Monday, September 12, 2011

Free Ebooks - Why I Might Not Read Them

No, I'm not saying that all free ebooks are bad news. Frankly, I keep my radar up for freebies for my Kindle. But I do not buy an ebook just because it's free. I still apply standards to the book, just as if I intended to drop money on it.

Cover - Sounds lame, but if I see a cheap cover, I assume the content is rather iffy. So many self-publishing venues offer templates, included-in-the-price designs, and DIY covers. Better to spend good money on an original cover from a graphic designer than purchase the self-publisher's marketing plan, frankly. Cover-cover-cover. It catches the eye. It gives a hint to the reader of how serious the author is about this book business.

Publisher - If no one else will say it, I will. I scroll down the page and seek for who actually published the book. If it's an entity I never heard of, I Google it. If the webpage is cheesy, outdated or representative of a one-book-one-author platform, I pass.

Reviews - Yes, I read the reviews. What about the one-star comments? If it's one of ten, I ignore it, usually. Having managed FundsforWriters for twelve years, and having received more than my share of off-the-wall feedback from some random, strange birds, I understand that a single one-star review might not be representative of the book's quality. If someone only has two or three reviews, I see an author unable to market, which can also be interpreted as someone not confident in his work.

Other books - I understand everyone has to start somewhere. If I cannot find other books on Amazon under the author's name, then I Google the author. Trust me...agents, editors and publishers do the exact same thing when they receive a query. With the Internet so readily available, why not use it? What I find on the author often impacts my "purchase" decision, even if it's free.

Website or Blog - I love studying website designs, mainly because I'm hunting for ideas for my author website. I'm also a blog junkie. If I like a writer's voice, I want to read him or her, and that includes a blog. Amazingly, few authors have blogs.I also want to know if this freebie is to entice me to purchase something else. A free ebook can be bait to a scam or, on the positive side, a taste of something great that might be worth purchasing. I'm a sucker for a series, and freebies work well in that regard.

At the risk of sounding snobbish, I spend just as much time considering which free ebook to read as I do buying a hardback in a Barnes & Noble. The cost isn't the issue. The investment of my time to read the book is my concern. With only 24 hours in my day, and 25 hours worth of obligations on my calendar, the books I read have to deliver, and I reduce those odds via a personal selection process.

Something tells me that I'm not the only person who does that.


Unknown said...

This is a brilliant post - you have pretty much defined what I do when looking at free (and not free) ebooks. Usually I'm much more likely to 'purchase' something when I can feel connected to the author through a blog, interviews or even twitter.

Hope Clark said...

Amen, me, too, Tamara. Not paying is one thing, but when I read for pleasure, I want a polished, enjoyable read. You have to use the research tools at your disposal.

Anonymous said...

I use one method when downloading a book, no matter whether it costs, whether it's free, or whether I'm being paid to take it (okay, I haven't found any offers like the last one yet, but you never could happen!)

I use the 'look inside' option. I read the first two paragraphs and if they're good, I read more until A) the writer loses me or B) I'm hooked and want the book. I can tell very quickly whether I'll want to read the entire thing.

Back in January, I made an exception to this rule. Amazon recommended a book that cost .99 cents. It was based on things I've read before and that book did not have the look inside option. But it was .99 cents and I figured, worst case scenario I waste a dollar.

But that book, titled SWITCHED, by self-pubbed author Amanda Hocking turned out to be good. So would I risk downloading a FREE book if it looked interesting to me or Amazon recommended it? Um....Totally! All I have to do is hit delete if it's a stinker.

The bottom line for me as a reader is story. I don't care if there are a few typos or the cover (or even editing) isn't fabulous. I care about the writing and whether the author took the time to add the 'look inside' option. That says to me, "Hey, I'm not afraid to let you see what you're getting before you spend your money."

I'm a picky reader. It's common for me to open forty or fifty books (probably more, even) to every one I purchase. I'm looking for a book written in a voice that speaks to me. I don't really care who the book's publishing friends are or whether it's pretty. The question for me is, "If this book were a person, is it someone I'd want to have a conversation with?"

Carrie Clevenger said...

Your honesty is super refreshing and not snarky at all. I really appreciate you putting this out there. xx

Hope Clark said...

There's a fine line between honesty and snarky, at least in my house. So I try hard to not stray. Thanks for the compliment, Carrie.

Terry Wilson said...

I enjoy the free "sampling" feature of Amazon Kindle. I browse online at Amazon, click "sample" of any book of interest and within minutes I'm reading the first chapter or so, more than enough pages to let me decide re purchase. Even more fun is to download samples of a dozen or so books, and settle in the easy chair. When a sample just isn't enough, I click "buy this book" and bingo I'm soon deep into a good read.
The sampling feature beats standing in the stacks at a bookstore by a long shot except I have to make my own coffee.

Sally said...

"Don't judge a book by it's cover" is a thoughtful quote but rarely heeded. Being judged by the cover rules many judgements, least of all books.