The Power Of Giving Away Your Product Free

I stumbled upon this at Chris Anderson’s blog:

Charles Sheehan-Miles, who wrote “Republic: A Novel of America’s Future”, explains why he’s giving away his ebook in any way, shape or form you want it:

No more sample chapters, partial books that end in the middle, none of that. You can download and read the complete book. Share it with your friends, email it, do anything you want with it except sell it.

Here’s why: the biggest challenge most authors face isn’t online piracy. It’s not people out there diabolically copying their works and distributing them for free. In fact most authors (including yours truly) suffer from a different problem entirely — no one has ever heard of them. After all, literally hundreds of thousands of new titles come out every year, and only a few hundred writers in the entire United States (if that many) actually live off their books full time. So, by giving away the book, I hope more people actually read it.

Chris Also points out that, “Tim O’Reilly was the first to say that the enemy of authors isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.”

Charles is getting a good bit of publicity off his book. In fact, his blog page on the book has even hit page 1 of Digg. That is exposure you can’t put a price on.

I’m sure over the next few days, months and years he’ll get plenty of downloads and buzz for the book. He’ll certainly have some nice leverage and a fanbase with his next one if he decides to go to a publisher and sell physical copies.

Now for the interesting part – consider replacing exactly what he is doing with his book, with music, or a movie, or really any digital good. Yes Radiohead already did this with the ‘name your own price’ deal for their last album, however I think it is even more powerful for an up-and-coming artist or movie producer to do this to create a buzz. Radiohead already had a fanbase. An upcoming artist needs this kind of exposure much more.

The key is to realize the power of promotion and importance of spreading of an idea along with your name. That must come first, before any thoughts about making money. If you’re passionate about something, spread it to people – even give it away. In an oversatured world, it’s a great strategy and way to cut through the clutter. The money and success will come later as a natural byproduct of your passion.

Once you have a buzz and popularity, there will be easier ways to monetize yourself then if you’re lost in obscurity.