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Words for free: where do you stand as a blogger?

Until I became a blogger myself, I was unaware of the vehemence with which many writers refuse to provide content free of charge. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, both sides make valid points. It’s true that nobody wants to work for free and shouldn’t have to. It’s also true that, sometimes, giving words away for free is a strategic move that puts you out in front of your competition.

I’ll use my own habits of downloading e-books as an example.

Occasionally, I’ll hit the “shop” button on my Nook Color just to check out the free e-books. It’s rare that I actually download one because I’m picky about what I want to read, but this is the exact quirk that brought new author, Scott William Carter, to my attention. His novel, “The Gray and Guilty Sea” was free for download. The cover art was fantastic, and the description intriguing, so I jumped in with both feet.

Two days later, I had a new favorite author. In quick succession, I downloaded the two sequels to “Gray and Guilty Sea” at regular price, read them, and wrote raving reviews for all three books. I also located the author’s Facebook page, Twitter feed, and online blog and followed them all. To date, I’m anxiously awaiting the latest release in this series that’s quickly become a favorite.

With one free offering, this savvy new writer made a fan for life — a fan who loves spreading the good news about great books.

Maybe I would have eventually discovered the books on my own anyway, but the odds are against it. I prefer autobiographies to fiction and real lives to invented ones. If “The Gray and Guilty Sea” had been listed at regular price, chances are, I would have scrolled right past it.

And I’m so glad I didn’t.

Giving away words for free was the best move this relatively unknown author could have made, and if you’re reluctant to believe it, you can check out the number of reviews the free book has garnered on Amazon. To date, the book that was offered for free has inspired 1,064 reviews, resulting in a four-and-one-half-star rating for its writer.

Not too shabby.

And if you still don’t believe in the power of the uncompensated word, you can visit the author’s blog, “”, where he expounds upon the wisdom of this particular marketing tactic. According to Carter, after giving away the first in his series of Oregon Coast Mysteries, sales of the second two volumes “exploded.” And I believe him.

I was right in there buying them, after all.

But this isn’t where my advocacy of being generous with written work ends. As I mentioned previously, I’m a blogger myself. One day I stumbled across another blog and fell instantly in love with the author’s writing style. It took me awhile to work up my courage, but one day I sent him a simple Facebook message, asking him if he would consider writing a guest post for my own site.

To make a long story short, he did. And happily. He also gained a fan for life. And so did the second writer who was kind enough to contribute a post when I asked. I’ll promote these authors for as long as they keep writing. A third writer who I contacted was swift with a contemptuous reply. She refused to write even a single post for free, and so I dropped her from my published blogroll of favorite authors, stopped linking to her site in my written work, and ceased mentioning her altogether.

But I still see her point. Writers work hard for the pennies they make. And just like any other professional, they deserve to be paid for their blood, sweat and tears. Regardless of which side of the fence you populate in this oft-heated argument, there are no villains in this great debate.

But if you are one of the staunch writers who digs in your heels when approached to write a guest post, I urge you to remember the story of “The Gray and Guilty Sea.” A little generosity goes a long way in the writing industry. And if you’re a new and talented writer, it could just be the one act that propels you right to the bank.

Guest post by:

Martin is co-founder Blogging service Copify. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.


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