✉️ RE: FREE is killing indie. (An urgent warning)

I read this article lately, and it got me thinking about some of my recent decisions about my story sharing. I'm greatly summarizing this article, but basically, giving away free stories is bad for the indie industry overall and it devalues your own work. There's actually a lot to unpack in the article, and I don't disagree with all of it, and most of it just makes me think. But it did inspire me to write about what I've been doing lately, my free stories, and why I do it.

Over the past few years I began to focus inward on being better at writing with the purpose of publishing/selling. But I also wanted to always put forth stories out there for free. Not because I don't value my time I put into these stories. No, a part of me looks at the reading landscape, the digital one, and I realize how wonderful it is that we can have stories so quick at our fingertips--in some cases cheaper than a paperback. It's a different literary landscape than what existed when I was a kid.

But cheap is still money. And for a lot of people, cheap is still not good on the budget. That's why while I work on stories for publishing/selling, I also work on other stories that I will give out for free. Or like the I Will Kill You for $5 project, one person pays me $5 to write it, but the end result is available for free and for all--so only one person pays for it.

I like to think of it as creating my own personal online library of my work that anyone can access and download the files for free. These are not public domain, you can't remix or sell them, but you can read them as much as you like. And own as many copies as you like. And email a copy to your friend who you think will like it. They are DRM free.

I've also been trying to think of a way to make my next work that will cost money available for free to those who can't afford it. I don't know that I'll want to just drop it in the online library, but I very much want to be accessible to lower-income and poor people as a writer. Because even the less fortunate deserve escapism--an argument could be made that they deserve it most.

I may write more on this, because there is still some stuff bouncing around in my brain after reading the article. But by no means do the words "an urgent warning" come to mind. 🙄


  1. Now then, Nathan,
    I am glad you read 'Free is killing indie', Thank you.
    You will have noticed, I say the post 'may create controversy and stimulate discussion'. I think you have proved that bit right :-)
    I also enjoyed reading this, your post and agree with much of your wish to 'give' some of your creativity to a wider audience. I do a little of this on my other blog, 'A Little more Fiction', where I post short stories people can read for free. https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/
    I know it may seem at odds with the blog post you mention, but I see it as a totally different medium, which is why I agree with what you say; there is a place and a reason to share art (which writing is) in a philanthropic manner and it should sit comfortably beside the commercial work, yet be seperate.

  2. Hey Paul, thanks for stopping by. I added the little disclaimer in my note up top, because I don't disagree with a lot of the thoughts, more than anything it just tickles the brain noodles. Although, the "urgent warning" seemed a bit click-baity. 😉

    I guess for me, as someone who used to give out everything I wrote online -- and has only in the past years tried to shift to making the $$$ -- it made me think about how it sort of makes my artwork an exclusive treat. I didn't like that thought. And as someone who was once poor, it makes me think of those times. Things that cost money, that wasn't food or something, was pretty much off limits unless I just needed a fix. Something to uplift the spirits. For example, my dad would buy a $2 VHS. I might splurge on Taco Bell every once in a while -- 2 Nacho Cheese Chalupas and a large drink for $4.27 -- because I'd get tired of being limited on my food. I would later realize I was also malnourished. People sometimes talk about internet being a basic human right, and I'm reminded how the electric company could turn our power off when we were two days behind the deadline. Internet was the least of my worries. But, if free internet was an option, I'd been on that. If my dad could have had free VHS copies, he'd been down for that.

    I guess I think a lot.

    You say, "... there is a place and a reason to share art... in a philanthropic manner and it should sit comfortably beside the commercial work, yet be separate." And I guess my thought is.... "why?" And how would I go about that judgment call? Seems like a bit of a harsh decision: "Poor people don't deserve to read this, I put too much into it. They can have this little short story instead." Hm...

    Like, I get if people who have money are just being cheap, that kinda sucks. But I think about those other folks, where cheap isn't an option.

  3. Interesting! Not quite sure how I feel about this - I have a reader magnet for my mailing list (which I have to revamp now that I'm not writing as much) but I'm not sure how many people subscribed for the free book and how many didn't.

    When it comes to new authors, though, I usually buy their book only if it's on (heavy) discount because I don't have much money to gamble on them. I much rather spend my money on authors that I already enjoy (like Terry Pratchett). So if I can't get the first book via freebies (short story or whatever) or through the library (this is the more common method nowadays), then I probably won't pick up any of their books.


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