“Don’t Give Anything Away For Free” and God’s Leading (Warning: I Discuss My Faith, To a Point)

I hear this one a lot from writing circles, and it’s always annoyed me.  But now I’m moving into the ‘this is pissing me off’ stage.  Another adage that pisses me off is the ‘you get what you pay for’ sentiment.  Since when has the value of an author’s work been equivalent to the price tag?  Look, I don’t begrudge an author to make a profit off their work.  I think they should.  The time should come when we should be able to make a living off our writing.


(Yeah, you probably knew I was ready to throw that word in there.  ;))

Here’s the thing.  Generosity is a wonderful character trait.  The problem in writing circles is that there are a group of people who will do their best to cut you down and make you feel guilty for exercising this generous spirit.  I went through a rough patch last fall where I caved and went against my better judgment because I was pounded to death by other authors who were mad that I dared to price full-length novels at $0.99 or…even worse…offered them for free.  In a lot of ways, I became a real jerk to my readers because my bad mood was showing up in the wrong direction.  Or to state it another way, my anger at these authors was turning around and affecting how I was interacting with my readers.  That was definitely not good.  I didn’t like the person I became.

You want to know what losing that generous spirit did to me?  It hurt me on a lot of levels.  For one, it made me think my work was crap unless I charged what those authors wanted.  I really hated my writing for awhile, so was it no wonder I shut down in October and again in December through part of January?  I couldn’t write more than two sentences at a time.  My only reprieve was in November when I was able to share my work publicly without criticism because it was all for National Novel Writing Month.

Then I felt like a failure as a writer.  Why?  Because I couldn’t write.  I was frustrated and angry because my joy (the writing) had been taken away from me.  It’s hard to write new material or even care about the old when you’re stuck in a pit of self-loathing.  The authors who criticized me for daring to price at $0.99 and give some of my work away for free were now cheering me on since I’d officially ‘joined the club’, but what good was being a writer if I couldn’t write? 

The ‘I wouldn’t pay for your work at any price because you’re a self-published author’ emails didn’t help either with my mood.  That was why I started making it a requirement for people to be on my Facebook Author Page or sign up for my newsletter to get anything new from me free.  As much as I enjoy being generous, I don’t particularly care to be generous to people who don’t appreciate it.  

The cycle continued, and I felt myself becoming bitter and resentful and wanting to quit writing altogether.  I’d like to say there was some cataclysmic event that snapped me out of my funk, but there wasn’t. 

One day, I was sitting at my computer, staring at two sentences I managed to type in thirty minutes and asked, ‘Why am I not happy?’  Well, things are about to take a religious turn in this post, so if Jesus offends you, I suggest you stop reading here.

The answer was simple.  I wasn’t listening to God anymore.  I was listening to man.  As trite as it sounds, God’s way is to be generous.  He freely gives, and He’s the source of happiness.  True, there’s nothing wrong with an author wanting to make a living at his/her work.  It’s still work, after all.  Work that is easily criticized and dismissed under the ‘get thick skin’ sentiment.  But just because someone hates a book, it doesn’t mean work didn’t go into it.  Most authors I know do their best to produce a high quality book. 

That being said, if the author wants to give a story or two or whatever away for free, what’s the harm?  Who is being hurt by this?  If this is the author’s choice, leave the author alone.  If the author has some books out for $0.99 by choice, then how is that going to hurt another author? 

The argument, in case you don’t know, is that it devalues the work of all authors because people expect free and/or cheap books, so they will never buy a book at a higher price.

Here’s my argument in reply to that one.  Granted, people will impulse buy a $0.99 book or download a freebie without thinking about it.  But, no one is going to spend another $0.99 or download another freebie by the same author if they didn’t like the story.  Why?  Because there are too many free and $0.99 books available. 

Does it stop people from buying more expensive books?  Nope.  There are tons of authors who price their books higher than mine who sell better than I do.  They also never gave anything away for free or priced anything at $0.99.  Enough people think their books are worth buying at the price they set for the book.  And the reason those people are able to sell as many copies as they do is because of word of mouth. 

So the whole campaign by some authors to gang up on other authors and harass them to raise the price of their books is ridiculous.  Not only that, but it’s ultimately hurtful.  

I’m emerging on the other side of the coin now.  The side that is all about being generous, and my joy slowly returning.  My ability to put words to paper is also slow in coming, but at least I can get more than two sentences written in a half hour.  It takes one second to tear down something and lots of time to build it back up.  If I feel God is leading me to make a future work free or to price it at $0.99, I will.  If I feel that it’s right to price the book at $2.99, I will.  I’m no longer listening to other authors.  I seek out God’s will first. 

When I started publishing romances, I felt God was directing me in writing the type of romances I was.  And most people don’t realize how hard I pray over the erotic romance genre.  So far, I have not given some feeling or leading to stop writing erotic romances.  Why?  Who knows?  I keep telling God if He ever wants me to pull out of it, I will, and I’m ready at any moment to take down everything Kate Page and convert it all to Ruth.  But who knows?  Maybe there’s a purpose in the erotic romances that I don’t see. 

