Self-Publishing, Fake Scarcity and the Curse of the Freemium Author: Turning Fresh Pony Plop into Glittering Diamonds

What’s the difference between the worst-written best-selling books and the best-written non-selling books?

Probably not quality, at least not in a way that compliments the poorly-written best-sellers. The big difference is the value placed on the book, by the reader and sometimes by the author.

That difference in value outs itself in several ways:

  1. Cover: Did the author/publisher invest in a good cover?
  2. Blurbs: Did the author/publisher put in enough time and testing on the descriptions of the story and the author?
  3. Editing: Are there blatant issues regarding spelling, grammar, or continuity?
  4. Marketing / Word of Mouth: Has money, time, and the personal investment of others gone into the promotion of this book?

These are all things self-published authors are working on. I’ve blabbed on about my covers for a while now. Eventually I’ll complain about my lackluster blurbs, or people calling me on using fifty ellipses per page…

But there is another thing I’ve started experimenting with to increase the value of my work: scarcity.

Yesterday I had twelve books available through multiple channels, including Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Today I’ve started whittling the number down to seven, and soon that will probably drop to six. Some of this is in preparation for the release of my contemporary fantasy / paranormal collection, Catholic Guilt and the Joy of Hating Men, as some are stories within that collection, while some of the culling is just because there’s too much of mine out there available for free.

People have to choose from too many “starter stories” from me. It’s a case of too much choice. Do they want one from this pile of science fiction? Or how about a story from my contemporary fantasy pile? This one’s related to my upcoming novel, while this other one here’s related to absolutely nothing. And they’re all free, so… start reading!

I don’t want to be a freemium author. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life shouting “Hey! Hey! Read my books! They’re FREE!”, all the while hoping that people will start paying for some of my work at some point down the road. Why would someone pay if they know that I keep releasing new stuff for free every few weeks?

I want to sell diamonds, not horse poop. Are diamonds actually more valuable than manure? Depends on your point of view, and whether or not you need fertilizer. But diamonds cost more, because a crapload of work was done to show that diamonds are high value.

I want my readers to assign a high value to my stories. I want my readers to read my stories not because they happen to be lying around, but because they actually enjoy them. If they’re not worth more than free, I need to add enough value to my stories to make them worth something. That’s my incentive to keep trying: to write better.

There’s a lot of talk about getting a thousand true fans. I want a thousand true fans, to buy my latest release, to tell people about me until I’m hated solely by association. Right now I might have two or three true fans; I’m not sure. One of the reasons I’m not sure is because I’m not giving my readers an opportunity to make that commitment. I’m not asking them to buy my newest release, or to fall in love with my series… I’m throwing out free stories like confetti and hoping that these true fans will follow along behind me and scoop it all up.

There’s no direction in that strategy… if that is a strategy. So here’s a new strategy: I will place value on my stories, and hope to find readers that feel that value is not out of whack (or “in-whack”?). Hopefully the people that agree with the value I’m placing will consider becoming a true fan. And that number will grow, but only if I do my job well.

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