It is a sad fact that many book stores are closing and those managing to stay afloat have to sell their books at ridiculously cheap prices in order to sell them. I am pinching this idea off Authors on Show and L Anne Carrington's post there about book shops closing down as it is something I too feel so sad about and I'm sure the answer lies in the fact so many people who are desperate to see their name in print give their books away for nothing just so they can say how many downloads they've had.
We see it every day, new books coming on sites that are free to download by unknown authors and they all tell everyone how many downloads they've had of their books thinking it's wonderful and some great achievement. Well I hate to rain on your parade, but of course you can have hundreds and even thousands of downloads - they don't cost anything. Would you still be getting as many downloads (or any in some cases) if they were a normal price? If a shop that never sold much because its stock was pretty awful to say the least was to suddenly put up a sign saying everything was for free, I could guarantee their shelves would empty by lunchtime. It doesn't mean the stock is suddenly desirable or any good, it just means people will grab anything that's free or dirt cheap. What happens in the shop can be said of the free books and the ones that cost only $0.99 - (or about 70p).
Have any of you ever noticed that the main publishing houses never sell their authors that cheaply or ever give their books away for free even when it's a new author they take on? Have you also noticed that many of these free books are advertised by those who call themselves publishers and yet they really aren't as the ones actually publishing the books are Create Space, Lulu or similar. I run a site called, Authors on Show and used to promote many authors who were desperately looking for a publishing deal. I could have taken advantage of them by taking their books, offering to 'publish' them, done it on Lulu or Create Space and taken half their royalties when they sold because I called myself a publisher. If I put a few books on the sites I mentioned, it says I can call myself a publisher as I am doing more than 2 or three. That is ridiculous to say the least and should be stopped. Doing that doesn't make me or anyone else a real publisher, it makes me someone who is taking advantage of desperate people who want to say they have a publisher rather than saying they are self-published. What is even more ridiculous is why anyone would give half their royalties to anyone for doing it and then think they've been done a favour - especially when half the books are so badly edited - if at all.
The idea of giving away something you've often worked darned hard on for quite some time is daft. So, it gets your name known, but for what? Most of those who give their books away free usually then sell their second books for the minimum $0.99 and it is now all getting to be beyond a joke. Don't they realise this is why books mean nothing to most people any more and why book shops are having to close their doors? Don't they see that by devaluing themselves they are devaluing everyone else as well? What they also don't seem to realise is that those of us who sell our books at normal prices might not sell as many, but we make more than they do because we get 70% of the royalties on a much higher sale price and we don't have to share it with anyone either. They also don't realise that if they were to get a real publishing deal by a major house, it might soon be worthless as there won't be anywhere left to sell their books due to all the shops being closed. Besides, what publisher would take an author who gives their work away seriously?
I am not saying all small publishing houses are doing this, but there are those who are and their authors don't seem to see it - or do they and they just don't care? Whatever way it is being done, it is for this reason I believe books now mean so little to people as they know they can download hundreds of books free of charge and even if 90% of them are rubbish, they might find an odd one here and there worth reading. beats paying normal prices for one doesn't it? One thing is for certain, most of these authors might get their names known, but it certainly won't be for the right reasons. Yes there are odd exceptions, but they are odd exceptions and all we have to do is read articles everywhere to see the public aren't daft and they take no notice of most of the reviews as they know they're written by other authors supporting each other.
I know there are many who might read this who will not like what I've said, but there are also many more who I know agree with me. It is not a dig at people who are with smaller genuine publishing houses, it is aimed at those who are destroying the world of books and book sales and I just hope they haven't done so much damage that we'll never see it recover. Long live real books, book shops and libraries - I just hope they're still around for future generations to see them.