Marsha Canham's Blog

September 13, 2011

I think Julia Roberts should make her next movie for free.

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 1:38 pm

Seriously.  I think she should show up to the set every morning for seven o’clock (after staying up till 3 learning her lines), sit in hair and makeup for two hours, wait around the set all day to do take after take after take of her being mugged and terrorized by some thug who tries to drown her in the scene, which would require her to dry off after every take, get hair and makeup done again etc etc.  And if she doesn’t get it right the first day, do it all over again the second day and the third day until the director is satisfied that she truly sounds like she’s being choked and drowned. After all, her audience expects a certain high standard of quality to her work. She’s won an Oscar and a People’s Choice and probably a bunch of other awards over her career that probably look good on her mantle but don’t really guarantee continuing success unless she’s willing to work twice as hard to meet the higher standard movie goers expect of an award-winner.  She’s worked hard to get where she is, doing movies that maybe weren’t A list and maybe weren’t worthy of being mentioned in her resume all the time. But she was learning her craft, so those movies, bad as we might think they are, meant something to her, taught her more about acting and editing and sound and directing.

But hey. She’s famous now. She should make her next movie for nothing. Or at least insist the producers make it free for her fans. After all, they’ve been loyal supporters all these years.

Writing is a lot like acting. We all have to pay our dues, starting out with books that are sometimes lacking in style, voice, content. We’ve all written some duds, but we all learn something from those duds, and we learn something from every book we write. We learn about characterization, about writing tighter dialogue, adding more plot twists, putting in more humor or more horror. We learn how to make a reader laugh or cry. For some of us that takes years and there are no short cuts. We sometimes have to write a scene over and over, trying it this way or that way until we get it right.  We’re up at dawn and work until dark. Some of us even have jobs that take us away from writing for eight hours so that it has to be squeezed in between the day job, running the household, taking care of the family.  Those are the writers who stay up until three in the morning and make the boss wonder why they’re so tired or crabby at work the next day. After all, our readers expect a certain high standard of quality in our work. They expect to be entertained, amused, driven to tears. Some of us have worked our butts off and won awards that look good on the wall, but don’t really have any cash return.

Does that mean we should make our next book free? After all, they’ve been loyal fans.

I received an email last night from a reader demanding…yes, demanding…to know why I hadn’t made one of my books free.  Seems she’s downloaded the other three I’ve put free during brief promotions and she thinks I should make The Iron Rose free so she can read that one too.

It took me a year to write The Iron Rose. Hours of research, hours of plotting, days, weeks, months of being locked away in a little room with only a pen and paper for company. For all that it had a brief shelf life and slipped off to obscurity until recently when I was able to get the rights back and reissue it as an ebook.

Now this reader expects it for free….because?  Because it’s a reissue? Because it’s an ebook?  Because the $3.99 price is too much to bear while she’s sitting there sipping her $4.95 latte?

Wanna know my reaction to that?   It made me realize that I have given away over 200K books in free downloads over the past year.  Swept Away has been free, Bound by the Heart has been free, and most recently, Through A Dark Mist has been free. I’ll spell that out in case it didn’t make enough impact. Two hundred thousand copies. That’s more than all three books combined sold in print.

And for that, I get emails demanding I make more of my books free?  Does this reader work for free?  Does she show up at her job, smile at her boss, and say:  I think I’ll work for free for the next year.

Yes, I’m crusty today, and I apologize to the other 99.99999999% of the readers who understand that we all have to struggle to make a living these days.

To the “avid” reader who wrote me, I’ll say this:  Give up a latte. Buy a book. Because I, for one, won’t be making any more of mine free.



  1. Since we are discussing price tags I have to say that woman has some serious balls and her comments are priceless.

    Marsha – I wish I’d read your stories years ago. I paid 1.99 for Wind and the Sea and adored it. I got China Rose for the same. Bound by the Heart and Through a Dark Mist I feel blessed to have gotten for free. I loved your work so much I paid the higher dollar price for Across a Moonlit Sea and compared to other books I’ve read at the same price considered even that a steal!

