So Much For Free

giveaway sign

When I worked at the public library in Redwood City as a teenager, one summer our slogan was ‘So Much for Free!’. They meant it as a plus, but it was the days following Proposition 13 in California, when services were facing severe cutbacks thanks to people voting to pay less in taxes. So I pessimistically interpreted it as ‘That’s the end of the free stuff!’.

Now, however, I’m adopting a happier attitude when it comes to writing and publishing. I’m astounded by the amount of free advice out there for self-publishing authors. It seems we are quite the chatty group. But as you might expect, there is also alot of disagreement. Is KDP Select worth it? Should I buy Publisher Rocket to select better keywords? What should I put in emails to my subscribers? Why would Hugh Jackman want to spend the summer vacationing in Yorkshire?

OK, that last one is just on my mind because the BBC seems to be stalking him and reporting his whereabouts, as if there’s nothing more important to be broadcasting. Weird.

If I had the time (and I often do, being semi-retired), there are free seminars to attend most weeks on publishing, marketing, gaining an audience, finding your muse, etc. Of course, many of them are going to try to sell you something while you’re watching (usually with a countdown clock telling you you’ll only get this cheap price for the next two hours!). And when you download something for free by giving your name and email, you are going to be on a mailing list (like mine!), so your inbox will bulge after a while (totally worth it for getting my newsletter, of course!). But I find that’s a small price to pay for the information people are giving away. Assuming you don’t succumb to the countdown clock every time, of course. And you can always unsubscribe to the stuff that doesn’t float your boat.

Through these free conferences and seminars, I’ve been able to preview tools to see if I like what they do. I’ve been able to find newsletters to emulate, and confirmation of some of the publishing decisions I’ve made while being challenged on others. It truly is amazing.

Facebook groups have been the other massive gift. Not only can I connect with authors in my genre to get tips and examples from their hard-won experience, but I have a place to announce my own publications when they happen, and possible get some sales. There is also, of course, the comfort of belonging to a community. I’m now planning my own Facebook group to gather people who want to discuss the different genres within cozy mysteries, and how they have evolved. Facebook isn’t best for everything, of course, but it’s where my audience is going to be, and the groups can be truly wonderful as long as you pick carefully.

So, as much as I may complain about the mounting costs of this foray into publishing and getting my writing out there, every once in a while I stop to appreciate people willing to share what they know for free, either because they want to engender trust for future sales, or just because they are sharing types.

Mind you, it’s good to keep the difference in mind, and always check into the authority of those you are listening to. Bad advice is still bad advice, even if it’s free.

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