Have you ever been given something for free, and saw it not as a gift, but a burden?
Earlier my friend sent me a link to a video. An interesting one, as it turns out, but the link was sent out of the blue, without explanation, when I was busy.
You get a coupon for a free meal, but you know you’ll have to go out of your way to the restaurant to redeem it.
You’re given a birthday gift, but it’s something you would never buy on your own. Now you’re burdened with more stuff you don’t want.
An author gives away a free ebook. That’s nice, but you have limited free time, and you don’t know whether you should spend it on this book.
But it was all free! What am I complaining about?
The problem is that people conflate price with value. Even if something is expensive, if it delivers a great deal of value, it’s a good deal. Likewise, free can have negative value if it imposes a burden of time, attention, or willpower.
You have to sell free. If you send someone a video, give them enough information to know whether they want to watch it or not. Don’t make them work for it. Then it becomes a burden rather than the gift you intended.
What does this have to do with writing? The author example, of course. I intend to release free material after my first novel is complete, because not all the stories I want to tell require a novel’s length. I’ll explain why they’re worth your time though, so they hopefully remain gifts instead of burdens.