Increasingly, at writing conferences and in the mainstream media, I observe growing unrest surrounding the proliferation of free and cheap literature, particularly ebooks. The reasons for sharp discounts and giveaways are legion (and some reasons are better than others), but regardless of the reason, I see greater peer pressure on and shaming of those who are seen to “devalue” literature in our culture.
Whole books have been written on this topic, as it’s an anxiety affecting creators in diverse fields. Some describe the phenomenon from a neutral and even historical perspective (“how have we ended up here?”), some are more activist in their approach (“fight and resist”), and still others are pragmatic (“here’s how to play with the hand you’ve been dealt”).
Given my position as a business consultant, I tend to focus on the last of these: how can a writer be competitive in the current environment and make a living? How can you reframe the problem as an opportunity and move forward? As someone who gives away much of her advice for free, on this blog, I am well versed in the power of free, and its disadvantages. And I’ve commented on strategic use of free here.
In my latest column for Publishers Weekly, I address this question again.
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has nearly 25 years of experience in the media & publishing industry. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a professor with The Great Courses (How to Publish Your Book), she is the author of The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), which received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as Digital Book World and Frankfurt Book Fair, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.