I wrote before about barriers and piracy, but this time I want to narrow in on a single barrier.
The biggest barrier for indie publishers (of all media) is not being known. No one is going to buy your book, or game, or movie, or anything else if they don’t know you or it even exists.
Anyone who has become well-known in their market has had an enormous amount of luck on their side, be it a good review on a popular site (or many popular sites), or if they just got a small group of fans that kept growing as they kept putting out more and more media.
The barrier here is obvious – people can’t buy your stuff if they don’t know it exists. Piracy, then, has been stated to have had a very positive effect on people who aren’t well known. There was a group of indie musicians that came out in support of Napster back in the 90s. These relative-unknown’s were building a fan-base. People were looking for sounds similar to what they already enjoyed, and Napster provided an easy way to browse similar users collections and be exposed to a band they never would have heard of otherwise.
The same applies to books.
Even once you do stick your head above the crowd, you have to make it count. I don’t read as many books as I’d like because I’m not familiar with many authors that have impressed me, and $10 (the typical paperbook price) is daunting to figure out if I like an author. My location isn’t very library friendly either, so it’s a 40 minute walk to and from a library and there are just some points of the year I’m not up for that hike (say, in the winter or rain).
I’d love for more authors to offer their works for free through legitimate means as an advertising method. I’m more than willing to pay for entertainment if I feel I’m going to like it – and this isn’t about you, the creator. This is about me, the consumer. I’m not trying to hurt you if I want your stuff for free; I’m not trying to rip you off. I’m testing the water to see if you and I could be a fit.
People’s taste in entertainment varies wildly. Even though I might like vampire erotica with a bad boy main character, I might not like /your/ vampire erotica with a bad boy main character. So why don’t you let me sample it, see if I like your writing style before asking me to shell out the money to test the waters.
People only have so much money for entertainment each month. Sure, your book might cost less than a chocolate bar – but I know I’m going to like that chocolate bar because I’ve had it before and it was kick ass. And I, like most people, are far more willing to spend money on a sure thing rather than a risky chance.