pic killed me!

Author Scott Nicholson said...

LOL thanks for dropping by, David.

Junying Kirk said...

HI Scott,

Great post and I think you made very valid points. Like the fact that you compare those free give-aways as 'ideas garden'. I feel exactly the same about the freebies. As an author I think it undervalues our hard work, and as a reader, as much as I enjoy freebies, I wouldn't want to read something simply because it's free. We only have so much time.

Author Scott Nicholson said...

Junying, I don't buy into the "value" of the book as how much it earns (I know some authors do, and that's cool). After all, most of the books I read in my life, I got for free or a quarter. Yet they added immense value to my life. (If you watch the video, I go into more detail about that).

You are right, time is the most valuable resource!