Monday, November 7, 2011

HOOKED... for free?!

Hi folks,

Well, I woke up today thinking it would just be another ho-hum day in Mudville... when I clicked on an email from an editor I really respect and discovered that Writer's Digest was offering my book HOOKED for free! (It wasn't a WD editor who notified me.)

Now, I know how Anthony Neil Smith (Doc Noir) felt in his blogpost:

My sentiments, exactly... Although, I have a sneaking suspicion Mr. Smith's publisher let him know what they were going to do before they did it. And, they only did it for a day... And, I'll bet he gave his okay.

What bothered me is that WD didn't see fit to let me know that they were doing this. Did I say "bothered me?" I guess that's the most accurate terminology to describe my initial reaction where I kicked my cat, threw a book through the window, cursed at the top of my lungs, and some other similar actions...

The thing is, I don't believe in ever giving away my work for free. Perhaps WD knows that and is why they didn't inform me.

I know there are writers out there who profess their desire is only to "get people to read them." Well, that ain't my desire at all, unless they pay for the hours and days and weeks and months and years it took to get that book written. I rarely see plumbers giving away free work to "get people to notice them." Figure my work is just as valuable...

I understand the impetus behind this "freebie" thing. That it create a fan base who will then buy other work. I guess. I'm just not a believer in this strategy.

Maybe it will turn out just fine. Just went to the Amazon site and saw Hooked's rank:
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
    • #1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Reference > Writing > Fiction
    • Now, I'm not as mad as I was... I don't know what to think. Maybe they know what they're doing. The other thing that bothered me was that it was done as a promo for NaNoWrit or whatever they call it. That's an event I'm solidly... against. In fact, I tell my students I recommend they avoid participating, as in my opinion it only leads to bad writing habits. But, that's me. I do have many friends who participate in it and if they enjoy the experience, I'm glad for them. I just think it doesn't lead to many positive things for a serious writer. And, since I think it's more of a negative thing for a writer who wants to create good writing habits, I kind of resent my book is being given away free to promote it.
      I realize my thoughts here may alienate some folks. That's okay. If a writer doesn't have an opinion and is unwilling to express it, what kind of writer is that? One who would do well working for Pravda, I guess... Not this boy-o.

      I have nothing whatsoever against anyone who takes advantage of Writer's Digest largess... I'd do the same thing. In fact, I emailed some friends to alert them that they could get it for free and even Twittered about it. If you can't fight 'em, join 'em... At least if folks can get a free copy, I'd rather it be people I know and like.

      I think what bothered me the most was that WD couldn't even be bothered to let me know what they were going to do. The author isn't important in these things, I guess. It occurs to me that this may be one of the contributing factors to the demise of print publishers... how they view their authors and how they value their input and opinion, especially of their own work.

      Now, I'm going to lie down and try to practice my own philosophy of "not letting others rent space in my head."

      I just wish I had the power to give away all of Writer's Digest books for the next year... And not let them know until it was a done deal... Tell 'em if they didn't like it, too bad--it's in the contract...

      Sign me:
      P.S. What gripes me is that Hooked was still on a number of Amazon's best-selling lists, mostly in the UK and other European lists...


Thomas Pluck said...

I'm with you on this one, Les. I'm not a fan of the 99 cent e-book, either.

Les Edgerton said...

Thanks, Tom. I expect reaction to my thoughts the other way and that's okay, but what really pissed me off about this was they don't see fit to even email the author to let us know. Supreme arrogance in which the creator of the work isn't even considered. I'm still throwing things. But, please glom onto a copy--I'm not pissed at anyone who gets a free copy at all. Hope folks realize that!

In fact, Anthony Neil Smith had a free copy sent to me for a review and that was nice, but I still went ahead and bought a copy. Just feel strongly that's how we support our fellow writers--by buying their work.

Gonna uncork my Jack now...

Stacy S. Jensen said...