    200K books – that is amazing! Keep writing, please and whether they are Free are not I’ll be reading.

    Comment by caseamajor — September 13, 2011 @ 2:14 pm | Reply

  2. So sorry to hear that one ungrateful reader made you feel this way. I am a new reader to your books and I am very happy that they are being re-issued as ebooks. I am also thrilled with the fact that your ebooks are at lower prices than newly published books. Not only are they longer than many of the 7.99 titles out there, but they are so much better. I have several of your books on my Amazon wish list and intend to read them as time allows. Please do not let someone who, not only does not appreciate what she has already received, but instead looks for more ruin the way you feel about those of us who love your work and have no issue with paying for it. We are in fact thrilled that we get such wonderful books at such reasonable prices.

    I recently read Across a Moonlite Sea and Iron Rose and absolutely loved both of them. Thank you for giving me the pleasure of being able to read these wonderful books on my Kindle.

    Comment by Mary McLaughlin — September 13, 2011 @ 2:22 pm | Reply

  3. Bravo! The worker is worth his wage!

    Comment by Lanna Dickinson — September 13, 2011 @ 3:29 pm | Reply

  4. I first discovered your books when I was looking at the top Kindle free downloads, so don’t discount offering an occasional free book for a limited time as a way to broaden your base of readers. After reading the free book, I was then happy to pay for — and devour — the rest of your books. I have really enjoyed reading all of your books and anxiously await the next one! There will always be people who try to get something for nothing; don’t let them rain on your parade!

    Comment by cathyrel — September 13, 2011 @ 4:13 pm | Reply

  5. Yea for you Marsha! This person must be delusional and rude to demand a free book. Let her go to Starbucks and demand a free latte or go to a salon and demand a free haircut. Let her see what they tell her. I LOVE the cat picture at the end by the way, LOL! Ignore the wackos please, and keep writing for the rest of us who are only too happy to pay for your wonderful books. I think I have read the Last Arrow (I love Griffyn!)maybe 5 or 6 times, The Blood of Roses/Pride of Lions about 4 times. Lent out my books to as many people as I can so that they can become fans too. Never forget there are tons of people who think your books are the best historical romance out there and they are worth every f*****g penny.

    Comment by Julie — September 13, 2011 @ 4:34 pm | Reply

  6. I don’t have an e-reader. I do have most of your books (Scottland trilogy, Robin Hood trilogy, the civil war book, the western, swept away, a couple more pirate ones…can you tell I am terrible remembering book names?) in paperback where I paid about $7.99 apiece for them. My only regret is that you didn’t get a bigger cut of that $7.99! I think you would be wise to never make a book completely free. Discounts for buying a whole set of books or occasional low prices ($1.99 is the absolutely lowest I would go, just to get someone’s attention) are good ideas, but when someone gets something for free they don’t value it and instead they get a sense of entitlement.

    Now, Marsha, back to work. I won’t ask for a book for free, but I might beg to be able to place an order. Any thought to going back to a medieval period book? I loved the Robin Hood books and I think you could really kick some Viking butt if you go back a little bit further. Whattaya say?

    Comment by Christa — September 13, 2011 @ 6:21 pm | Reply

  7. It just goes to show people are always going to be shooting their mouths off about something they don’t know anything about. Like you said, all the work and research that goes into these is priceless, not to mention the art of writing the story itself. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve stayed up till the wee hours of the morning just to finish a book, they are that interesting and exciting. I’ve been reading your books since you first started publishing them and have started to reread them again (just like sitting down with an old friend…). You’ve inspired me to put my ideas to “paper” (can one say that in the internet age?) to 2 stories that I have been sitting on for over 15 years. Keep up the great work and don’t listen to all the “critics”. Lord knows Hollywood doesn’t!!

