The best thing two things about owning a Kindle (or other e-reader) are (1) that you can carry a ton of books around in a tiny device and (2) so many free books are available. I purposefully avoided the e-reader experience for years, because I loved the feel of holding a real book in my hands. However, since I live overseas, I finally took the plunge and I’ve never looked back.
And the multitude of free books you can download on a Kindle! It’s amazing, and fantastic! I’ve spent quite a bit of time filling my Kindle with free books. It’s a brave new world, indeed.
And then last March, I self-published my first novel. Suddenly, one of those free books out there had my name on it. And just as suddenly, the books in my Kindle device took on a different meaning.
Now, they weren’t just freebies meant to be downloaded and forgotten, they were dreams put to the page. Each free book I’d downloaded now represented years of hard work. Stories that had been taken from idea, to draft, to beta readers, to revision, to hard critiques, to killing the darlings, to more revision, to putting it aside and picking it up three years later, to becoming determined to finish even if it resulted in death, to typing until callouses formed on fingertips, until at last, that final copy emerged.
This is true of every single free book that you have downloaded, with the possible exception of Baboon Fart Story by Phronk.
And so, I want to make an appeal to you Kindle free ebook downloaders. These are six things you can do after downloading a free Kindle book if you really want to help the authors who are giving you this free entertainment.
Understand that each step involves a bit more effort and investment on your part, but each will be increasingly appreciated by the author.
1) Download the book!
It seems pretty obvious, but it needs to be said that if you see a book that looks interesting, go ahead and download it. Self-published authors really want to see their books climb as high as possible on the Amazon lists, and your solitary download will help that to happen. So if the book looks interesting to you, go ahead and hit that “buy now” button and get your free book. That action alone will be doing the author a favor.
2) Share the free book info with your friends
A book is only free for a limited time, and so the author is depending on you helping to spread the word in a timely fashion. After you download, go ahead and share the info with your friends, and water the author’s attempts at grass roots marketing. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, whatever your social media outlet of choice – let folks know that an interesting-looking book is out there for free. Just use Amazon’s handy share buttons.
3) Actually read the book!
This is where it starts to get a bit more complicated. As I said before, I also have a Kindle full of free books that I may or may not get to, but as we head into the new year, I am making a commitment to actually go through those books and give them a shot. At some point, they looked like something I might want to read, so I should give them the benefit of the doubt. Right? Who knows? I may discover a great new author! This happened for me when I downloaded and actually read Marion Harmon’s Wearing the Cape – a great new take on the superhero genre.
4) Write a review.
For some reason, this seems to be the most difficult step for people. For example, I’ve given away literally a couple of thousand digital copies of Thimblerig’s Ark since it was first published back in March, and since that time, I’ve had 22 people write reviews. It’s actually quite simple to write a review, but it might just be one of the most important things you can do for the writer – especially when they are self-published.
Understand, I’m not suggesting that you go all Kirk Cameron on this and inflate the reviews, but if you will actually take a moment and write an honest critique of the story, it will help immensely. Even if your review is negative, it shows future potential readers that the reviews are honest.
And don’t be intimidated by the idea of writing a review, because it doesn’t have to go into great depths. For example, one of the reviews that Thimblerig’s Ark has received says simply, “Loved it….reminds me of Watership Down almost. Reading it to my son now! Good book to read to a class!”, and that was a great review!
5) Buy the Book.
I know, I know. The book was free, you downloaded it, shared it with your friends, read it, and reviewed it. And now I have the gall to suggest that you drop some of your hard-earned cash on a book you’ve read? As I said before, this is a list that involves increasing commitment. As a writer, I am very happy when someone reads and reviews my book. However, several friends told me that they could easily drop the $2.99, and that small support meant the world to me.
But what if the self-published author isn’t your friend? It will still be a huge encouragement to them if you liked the book enough to actually take the time to invest in it. Remember, they haven’t been contracted by some big publisher to write – they are writing because they love writing. And if they are anything like me, they would love to be able to do it full time, and deliver new books year after year. Certainly your one purchase won’t enable us to quit our day jobs, but it will be an enormous pat on the back and encouragement to keep on writing.
6) Gift the Book.
And if you really, really liked the book, then take the plunge and order copies for your friends. Give the print copy of the book as a gift! Send it to friends for birthdays, or give it to your dad on Father’s Day, or to the ladies in your life on International Women’s Day.
This will accomplish several things. First, it will be a financial support to the author as you purchase multiple copies. Second, it will help get his or her writing out there to new potential readers. Third, it will drive up sales, which will help the author to be taken seriously by others.
And you have to get friends and family gifts anyway, right? Give a gift to a budding author at the same time.
So,intrepid Kindle downloaders, get out there and collect the free books. But don’t stop there! Read, review, spread the word, and actually buy some! This is what will enable writers to continue doing what they love to do, and you’ll be able to continue reaping the benefits!
Author Nate Fleming at a book signing at the Bookworm, Chengdu, China – summer 2014
And – in the shameless self-promotion portion of this blog post, I’d ask that you go ahead and start by downloading my book, Thimblerig’s Ark, which is available for free until December 28, 2014!