Someone paid for it.
FREE in the context of this blog post applies to material things, which means there is a financial cost involved, as opposed to “the best things in life are free,” such as inner peace. But even the latter could have come at a cost.
Some time ago a fellow writer, Ray (not his real name), asked me to lunch. He wanted to celebrate the release of his current novel, the third in his science fiction series. He had just received a print proof of the book and the excitement in his voice was obvious. But he didn’t look at all happy when he arrived at the restaurant.
We ordered and our server brought our drinks, iced tea for me and wine for Ray. “What I really need is a stiff drink,” he said as the server left to place our lunch orders. I couldn’t imagine what had soured for him in the three days since he had invited me to lunch.
After a gentle probing on my part, he said, “I love the book cover. It’s not that.” I agreed, the cover looked great. “It should,” he went on to say. “The book designer charged me a small fortune.”
I smiled. “Come on, Ray. There’s no such thing as free. You knew that when you made the decision to self-publish.”
He glared. “I know. So why does everyone else expect something for free?”
“First, I had to pay to have my website professionally designed. Then it took me a year to do the research and another two to write and polish the manuscript before I had a professional editor edit it. Then I hired a book designer to design the cover and the interior layout. I paid to have the print book typeset and to have it converted to an e-book. And, I paid to have the book proofread.”
Wondering where all of this was leading, I said, “But you uploaded both editions to Barnes and Noble and Amazon at no cost, right?”
“Yes, but I paid ebookpartnership for worldwide e-book distribution and IngramSpark for print distribution. And, I paid to have the book reviewed and to enter a contest.”
“All optional costs.”
“I know, I could’ve done that myself and saved the money, but the point is I’ve paid and paid.”
“But look at what you have.” I motioned to the print proof sitting on the table. “From what I can see, you’ve accomplished your goal of a quality product, so what are you angry about?”
“I haven’t even begun to promote the book, never mind sell it, so I hired a publicist.”
He swigged his wine. “It all started with my website designer. He asked for a free copy of the book. He’s in Canada. Do you know what it costs to mail a book to Canada?”
“Off the top of my head, no, but I know there’s no media rate on international shipments and Canada is considered international. And worse, you have to fill out the custom paperwork.”
“It cost me $13 to mail it, and the book sells for $13.99. Not to mention standing in line for over a half hour to mail the damn thing. What’s the old saying? Time is money?”
“Backtracking, when I got the contract from my editor, it states that she’s entitled to a free book once it’s released, so she can put it on her bookshelf.” He rolled his eyes.
Our food arrived and our server freshened our drinks.
Ray held up his hand. “I’ll cut to the chase. The book designer wanted three free copies of this book and three each of the two previous books to be sure the series had continuity.” He took a sip of wine. “God bless my proofreader, who did not ask for a free book, because that afternoon my publicist emailed asking for all three books in the series so she could bring herself up to date. In the next paragraph of the email she said I should offer the current book as a giveaway on Goodreads and offer my first book free on my website—to build my mailing list. And she would need at least twenty-five ARCs—advance reader copies—to give to reviewers, right after I signed the printer’s contract and provided him with a credit card number so he could print the ARCs. Oh, and she had ten other reviewers who were willing to accept the e-book edition.” He set down his glass. “Ten free e-books. She signed off by saying she had entered me in four contests, and to be sure I mailed their free copies by the end of the week. They want print editions.”
“All I can say is, as an author I empathize.”
“And Amazon will pay me 70 percent royalties minus the printing for the print edition, minus this, minus that…”
I flagged our server.
“What really set me off was bumping into an old friend as I was entering the restaurant. He bragged about lending my second book to six friends who enjoyed it as much as volume one, which they also passed around. ‘Beats buying fourteen books,’ he quipped. But here’s the clincher. My publicist said she wouldn’t be attending any writers’ conferences this year, because all people wanted to do was pick her brain on how to promote their books. I quote: ‘Everyone wants something for nothing.’”
Our server arrived. I ordered a refill for Ray, refused more tea, and asked for a glass of wine.
I consoled Ray for an hour, paid for our lunches, and drove home. The first e-mail to pop up on my computer screen read, “Are you really taking a hiatus from blogging, or are you taking a break?” It was from a blog subscriber. “A hiatus sounds like you’ll be gone for ages, while a break sounds like a short absence. Regardless, what will you do with all that free time?”
I’ve never viewed time as being free. It’s a priceless commodity. Harvey Mackay, a businessman, author, and syndicated columnist, said it best:
“Time is free, but it’s priceless.
You can’t own it, but you can use it.
You can’t keep it, but you can spend it.
Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.”
He also said, “A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline.”
So what was I going to do with all of my free time during my hiatus? Let’s see. I have a dream, a goal with a plan, and a deadline for book four in the Darcy McClain and Bullet Thriller Series. I guess it’s back to work on CLON-X and my next blog post where we head Down Under.