This is Not a Rant


It’s more of an explanation and an expression of concern for the future of eBooks. Amazon is pushing its Kindle format for eBooks just as hard as it can. One of the ways the management of the eBook division has come up with to do that is to allow authors to promote their Kindle books for free for up to five days out of every 90 that they keep their work in the Kindle Prime Program (

What this does is to allow readers to dive into an author’s published works for no money. And that is absolutely fine with me. My second novel, “Hog Valley”, was promoted this way for 3 days and the follow-on sales are very encouraging.

So, what’s the down side to this? Well, you see, it’s all of those other author’s who are taking advantage of that promotion program.  Readers can download their books for free, too. So why should anyone ever buy another book for their Kindle when they can get so many new releases (reasonably new, anyway) for free?

One of the inevitable results of this will be that ‘successful’ authors are going to be forced to lower their prices (really lower their prices) to attract any readers at all.

Amazon is the 900 lb. gorilla in the room, boys and girls, and they have earned the right to chum the water any way they want to. I am very much in favor of free (sic) enterprise, and I do support Amazon (and, unfortunately Microsoft) with my hard-earned money. I buy their books and their software and use them quite happily, I must say.

But just how low does Amazon expect authors to go with their prices? My novels are priced at $3.00 for the Kindle versions, and I have no intention of lowering them any more. ‘Successful’ authors, such as John Grisham and Bernard Cornwell and many, many others, keep the prices for their Kindle versions very nearly on a par with the paper versions of their works. And they seem to be doing okay with at. For now, at least.

But I don’t think it’s going to last for them.

Every author worth his or her salt puts a lot of time and effort into producing a quality product (more or less; I’ve seen some truly embarrassing punctuation and spelling errors lately in some of the ‘new’ novels I’ve read on my Kindle). We as authors want (need, really) to attract new readers. That’s how we make a living.

But such ‘free’ promotions aren’t really a good thing in the long run. It’s hard enough attracting new readers when you’re working on a level playing field. It’s damn near impossible when there are so many new releases you can get for no money at all.

And in the interest of full disclosure I must admit that I grab every ‘free’ Kindle eBook I can (well, as long as it’s in a genre I like to read and it sounds interesting). I must admit, too, that many of them are not competing directly with my novels, and most of them are riddled with grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors so they would never make it on a bookstore shelf.

But as long as a readers eyes are on one of those books there is little opportunity for that reader to look for something better.

I think – well, hope, actually, that all of this ‘free’ promotion furor will die down to a background rumble some time soon. It will probably never go away entirely – it just has too many attractive aspects to it for new authors and for readers looking for new authors’ material.

If you have a new novel – or whatever – and want to promote the digital version (and if your do have a new work you’re an idiot if you don’t have a digital version), give the Kindle Prime promotion program a shot. If you have several works already in digital format set one up as ‘free’ and use it to attract new readers to your other works.

It does pay off. Really, it does. There are about a gazillion books out there, and every author in the world has to compete with each and every one of those books. Every dollar someone spends on one of those other books is a dollar that will never find its way into YOUR pocket (or mine, for that matter).

So promote yourself, and promote your work any way you can. Nobody is going to do it for you. It’s you and me against every other author in the world, kiddo.

Well, really, it’s me against you and every other author in the world. But I wish you the very best of luck anyway.


About Gary Showalter

Gary Showalter was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He lived in Aruba, Florida and the Panama Canal Zone before joining the U.S. Army during the 1960s. Following his discharge from the Army, Mr. Showalter picked cotton in East Texas, baled hay in Ardmore Oklahoma, sold light bulbs in Los Angeles, California, and built cattle pens in Fallon, Nevada (during a blizzard, of course). After settling in Atlanta, Georgia, Mr. Showalter worked as a professional gardener before turning his hand to furniture making. In 1981, he moved to Israel, married, and raised four children while working as a furniture maker, silversmith, goldsmith, and ornamental wood turner. He served in the Israel Defense Forces Reserves for sixteen years, and when not on active duty he worked in government and private security. He has also served in senior management positions in two software development companies in Israel. During his time in Israel, Mr. Showalter published articles dealing with international terror and the Israel-Arab conflict in the Jerusalem Post, Israel national News and several political science web sites. Mr. Showalter returned to the United States in the fall of 2003, to care for an elderly parent. He published his first novel, “The Big Bend”, in the fall of 2008. His second novel, “Hog Valley”, is now in print. Mr. Showalter's third novel, “Twisted Key”, was published in the fall of 2011, and his fourth novel, "Lonesome Cove" is now available in Kindle format and should be published in paper near the end of 2012. He currently lives in Deland, Fl, where he is co-authoring "A Silent Star" with Tony Attanasio. "A Silent Star" is the true tale (though novelized, with names changed for security reasons) about the 4-person covert action team sent into Yemen to capture Osama Bin laden immediately after the bombing of the USS Cole in the Aden harbor in Yemen in October of 2000.
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2 Responses to This is Not a Rant

  1. Gary, what a powerful and true blog! I recently offered both of my novels for the free Kindle promotion and while I was offering up my second one, I checked out the free store. On any given day of the week, you’re right, there are so many free books, some that even appeal to me and are done well, that I did hesistate and wonder if I was doing the right thing in letting people read my books for free. Why, with all of the freebies would someone ever want to pay for a book again? I have two answers to that and they contradict each other. (1) They won’t. (2)They will pay for books from their favorite authors, or (hopefully) a new author that has really impressed them.

    My sales have improved a bit since I offered my books for free, I have 3 more days to do one of them. It just hurts to see 830 people read all that writing for free and find very little reviews.

    Amazon is king right now, but even Rome fell.

    • Regarding your comment that you hate to see all 830 people reading your work for free; yes, it does hurt until you see those free books as ‘loss leaders’. They attract new readers to ALL of your books. In that sense, you have lost nothing. On the contrary, Melanie; you have just gained ‘X’ amount of new readers whom you would never have found on your own.

      Good for you, Melanie!

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