How To Not Sell Me Your Free Book

One might think making a book free will net oneself as many readers as encounter said book. Not so! Below are a few ways to convince Lily not to download your free book and waste her precious time attempting to read it.

Put any of the following plot elements in your novel:

  • Time travel (certain SF scenarios excepted)
  • Love triangle*
  • Real historical persons
  • Famous fictional persons (e.g., Holmes, Darcy, King Arthur, etc.)
  • Deities or their divine representatives (such as angels) as essentially human characters
  • Unrealistic gaps in station in a setting where such things matter
  • Patently anachronistic behavior or attitudes for no clear reason
  • A do-gooder hero or heroine, or one whose attitude feels politically correct
  • Any sort of secret society responsible for keeping order in secret (historical spy societies and paranormal hero councils equally despised!)**

*I don’t consider obviously false love interests to be triangles. But actual triangles are a deal-breaker.

**One of my friends is convinced I am destined to get propositioned by just such an order because I find them so insufferable in fiction.

Alternatively, you can present your story in one of these ways:

  • Spell a character’s name two different ways in the description
  • In fact, have any sort of typo or grammatical faux pas in your description
  • Have a description longer than 300 words
  • Use so many generalities in your description that I have no real notion what the conflict is
  • Use so many details in your description that I have no idea what the real conflict is (or feel like I have now read your entire book)
  • Fail to clarify by cover and summary when your novel is set
  • Give your characters ridiculous names vis a vis their time period
  • Employ gratuitous diacritical marks (especially random apostrophes!) in the names of people and places – looking at you, epic fantasy

I suppose this is also a list of deal-breakers for books NOT listed for free, as well, but the more salient point is that I don’t make exceptions to my taste just because a book is free. I make exceptions only when a book sounds truly extraordinary.



Filed under Publishing, Ramblings, Reflections on Romance

4 responses to “How To Not Sell Me Your Free Book

  1. I think you raise a good point when it comes to a lot of the cookie cutter fiction out there right now. So much of it is a rehash of tired old plots or thinly-veiled fan fiction. I hope that truly committed writers can still work in these genres and differentiate themselves by doing something new and fresh with their take. There is a lot of skill out there, but also a lot of garbage and its hard to find the good stuff among the sea of bad stuff. I think your checklist is a good place to start.

    • Well, while i wrote this list more as a vent of tropes i really hate in romance and sff (the two main types of books i buy) than a call for genre reform, the fact that i see them all so often as to need to vent shows how common they are. I think with self-publishing we will get two types of books as the markets mature – those that are ever more the same and those that truly break free of conventions. Unfortunately there will likely always be a struggle to find the unique ones.

  2. Please define ‘love triangle’ in the exact terms you mean – so I can be sure to avoid the construct.

    And crave your indulgence for ONE apostrophe in an SF name used in a couple of places.

    Otherwise, I think I’m good.

    • When i think of love triangles i think things like the second/third twilight books where she has two guys she’s in love with, or the movie The Departed where the therapist is involved with and falling for both of the guys, and the major conflict is trying to choose between them. (as a side not…hilariously i love the bachelor/bachelorette shows. Maybe just bc everyone knows the score going in?) A situation like, say, luke/leia/han doesn’t bother me because it’s so obviously han, and anything with luke is just for show. Also infidelity is hugely unattractive to me as a plot point, and almost all triangles involve affairs or breaking someone’s trust. Actually that is probably the real objection i have – that 99% of triangles are betraying someone’s trust.

      Anyway, all of these have exceptions, it’s just things that i don’t like to read about (or watch, these go for movies too) need to have sonething so compelling i can look past my dislike of/discomfort with that part.

      And i can even forgive apostrophe names in two cases: one, compelling interest in the story, or two, it makes obvious linguistic sense. If your futuristic island city is To’yo, we’re cool. If you are writing about the Order of To’yo in the city of R’har in the land of Or’zen ruled by the ruthless k’and’ar named M’huyan…we have a problem, and your premise better promise the best gorram yarn i have heard in years to get me past that abusive tripe you call names. 🙂

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