That genre, much like the romance one, is full of sex before marriage or other things I’m not in agreement with due to religious beliefs.  So maybe as I filled a niche in romance, there’s a niche to be filled in erotic romance.  You’d be surprised by how many women on discussion boards want romances more erotic that feature a husband and wife.  No threesomes.  No premarital sex.  No affairs.  No incest.  No beastiality.  They just want a husband and wife with a sex life spicer than a steamy romance novel.  I’ve looked for those kind of novels, and much like the romance genre, I couldn’t find was I was looking for.  If romance novels had already been written according to what I wanted, I never would have wrote my first romance novel.  I probably would have stayed with thrillers and fantasies.

But between September to December of 2007, I searched and searched everywhere and couldn’t find what I was looking for.  So I sat down and started to write.  Fast forward to Feb. 28, 2011, I have published 20 romance stories, and I can’t even count how many emails I’ve received from women who thank me for writing romances the way I do.  What I’ve learned from this is that when I follow God’s leading, surprising things happen.  This isn’t to say it’s all smooth sailing.  I’ve had to deal with several uphill battles over the years, but at the end of the day, I can see the big picture and see how it all connects.

So if you’re a Christian and think I’m on the wrong path in writing erotic romances, then pray that God will give me the message.  Make sure to include I might have to be bopped on the head because I really am not the type of person who gets a ‘hint’.  I need it spelled out for me in black and white.

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out https://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.
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6 Responses to “Don’t Give Anything Away For Free” and God’s Leading (Warning: I Discuss My Faith, To a Point)

  1. Congratulations on successful self-publishing. I am writing my first romance novel right now and looking into self publishing, only if it turns out good enough for the world to see, of course! I’ve been a writer for many years, but never fortunate to get paid for prose work, and it’s kind of a relief to write in prose after so much time forcing myself to think visually – it’s flowing really nicely. And I was so worried at first!

    But enough about me. What I wanted to say was that probably you’re hearing from other authors a mixture of confusion about how self publishing works, and probably a good chunk of jealousy as well. If you’ve checked out Amanda Hocking’s blog, she spells out the value of selling your book at 99 cents or 2.99. That price point really matters to a lot of readers, myself included! The truth is, as a reader, when I pick an unknown, self-published author, I’m taking a risk, not just of my money, but of my time. If I like that author, I will come back again and again for her (or his) books and I’ll find out what else she’s written and buy that too. But the 99 cent price point means that I can afford that initial risk and afford it on LOTS of authors. That’s good for everyone, right? When I “splurge” and buy a Harlequinn novel at 3.50 or so, I’m willing to spend that “extra” money primarily because I know an editor has picked this author and this book to publish. It means my chance of being satisfied is higher than with an author whose only editor is herself. As a reader, I’m paying for that one degree of professionalism between the author and myself. I don’t have a lot of free time, so sometimes I want a “guarantee” that it’ll be a reasonably good book and I’m willing to pay extra. But often, I want to take a chance on a new author or three, and then the price point helps YOU, the author, get to me, the reader that you wouldn’t have had access to if you’d priced it at 3.50 or (shudder) 5.99. It’s better to have 500 readers at 99 cents each than 20 readers at 5.99. Especially if 20% of them come back for more! Your naysayers are not seeing the forest for the trees.

    Good luck and may your writing flow.

    • That’s great to hear that you’re writing a story! It sounds like you’re really enjoying it. 😀

      I agree with you about the prices. I have a much easier time trying a new author if something is $0.99 than I do at a higher price. $1.99 is still in the ball park, but I see little of those prices. It’s usually either $0.99 or $2.99. I believe the reason authors get upset with the $0.99 authors is that they are afraid people will buy books at $0.99 instead of at their price. So snagging the potential market probably has a lot to do with it. I know I’d rather try a new author at $0.99, and some authors have lost my sales because they only have $2.99 or higher reads. If I like the author, I’ll buy their other books for a higher price without batting an eyelash, unless we’re talking over $5. For some reason, I can’t see myself spending that much on an ebook unless it’s a very niche book. So I’m with you, and I price books at what I’d be happy to pay for a book.

      I also agree that it’s better to have more people reading your book at a lower price point. The whole point of writing a book is to share it, and the more people who read it, the better the chances are of finding people who’ll enjoy it. I know I don’t write for everyone, but making it as easy as possible for finding those that do like my work is more important than getting an extra couple of bucks off of one sale.

      Thanks for giving me your perspective on things. I really appreciate it!

  2. boyonabudget says:

    Just remember next time someone is pointing a finger at you that they have 3 (in most cases) pointed right back at themselves. Your life and work decisions are between you and God. He is the ONLY one to judge.
    Have a blessed day filled with pages and pages of writing.

  3. Wow– I found you through a freebie and then bought ALL your books. I love your writing- I’m on the 10th book The Cold Wife– reading all of yours that I can find– Don’t let others take your Bliss away. I write because I finally found my bliss after all these years. I’m not published yet- but the world of publishing and ebooks changes daily. Hold your head up HIGH and congratulate yourself for YOUR achievements. Don’t let others take away your joy!!

    • Thanks, Kathleen. I learned the hard way when you listen to everyone else (instead of doing what feels right to you), you end up unhappy. 😀 That’s an obvious lesson, of course, but it was one I couldn’t see at the time. I enjoy offering free books and making the price affordable. I appreciate your kind words because it lets me know my gut instinct was right on the whole time.

      So what do you write?

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