    Comment by Karen — September 13, 2011 @ 7:17 pm | Reply

  8. I love your books and I was happy when you reissue the old ones as ebooks as I could buy them at last. I had most of your books on paper and I boght two of the old ones before they went for free and got one free but I would gladly had paid for it also. Yes, you are allowed to earn your living as everyone of us. I consider it a wonderful kind gift one an author put one of her/his books free. And I think it is a wonderful way to know some new writers and when I like it then I buy other books. Don’t let one reader ruin your mood. We are waiting for more of your books and to pay for it.

    Comment by Susana — September 13, 2011 @ 8:08 pm | Reply

  9. Marsha, before you started releasing your books as e-books I searched used book stores to find older books of yours I had not yet read. Years ago I bought my first Marsha Canham book, The Blood of Roses, at an airport and as I boarded that plane I had no idea that I was about to be swept back in time and have all those amazing characters literally work their way into my head. When I returned home I promptly headed down to my local used book store and cleaned them out of anything with your name on it! I still have those books today and I have reread them many times. Over the years I have been able to add to my collection one by one until I pretty much had them all. Just over a year ago I happily paid over $25 online to get my hands on a copy of China Rose, and while it is definitely not one of my favorites I was happy to get a chance to read one of your earlier works. Now here we are a year later with most of your books available with a few clicks of a mouse and a few bucks charged to my credit card. I was finally able to read the one book of yours I was not able to find in paperback, Bound by the Heart and I am now patiently waiting for your new book to be released (ok not that patiently so hurry up would you) .

    I think it is amazing that new fans of yours have access to your re-issued books with out having to trail around used book stores like I did. The stories have not become less valuable just because technology has made it easier for them to accessed, if anything they should be of more value because of the convenience. I don’t have an e-reader yet but I do have 6 of your e-books that I have read on my laptop using the Kindle app from Amazon. I know that I am going to want them all once I get a reader as the idea of being able to have an entire collection of books in my purse is pretty exciting. Don’t allow one unappreciative reader to dissuade you from what you are doing. Through your free books and special deals you now have the ability to reach out to an entirely new crop of fans and I think that is a wonderful thing for them and for you as I can guarantee they will come back for more and be willing to pay for it!

    Comment by Suzanne Andrews — September 14, 2011 @ 1:11 am | Reply

  10. I’m just grateful you’ve finally return to writing. You have been greatly missed and like other readers I am looking forward to your newest release. There are a few; we won’t mention names, who do not appreciate the hard work and effort you put into your writing. I’ve never cried as hard as I did reading the Blood of Roses. Of course I couldn’t forgive you for weeks for killing some beloved characters but this is a true testament to your writing skills when your readers care about what happens to the characters in the book. Thank you for the book freebies and please let us know when you get the rights to your Scotland books. I’m refusing to buy them on Kindle and keeping the hard copies until you get those rights back and then I’ll purchase them for my ebook collections. And crossing my fingers that you’ll revisit that time period again.

    Comment by lcha — September 16, 2011 @ 6:31 pm | Reply

  11. All I can say is that I found the first of the Robin Hood trilogy as a free ebook. I am slowly buying your other books as my budget will allow. I do not think any author should offer there work for free. To many hours and research are put into the book to just give it away. You have a wonderful gift and I am happy to pay the price for an ebook just to read your work.

    Comment by Suzie — September 17, 2011 @ 4:36 pm | Reply

  12. Ladies, my thanks for all your comments. Making any book free for any length of time is a huge decision, and yes, I’ve had success in gaining new readers who have tried my books and gone on to read more, so I’m not trying to take anything away from it as a promotional tool. As authors, we are always trying to find new ways to interest new readers because face it, this is a tough business to be in. Thousands of new indie writers are self publishing every month and they too put their books up for free hoping to get some name recognition started. In print publishing, it’s up to the publisher to advertise, promote, and distribute the books so they get shelf exposure. In the digital world, it’s up to us to do it ourselves, and very few of us know anything about that side of the business. We learn by trial and error…and feedback, to know what works and what doesn’t. Freebies do work, that’s a reality. But it doesn’t pay the mortgage. *s*

    Comment by marshacanham — September 17, 2011 @ 5:28 pm | Reply

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