I have a paperback version of Hooked. When I saw your title in my "free" deal alert. I was like whoa. I took advantage of the free ebook. Then, I read your blog. Oops. I appreciate reading your view on this and have shared it on a couple of the links that mention the free books.

Les Edgerton said...

Thanks for your thoughts and actions, Stacy, but please believe me when I say I don't blame anyone who got the free copy in the least! My problem is the publisher who didn't even bother to send an email to notify me what they were doing. That just seems to me to be common courtesy and to not do so seems just as clear that the author doesn't matter much at all. And, that, is one of the big reasons authors are deserting print publishers. I may be wrong but I personally think this is just more evidence that authors are considered a commodity mostly--a disposable commodity whose opinion or feelings isn't important--and that's what pisses me off. I'm delighted that you bought a print copy, but even if you hadn't, I would have no issue with you or anyone else who took advantage of the freebie. Heck, I'd take advantage of the same thing! Mostly what I'm upset about is that the author isn't considered worth the courtesy of an email, telling him what they planned to do. Do they have a legal right to do so? I imagine so or they wouldn't have done so. Do they have an ethical right to ignore the person who created the product in the first place? That is something each person would have to decide for him- or herself. As for me, I think it's a slap in the face. But, I'll get over it. I do know who I won't deal with again.

Debbie Maxwell Allen said...

Hi Les. I was amazed to hear that WD didn't even let you know what they were doing. I get that they probably have it in the contract to change the price, but you're right that an author feels like a commodity. Things like this will certainly not endear publishers to the authors they depend on.


Les Edgerton said...

Thanks, Debbie. Although, I don't know how much of a "commodity" we are when it's "free"... :)

And, you're right--I don't know much they've endeared themselves to the others whose books they gave away, but it ain't happenin' with moi...

Aging Ophelia said...

Mr. Edgerton:
I respect your anger on this issue, and you should understand that I wasn't aware you were being messed with when I downloaded your book for free, (though I would suggest you check the small print in your contract to be sure). Of course, you should be notified of such an event, even if it is a one-day thing; that's called courtesy.

Slamming an artistic challenge, in print, that you don't understand and haven't bothered to name properly when slamming is anything but courteous. It's called NaNoWriMo, it is deeply serious, it's a prime place to learn to drop bad habits, and it's swarming with seriously productive writers.
I would expect someone who deigns to teach writing to others to be more courteous to prospective students and other writers, and I hope it's just righteous anger that led you to use your post here to insult and invalidate such a huge group of working artists and potential readers. It strikes me as a piece of bad business in return for bad business.
There is more than one way to support your fellow writers, sir, and you're not exactly setting a good example here today.
Peace, Mari

Marta said...

I have a real copy of your book "Finding Your Voice," which I liked and paid for the old fashioned way. Seems that it would be polite for WD to let you know. At the very least, surely they'd want you to have an answer if a fan came up to you asked you about it. A reader probably expects the author to know if his books are free or not.

I also happen to love NaNoWriMo. It isn't for everyone, to be sure, but it helped me find my voice. Every writer needs to find his or her own way.

Les Edgerton said...

Thanks Mari and Marta for your thoughts. As for NaNoWriMo, I was expressing my opinion of its value and I am aware of what it is and what it entails. I think I even said I have a lot of friends who participate in it and enjoy it and I'm glad for them. It's just my opinion that for most of the folks who do participate (please note I said "most" not all) I'm of the opinion that bad writing habits are fostered more than not. Again, this my opinion only. As in any activity, it isn't "practice that makes perfect," as one using that principle to perfect a craft by might be doing him- or herself a disservice. My belief is that it's "perfect practice makes perfect." If one of the rules is that a writer must write a large number of words per day, then I submit that to be a bad habit to perpetuate. Quantity has virtually no relation to quality and cranking out a lot of words per day seems to me to go against the goal of careful and serious writing. Again, this is my opinion and not how I'd ever work--although I do put out a lot of work seven days a week--but never at the expense of the quality. Many of my own best days in writing come when I pen one good sentence. Others come when I write twenty or thirty pages or more. But, if I followed a rule that I had to write a certain amount of pages or words per day, I have to believe that quality would suffer. Others may feel differently and have a different experience--it may be hugely beneficial to them. But, it wouldn't be for me and I have a responsibility to my students to advise them of the best procedures to follow to become a good writer and not simply a typist. I'd be curious how many of those participating end up with a publishable novel. Perhaps it's higher than I imagine. I have a feeling that the reason many participate is more for a sense of "belonging" to the fraternity of writers--being in the "club" so to speak--and not emerging either with a publishable novel or an improved craft.

