What is the Free Fiction Project?
Free Fiction is a new way of understanding the value of fiction.
No, it doesn’t assume that fiction should always be free. It means that as a starting point, the value of any given piece of work is assumed to be zero.
Let me say that again – by default, fiction’s value is unknown.
How it works is like this:
- You download one of our books.
- You read it.
- You come back here and pay us what you think it was worth.
We think it’s only after you’ve read them that you’re ready to assess the value of our books. And that is what Free Fiction is all about: empowering the reader to determine for themselves how good a book is and what value it had to them in the cold, hard, and clear currency of cash.
Why are you trying to get paid this way?
There are dozens of reasons to support a move to donation-based support of the arts – technology changes are obviously leading the charge – but at the end of the day, we don’t view Free Fiction as a response to online piracy or the internet more generally. Instead it is a correction to the current understanding of how value is judged in a completely subjective arena like the arts. It just happens to be enabled through technology.
When you hand over your hard-earned cash to a restaurant, a computer store, or a community swimming pool, you are exchanging money for a known value. Generally you know what you are going to get: a meal, a computer, the ability to swim in a pool more or less sanitized of outrageous levels of filth. A book, a painting, a piece of music, is devoid of this same understood value. A book, in our mind, has an unknown value. Until a reader has read the last word, absorbed the last thought, pondered the final words of a dead character, he or she has not completely evaluated the value of a piece of art. Until that point, there is no way to know how good a book truly is and how much value it has to you.
The current system of collecting a fixed payment for an unknown quantity is required by old technology. Publishers had to choose individual artists to support by mass producing very expensive physical books, hoping to recover their financial investment over time. The internet has reduced the cost of “publishing” a book (ie. making it available for others around the world to read) to nearly zero. Hence, there should be no cost to the reader except for the value of the book itself. And the only one who can determine that value is the reader himself or herself.
So everything’s free?
For paper copies, we do charge the reader the cost of the creation of the paperback book, as well as the shipping and handling costs incurred to get the book to you. We don’t consider that the value of the book, merely the value of the materials and labor gone into getting the book to you. Similarly e-book retailers like Amazon’s Kindle store have set minimum prices (ostensibly to support server costs but also to pad their bottom line, as is their prerogative) and these simply can’t be bypassed, so we’re forced to charge those minimum values.
But if at all possible, you will never pay for a Free Fiction title except for whatever you deem its value after reading, via donation.
How much should I donate then?
It’s truly up to you.
Most people who read our books are fairly avid readers, so we ask you to consider what you willingly pay for other books. If you regularly pay $10 for an e-book off Amazon, and you liked our books half as much as your average $10 book, then perhaps its worth $5. If it’s twice as good, $20.
But that’s just how we would do it if offered the same choice.
And if I don’t feel like donating anything?
That’s entirely up to you. None of the authors participating in the Free Fiction Project are working under the assumption that we’ll make outrageous sums of money, or even enough to become full-time writers (though the dream persists). Mostly we write because it’s what we’d do anyway and the ability to share our writing with readers and other writers is now at our fingertips. If you never donate, for whatever reason, but you love our books, simply drop one of us a line and tell us so. Positive vibes are awesome and it’s always nice to connect with readers.
Seriously you think people will come back to this place to give you money?
Honestly we have no idea, but that’s the goal. Books are not like a music album, easily consumed in an hour and just as easily forgotten. Most books take at least a few hours to complete and chances are if you’ve invested that much time a few seconds to donate $5 isn’t a huge time commitment. And if we did our jobs well, we think people will overcome their natural laziness to fork over their money.
Shut up and let me give you money already?
By all means, go nuts!
I’m a writer and I think this is a great idea. Can I participate?
Absolutely! The entire project idea is pretty malleable and we’re open to ideas as to how you can participate. If you already have a website and a PayPal account to receive payment from people and just want to announce you’re supporting the principles of the Free Fiction Project, feel free to do so however you wish. If you have no idea what an eBook is or you can’t in a billion years figure out how to build a website, feel free to contact us and we’ll see if we can give you some advice. We’re not currently hosting other writers’ content on our website, but we are open to linking to the Amazon pages and personal websites of other authors who are enthusiastic about Free Fiction.
If you have any specific questions about how to get involved, please do contact us!
I’m a writer and I think this is a horrible idea. Can I emphatically tell you how stupid you are?
Absolutely! We think Free Fiction makes sense, but we might be way off. Feel free to let us know what you think. We might even engage in some good old fashioned email debate, and although we’re usually too busy writing and doing other things with our time to engage with trolls, a well-articulated counter-argument never hurt anyone.