Readers are vital to writers, who are in the business of communication.  So writers should be wise enough, when writing their books, to keep the potential readers in mind, and to tell good stories that arouse their curiosity to keep them reading. Even so, selling their books is not always easy. So sometimes to encourage readership, books are sold for discounts and occasionally for nothing at all for a short promotional period, in order to arouse interest in the title.

I have just had a five-day promotion on Amazon of my last novel: Dear Magpies, when the eBook was available as a free download (instead of the usual price of £3.99)  I was delighted to have hundreds of people download my book, even though I made not a penny from it.

I have no problem with this at all, as I really value my readers, and I’m delighted to give them a good deal from time to time.  Whilst I understand that not everyone who downloads a free book onto their Kindle will necessarily read it, the chances are that most of them will in due course. If they like the book, they might recommend it to others who will then have to pay for it.  They might even write a review which will help tell others about it.  One is always told that people don’t value something if they get given it for free, but in these hard times I think giveaways are very welcome.

It is well known that there is no money to be made in writing fiction for the majority of authors, and only the most well-known, talented and successful authors make a decent living from writing books. Which is, of course, as it should be for such writers.  However there are many excellent authors who, for whatever reason – whether bad luck, lack of marketing or poor timing – never make much money from their efforts.   Only those professional writers who have good agents working on their behalf, manage to get advances on royalties these days.  Sometimes sales are less than expected and  the publisher is unlucky enough not to make back the amounts paid out in advances.

The vast majority of writers spend from to 1 to 3 years researching, writing, editing and – if lucky – liaising with a publisher, to produce books in the hope that they will sell well and they will make some earnings from royalties.  And some do.  But the royalties paid to most authors does not and cannot be their only source of income. For huge numbers of writers, who passionately believe in what they do and enjoy writing, they cannot live on what their books bring in, and will have another occupation or an alternative income to live on. As I do.

Without any doubt, I value readership above royalties. But writers have to choose whether to woo readers with promotions, discounts and giveaway books, or whether to hope that bookshops and online outlets will sell enough to make them significant royalties. Highly successful authors can have both and do not have to make a choice.  And of course publishers pay royalties six months to a year in arrears – an even longer wait now than for barristers.

Most authors write for the love of it – and not for monetary reward. And most readers read books because they love them. It’s a symbiotic relationship. For writers, royalties are a bonus, but readership is paramount.