Again, I don't mean to disrespect those who participate--as I said, I have friends who do so, but actually the ones who do are almost always people who haven't published or if they have, haven't published well or have even self-published (which isn't publishing under any definition.

I'm sure there are exceptions. There usually are! If it helps one become a better quality writer, then I'm all for it. I just haven't seen much, if any, evidence that it does. Again, just my opinion. I think more people think this way as well, but don't want to say so publicly for fear of upsetting a friend who participates.

Unknown said...

You're right, Les, what WD did was a kick in the butt, not telling you - or better yet, asking your permission was a knee in the groin area.

And I'm with you on the NaNoWriMo thing. It always looked like too much hard work to me. I'm a lazy critter!

Grey skies.

Les Edgerton said...

Thanks, James. I don't do the NaNoWriMo (sounds like eubonics...) because I don't want to work (and I suspect that's not your reason either!), but simply because I don't see the payoff. If others do, that's great. I work seven days a week writing so probably write more per an average week than most participants. But, I just think that if the rule is you have to write so much per day, the quality probably suffers. If it works for some, more power to them and I'm happy for them. I just think it leads to habits that may be harmful to a writer. It would help one's typing speed however, so that's probably good. And, I think you're supposed to read other people's output as well, and that sounds like a huge waste of valuable time. I've been an editor and wasted huge chunks of my life reading really bad stories. Don't want to go there again! Life's too short and writing time's too precious...

How's the new book doing?

Unknown said...

Not writing much at the moment, working on a paperback version of St Patrick's Day Special (as you know) and a couple short (noir) stories.

I need to get my act together and do some serious writing soon.

Debbie Maxwell Allen said...

I can understand your feelings on NaNoWriMo. I've participated the last couple of years (though I haven't 'won') mainly because it gives me a kick in the pants to write.

But some of the loops I've read encourage writers to make use of long chapter titles, and advise writers to spell out contractions and sprinkle their prose with adverbs, just to boost word count.

Not me. I have a hard time turning my internal editor off, and I don't want to waste any time I spend writing. I want to write the best I can the first time, even knowing it'll go through revisions.


Brian Lindenmuth said...

Don't they always say that the first one is free then you are...Hooked

Les Edgerton said...

Debbie, my sentiments exactly. I have several friends who participate in it and if it helps them, that's a good thing. I suspect that maybe it doesn't help as much as they think, but that's a subjective stance and only applies to me. The one argument I keep hearing is that it imposes a deadline on participants and gets them writing and that may be a good thing... although if a writer has to have that kind of stimulus there might be deeper issues at work. I regret that I came out as strongly as I did against it, mostly because I never want to insult anyone who does participate in it and finds a value in it. I know too many good writers who do tell me it's a good thing for them and that's all that's important.

Brian... clever...(!)

Anonymous said...

Hi Les, first off, I purchased Hooked from back in Sept. after reading a recommendation on WD. Although I had completed my manuscript before reading your book, it still made an impact. I cut out half of chapter one, then plucked a sentence out of my last chapter and made it the very first one. I'm still editing, but following your suggestions really tightened my writing. Thank you. :)

Did you contact WD regarding the "free" book? What did they say?

Les Edgerton said...

Tracy, I'm so delighted it helped you with your book. And, yes, I emailed one of WD's editors and she forwarded it to a higher-up... and I'm still waiting to hear from them.

