Wednesday, December 10, 2014

This is Why 'Free' Exposure Will Cost You

When I publish my first novel as an ebook, I won’t be giving it away.

There’ll be a charge – I’m thinking between 99 cents and $2.99 – but if you want it, you’ll have to pay for it.

That seems counterproductive for an unknown author like me until you consider the evidence.

Consider the flood of “good” ebooks being sold at the 99 cents price point.

Consider the price “sweet spot” for books – even those by new authors – is settling at between $2.99 and $4.99 per book.

[In re-reading this Huffington Post article, it’s clear I’m setting my pretend preliminary prices too low. Time to up them even before the book is ready.]
Why not free?

Well, look at Flickr.

Many, many people have uploaded their photos to Flickr, owned by Yahoo!, under Creative Commons licenses in which they give up their right to be compensated for commercial use of their work. The reason behind this licensing is to get their name out there in a market flooded with photographs and photographers. If a picture gets used, well, whoopee! The photographer’s name is out there.

But now Yahoo! is selling those unlicensed photos printed on canvas for $49 a pop, and legally not giving the photographers a penny of the sale.

I know in searching for art to use on the cover of my book I’ve often been frustrated by non-commercial use licensing. But I understand why it’s being used and I respect that. If a photo is good enough to be used on a book cover, I as an author/designer (and whether I should be designing my own book covers is a different story) ought to be paying the photographer for the work. I’m using it to sell my book after all. But those who licensed their work in a manner to give it away shouldn’t’ be surprised to see someone else using it for commercial purposes without paying them for it.

Of course it’s not an apples to apples situation; those who give away their stories for free still retain the right to prohibit commercial use of their work – if they select the licensing in such a way. Flickr photographers had better do the same thing.

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