To narrow that down a bit, does the posting of stories, novels, and art for free downloading, reading, viewing, and even sharing, make any difference in print book sales, in attracting more traffic to an author's or illustrator's blog, in doing anything to help that artist's career?
I give away a lot. I have a whole blog dedicated to some of my Creative Commons licensed content. I post my art regularly here on theophrast.us, on Flickr, deviantArt, and other art forums and presentation sites. I posted an SF novel Nanowhere almost four years ago under Creative Commons license. I post 3 to 5 panels for my web comic Saltwater Witch every week.
Free, all of it. Free to download, to read, to share, some of it out there for years.
Does it work, giving all of this away if you're just starting out? (I know it works if you're an established author, celeb, marketing guru, so I don't need the Doctorow, Scalzi, Anderson, Godin, etc. cases).
I'm curious to hear what other writers, illustrators, and readers think. Maybe you can guess what I think by what's on my blog or the Saltwater Witch site. I'm considering posting my entire novel Seaborn, which came out last July. And I'm wondering about the effectiveness of free. I completely get Tim O'Reilly's aphorism that the problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity. Maybe my real question is does giving things away solve that problem?