Probably a good thing I can hold my breath a long time...

Talked to my agent and he said it's probably a good thing--will increase readership and then sales--but that wasn't my point. My point was they don't feel it necessary to inform the creator of the work what they're doing with it. A matter of common courtesy...

Tiffany said...

Eep! I didn't realize you'd be pissed about it. I see why now that I think about it. It IS a great book though, which I think is why it was recommended. The whole freebie thing sort of gets me too, but at this point, I'd be happy my name got out there. Since your name is out there, it might not be such a thrill for you.

Sorry I didn't see this and comment sooner. Been bogged down with illness and now schoolwork. I'm being a slacker right now.

Marta said...

Well, yes, there are people who pad their NaNoWriMo novels for the word count. But padding a novel for some silly reason or another isn't exclusive to NaNo. It wasn't my way to do it because I do want to have a real novel eventually and I spend the next 11 months rewriting my draft.

I met plenty of people who did NaNo strictly for the social aspect. One fellow write his 50K every year and then deletes it. He is totally happy with that and has no delusions of grandeur about it.

There a hundreds of bad ways to write a novel. One book that is doing well right now--traditionally published--started as a NaNo novel. "The NIght Circus."

The odds of writing a novel well and getting it published are incredibly slim no matter how you go about it. Except for one tiny short story I am not published so it is easy to dismiss me. I seem unable to get published, so probably my writing is unpublishable. If that is the case, I can't blame NaNo for that.

Creativity is a mysterious thing. I hear some writers talk about the ways they write, and I can't imagine writing the same way--though I sometimes give them a try.

From what I remember from the WD book of yours I have, your motivation to write is different than mine and your style is even more so. That probably has a lot to do with what works for each of us.

Well, I say works I said, I'm not published so maybe my way doesn't work at all. Still, when one is unpublished but trying her best, and one comes across an established writer who one respects diss the efforts of the amateurs... it is hard to know what to say.

You could be right, and I'm living in a dream world and all my work is wasted time and effort. Am I being defensive because deep down I'm afraid this is true?

I've been thinking about this and I can definitely say that deep down I'm an insecure writer who is easily tripped up by published authors' comments. So-and-so says says that...I need to be writing this way...I need to writing that way...

It is exhausting and depressing.

But I love the people of NaNo. I love the write-ins I go to, and the nerds, the oddballs, the dreamers, the brilliant ones, the funny ones. Maybe only a handful of us will actually ever be "real" writers. But I suspect if we all sat down and wrote novels in some other way, still only a handful would ever make it.

Tiffany said...

I hope I'm not overstepping here, Les, but I want to add my two cents aside from OMG!HE'SPISSED!

I have never seen so many people jump up to defend NaNoWriMo. I'm on the fence. For me, it's helping with accountability. Writing every day. I'm not so naive to think I can personally make the daily goal, so I don't try. I write a little something every day and consider that a good thing. Sometimes I don't write anything at all and feel a little guilty. I do what I can.

I want make sure what I write is a least halfway decent, because I know that most of it will get cut or re-written till it's unrecognizable from the original anyway. I also like to experiment with different styles and voices.

Maybe the people who seem to be taking offense are just starting out as writers. I'm not published either, so I can relate on a level, but I've also been taking classes and reading writing books since I was eight years old. I'm sad that they seem to be downing themselves. I wish I could encourage them and give out hugs. Tell them it'll be...well, I can't say it'll be okay, but I can say the more you do it, the more you learn if you're open to learning and finding a group of people who give constructive (true constructive) criticism.

I wish Marta and Mari good luck with their writing. No matter how you go about it.

Marta said...

Thank you, Tiffany for the thoughts.

I just want to add that I'm skipping NaNo this year (because of other things going on in my life) and I miss it so. It is fun. That's the thing. Fun. (Although I have heard of people who've had decidedly unfun experiences with it.)

