Giving your work away for free


I’m a huge fan of Jeff Goins.

I read just about everything he puts on his blog, and have used him as inspiration for my true passion and pursuing that even when I don’t have all the answers.

This past week, he announced he was giving away his newest book for free (okay, the cost of shipping, but who doesn’t pay for shipping….shhh with your Amazon Prime nonsense). As an avid reader, I’m all for it. One less expense to think about. As a writer though, I have mixed feelings. In fact, it makes me really nervous to think that I might also have to publish my work and give it away for free.

To recap – I wrote a book during NaNoWriMo and am in the process of editing it. 

There are countless artists and musicians and writers and creatives around the world who are wrestling with this exact same issue. Yes, it’s important to bend to the whims of this new era of “share, trust and expect that you’ll get paid eventually”…but really it doesn’t sound like a great business plan to me. It especially doesn’t sound like something I can pitch my husband on, when we’re both trying to provide for our family while still pursuing our passions…

“Hey honey, my book’s not getting picked up by publishers so I’ve decided to self publish. On top of that, I think we should pay thousands of dollars to print these books and also give them away for free to the first 200-300 people in the hopes that the word will spread and then those people will eventually pay for the book. You’re cool with us banking on hopes and dreams, right?”

I mean, c’mon, doesn’t that sound ridiculous?

And I get where Jeff is going with this and he explains it in his blog post about why he’s giving his book away for free. His book is about the spread of ideas, and he wants these ideas to spread quickly without the constraint of whether or not you can get access to those ideas.

So okay, it worked for Seth Godin…

It’s most likely going to work for Jeff Goins, but I’m not in the business of selling inspirational works of art. I’m trying to put a stake in ground of the fiction world. I’m not asking for you to spread my ideas (unless you want to share this blog which is TOTALLY fine by me). I just want to entertain you. And yes, hopefully that will also garner word of mouth but I’m not asking for it to be spread like wildfire. I want it to be absorbed by those who would appreciate it. I think inspirational ideas reach a much bigger audience because you can use that to fuel whatever endeavor your pursuing. What I’m writing about, much like the way an artist chooses to paint, may not be as widely accepted, because its not intended for everyone.

So I wrestle with this. A lot.

As Amy Poehler would say, “Good for you! Not for me.” As in, good for you Jeff Goins! But I just don’t think that’s the right path for me.

Also, let’s not forget that I actually have a full-time job…where I get paid to write content for a large employer. I’m literally in the business of getting paid for the content I provide. Am I humble enough to say, That’s good enough, all my creative work can be free.” NOPE. To me that diminishes all the hard work I’ve put into what I write. This is the year where I make a go of trying to publish that book and already it’s been an incredible labor of love and I still have a long ways to go. All told, it’ll be about a year’s worth of work. Do I think I’ll make off it what I make in a year at my full-time job? Well, a girl can only dream. But to be honest, I’d be happy making one percent of what I normally make in a year. But then the promise is that I have to keep working and that number has to keep increasing. So make no mistake that I have low expectations of how much I could make in the beginning. To the point where some may even argue “Then you might as well give it away for free.” And to that I say (again), “No. I’m worth more that that. My work is worth more than that.”

What are your thoughts about this new way of things?

Have you ever given your work away for free? Did it work out in the end or did it leave you in the red? Bonus points if you have strong opinions as an artist or writer or other type of creative.

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