Several of my writer friends have recently received letters from a new company called MyFreeRead, offering to pay them for their e-books and other writing, which is then made available to readers free of charge on their website. The letter began:
We want your e-books -- and we'll pay you for them!!
* Excerpts from books
* Self-Published Articles
Now, there's a new idea... actually get paid for writing your e-books and articles!"
The payment offered for each e-book 'downloaded' (ie, 'sold') was 20 cents. Quite apart from the extraordinary notion that being paid for ebooks is a new idea, several things about the letter worried my friends - and me.
One, that amount is very low. If an author sells an ebook via one of the reputable publishers they are paid a percentage royalty per book sold. This varies depending on the price and length but most ebooks are in the $5 range and typical industry percentages are around 25%-40% of cover price. Now, I'm not much good at maths but even I can work out that 25% of $5 is a lot more than 20 cents.
On top of that, the only way the owner(s) of MyFreeRead can make any profit from this business model (paying the authors and not charging the readers) is if they benefit from some sort of advertising deal. Sure enough, Writers Beware has done some research and found that MyFreeRead is linked to a provider of online advertising, and that readers will have to complete a survey and view several adverts before they can get at the free ebook they want to download.
I'm not a big fan of online advertising. Much of it is linked to viruses and malware, some of it hijacks your browser, and all of it tends to breed like bunnies in a field. You start off with one browser screen and end up with fifteen pop-ups, seven pop-unders and three extra screens. Every time you close one down it automatically generates six more. I've been known to spend minutes trying to close my browser down. And I'm supposed to subject my readers to that sort of experience just so they can download a free bit of my writing, and I can be paid the measly sum of 20 cents?
If you're even remotely considering getting involved with MyFreeRead, I urge you to visit the Writers Beware article linked above. It makes for interesting reading and will hopefully make you look before you leap... and land in a puddle of something wet.