It is like anything someone loves--you just can't imagine someone else won't love it to. Nothing like a convert! It's like the people who try to convince me to do yoga or go to church or whatever. It brings them so much happiness, and they're good people who want you to feel that happiness too! Yeah, yeah, but these things don't work for everyone. I still can't convince my mother-in-law that only children aren't leading lesser lives because they don't know the joy of having a sibling.

So, I really don't want to to jump on any one to defend NaNo. It will not be right for many folks.

It isn't NaNo per se that bothers me here. NaNo can take care of itself. I always get a bee in my bonnet at when it seems that because something has no value for one person--especially a person who people listen to--that person dismisses it as having no value. And that the people who find value in it are kidding themselves.

What I hope is that for people who know little about NaNo, they can read Mr. Edgerton's opinion, my opinion, Mari's opinion, et al, then maybe give the thing a fair shot if one is curious. Then either move on or write like mad for 30 days.

Anyway, I'm also in very negative spirits over my writing, and perhaps the negative comments read here, on top of the steady stream of rejection and other issues, was not the best combination.

Besides, this post isn't even about NaNo! I will shut up now.

Judd Exley said...

Mate, just as "Hooked" was what started it all for me, NaNoWriMo was what got 'er done.

I totally respect your stance though, and agree that WD was SHITE for not even doing the courtesy of an email (I mean, shitsakes, how hard is it to email somebody?).

I'm STOKED though that more folks can get a chance to read "Hooked" because it's fkn brilliant. Best book on writing I've even heard of.

As for NaNoWriMo, most of my "serious" writer friends agree, it's a pile of poo. Unfortunately for the rest of us, many like me can't afford the time it takes to be a "serious" writer at this stage in life. NaNoWriMo is perfect for that, because while it may teach us bad habits, it still gets us to be doing what we're passionate about: writing. And at the end of it, Dog Willing, we get a novel.

Who cares if it's poo and we flog it for $0.99? At least we're doing it, and that's good enough for me.

Tip back a Jack for me mate! Laters.

J. Nelson Leith said...

Ditto the free book tactic and double-ditto the NaNo diss.

One thing few people seem to get with free or cut-rate pricing is that it sets a market precedent for future sales. It's great for sellers using it as a loss leader for other products, but terrible for the product lines themselves. WD is undercutting Hooked's perceived value in order to boost their own sales, which is despicable.

And, according to some number-crunching I did on my blog recently about 0.04% of NaNo's half million entrants so far have ended up as published books. Mostly, just a lot of extra garbage for agents to swim through.

Debbie Maxwell Allen said...

Interesting numbers! I wondered if anyone had ever done the math.

As far as ebook pricing goes, Randy Ingermanson has an interesting take on why he thinks pricing may soon be going up:


BrianE424 said...

National Novel Writing Month. Reading the comments and descriptions of this website, I am reminded of what my eleventh grade English teacher once declared in response to a student who was asking irrelevant questions, trying to get her to digress away from giving us the order to start an in-class assignment: "Don't talk, write."

Anonymous said...

i'm glad you brought this up because I saw this posted, and naturally added my 2 cents about what an amazing book it is, and 'for free'??? I was shocked. I don't think any writer should write for free, hence my blog rant this week. I completely understand your reaction and I'm glad you don't believe your hard work is worth so very little that it should be 'given away'.
I already bought a hard copy long ago, and as you know, it's one of my favorite books on 'how to write' and it's definitely not something I liked seeing 'given away' considering the value inside and your hard work.
Consider me a big fan and not a fan of the 'freebies'.

Anonymous said...

That sucks that you weren't informed of this offer. I usually ignore free ebooks, but I snatched up the WD ones because I had previously purchased the Barbara Baig book.

I'm nearly done reading Hooked now, and wanted to tell you what a terrific help it is to me in examining how my story openings are failing. I'll be using what I learned in this book, and recommending it to friends, for quite some time.

I've purchased The Perfect Crime and Just Like That as a result of reading Hooked. I would also hope that the artificial ranking bump inducing by Hooked being offered for free will translate into more sales in the coming months.

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