Hey everyone! I’m honored to have a fellow writer friend with me today on my blog. I met Kathleen at an ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) writers conference and I’m blessed to call her friend. Take it away, Kathleen!

The Cost of a Free Book

Let’s face it. We all love free things. Whether it’s free samples at that big box store or the bag of goodies you take home from a party. Few of us say, “no thank you,” when offered something for free. And if that free thing happens to be a great read, there will be a line of bookworms a mile long, drooling over the chance to get their hands on it. So when is accepting or even asking for a free book from an author or publisher the right thing to do?

Let’s begin by considering what it took to create that book in the first place.

First, the author needed to learn to write. Outside of schooling, this probably took the form of many hours spent reading books and articles on the writing craft and time spent attending writers conferences. Keep in mind that those conferences aren’t cheap and the books aren’t free unless you can borrow them from the library.

These are just a very few of the writing craft books I own.

Of course, the most important part of learning to write is to…write. Prior to publishing their debut book, most authors spend hours, days, weeks, months, and years practicing their art, getting feedback, and trying again.

This is a photo of what the first page of Sing in the Sunlight looked like when it came back from my macro editor.

Another important factor in preparing to write a novel or nonfiction book is the time and expense given to research. As a historical novelist, I spend hours upon hours combing through historical documents. Sometimes those are online and sometimes they must be accessed physically. I’ve searched the archives at libraries, historical societies, and special interest clubs. Sometimes access is free. Often it comes with fees. Added to the historical documents are the many books I either borrow or purchase to learn more about topics relevant to the story I’m preparing to write. (By the way, because I focus on lesser known portions of history, I often find that the books I most need aren’t available in the library or even online. They’re so niche, that they can only be found in the gift shops of local historical sites.)

These are only a few of the many niche history books I’ve added to my collection over the years.

Did you know that one of the most successful ways for an author to get a contract with an agent or publisher is by attending writers conferences? While it is possible to get a contract without ever attending a conference, relationships matter. Even beyond nabbing a contract, conferences allow writers to connect with other writers. This allows them to begin to work together to grow in their careers. So the investment in attending a writers conference can often pay off tenfold. That said, these conferences often cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to attend.

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Once an author has a completed manuscript and a contract to publish it, the next step is editing (which often involves multiple steps and different editors). Since no one wants to work for free, editors cost money. So do cover artists and book formatters.

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At the point when a book is ready to be published, there comes the cost of physically printing the book (assuming a print version is planned). This expense varies based on many factors such as whether the book is hardback or paperback, the dimensions of the book, how many copies are being printed at once, and more. After the book is printed, it must be shipped to a bookstore, the publisher, the author, or directly to the reader.

Of course, it can’t be shipped to a reader unless the reader has ordered it. And a reader won’t order the book if they don’t know the book exists.

So now that the author, the agent (if there is one), the editors, the formatters, the cover artist, and the publisher, have put all this effort into creating a book they think readers will enjoy/want/need, how do they let readers know that the book is available to purchase?

That’s where marketing comes in. There are many ways to spread the word of an upcoming book release, such as advertisements, social media posts, websites, blog posts, podcasts, online videos, etc. But at the start of this post, I promised you I’d be talking about free books. So here it is…

Free books aren’t free.

They can’t be after all the time, effort, and expense it took to create them. So when you see a book being offered for “free” by an author or publisher, understand that there is a hidden string attached. That string is made of hope. The author of the book (or their publisher) is hoping you will love that free book so much that you will rave about it to your friends and family, online and in person. They are hoping that you will love it so much that you will buy the next book in the series. They are hoping that you will love it so much that you sign up to receive the author’s newsletters so you can be among the first to know when their next book is available for preorder. Because we don’t go to all this effort for ourselves. We do it for you, the readers, and we want to reach as many of you as possible.

So when is accepting or even asking for a free book from an author or publisher the right thing to do? When you understand these hopes, plan to actually read the book and, if you enjoy it, plan to tell as many others about it as you can. It’s that simple.

That said, please be understanding if an author needs to say no to your request for a free review copy. I don’t know any authors who have unlimited copies to give away for free—even to those readers who would rave about them. As we’ve established, books cost money to create well, and just like you, we’re trying to be good stewards of the resources God gave us.

Speaking of God’s gifts, my upcoming novel, Sing in the Sunlight, was a gift to me from God in so many ways. Inspired by my daughter who bears scars similar to the heroine, this story is very close to my heart. Here’s a bit about it:

Title: Sing in the Sunlight
Series: Chaparral Hearts
Genre: Historical Christian Romance
Length: 402 pages
Publisher: Wild Heart Books
Release Date: March 2, 2021

Richard Stevens isn’t who he thinks he is. Neither is the woman who now claims his last name.

Disfiguring scars stole Clarinda Humphrey’s singing career, her home, and her family, but she refuses to let her appearance steal her future. While attending The Young Ladies Seminary in 1858 Benicia, California, she finds a man who promises to love and cherish her. Instead he betrays her, leaving her with child, and Clarinda must take drastic measures to ensure her child doesn’t suffer for her foolishness.

Richard Stevens’s life hasn’t turned out as he expected, and when a shocking letter turns even his past into a mystery, he travels to San Francisco in search of guidance. On the way, he encounters a mysterious young woman hiding beneath a veil. That night he experiences a dream that sends him on a quest to find the bride God has chosen for him. He never imagines she’s already told everyone they’re married.

Unwilling to lie, nor accept a marriage of mere convenience, Richard wants the real thing. Yet Clarinda’s not interested in love, only a chance to save her child. Can he help her rise above the pain that runs deeper than her scars to accept a love worth every risk?

Listen to Kathleen as she reads from the first chapter of Sing in the Sunlight.

Preorder your copy today!

Amazon | Apple Books | Barnes & Noble  Books-A-Million | Kobo

In celebration of this second book in Kathleen’s Chaparral Hearts series, she’s offering preorder bonuses. These include a set of exclusive coloring pages (hand drawn by Kathleen for this novel), and an MP3 recording of the hymn referenced in the book (God Moves in a Mysterious Way), performed by Kathleen’s wonderful mother.

Anyone who preorders Sing in the Sunlight no later than February 28, 2021 can register to receive their preorder bonuses. To register, email your proof of preorder purchase to kdpreorderbonuses@gmail.com no later than February 28, 2021. A proof of purchase is typically a screenshot of your receipt. Please do not include any personal information such as physical mailing address or account numbers when submitting your proof of purchase. Preorder bonuses will be emailed on the day of the book’s release to all who register. 

Now what would a post about free books be without the opportunity to get a free book? Or better yet, TWO FREE BOOKS!

Sign up now to join my Kathleen’s Readers’ Club and you’ll gain access to my KRC Freebie Library which includes a wide variety of printables, downloads, exclusive videos, and more. Best of all, included with the digital library is my prequel novella for the Chaparral Hearts series, Ribbons and Beaus!

Click here to sign up.

After you’ve become a KRC Member, enter to win a digital copy of the Chaparral Hearts series book one, Waltz in the Wilderness!

Click here to enter!

Did you find this post helpful? Did you learn anything new? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Kathleen Denly writes historical romance stories to entertain, encourage, and inspire readers toward a better understanding of our amazing God and how He sees us. Award winning author of the Chaparral Hearts series, she also shares history tidbits, thoughts on writing, books reviews and more at KathleenDenly.com.

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