Giving it Away

Free books2When at the veterinarian’s last week, I noticed one of the receptionists/aides had a Kindle, and asked her if she liked it. She said she loved her Kindle. I said something like “my books are on Amazon.” Once we’d established I meant books I had published, not books I’d read, she brought them up on her screen and said they were a genre she enjoyed. I pointed out that Along Came a Demon is free. She downloaded it. Then, she asked why I gave away a book.

In the author communities I belong to, one topic comes up again and again, and again. Are there advantages to offering your book at no cost? As soon as the question is asked, usually before the discussion begins, a few jump in – with wailing and gnashing of teeth – with the same comments:

One: Don’t give away your art! Don’t devalue your book! You’ve worked on it for months/years, poured your heart into it! How can you give it away for nothing?

Two: Think of all the sales you’re losing!

Three: You know you’re going to get a LOT of negative reviews!

My replies to those comments are:

One: Think of it as a marketing plan. “Free” gives your book  visibility among the hundreds of thousands of e-books available online. No cost to the reader makes it more attractive and readers may be willing to take a chance on it. This may not benefit you if you have published only one book, but if you have several, particularly a series, you may gain readers. As I said to the receptionist, if readers don’t like it, all they’ve lost is a little time. If they do like it, perhaps they’ll buy the next book in the series.

Two: Nonsense! Most of the readers who download a free book do so because it is free and being free made it discoverable. A small percentage may have heard of your book and looked for it, but I bet a hefty percentage downloaded it because it cost them nothing.

Three: The naysayers are worried about one-star reviews from readers who download any free book they come across or is listed in advertising emails they are subscribed to, without reading the product description or sample, or even taking into consideration if they like or dislike the genre. Then they leave one-star reviews when they discover the book is not for them. Shying away from offering a book at no cost for fear of negative reviews is . . . well . . . silly. Priced or free, you’re going to get negative reviews, guaranteed, because one man’s meat is another man’s poison .

I am not devaluing my work by offering it free, I am hoping to attract readers who are willing to take a chance on my book, who otherwise would not have noticed it. I enjoy seeing good sales of the rest of my  books, the complimentary reviews (negative reviews get an ouch!, and a shrug.) I enjoy getting lovely emails, messages on my Facebook page, and sign ups for my new release mailing list. All these mean someone out there likes my work.

So far I’ve given away over 125,000 copies, and no one is going to persuade me it’s not a good idea.

18 Responses to Giving it Away

  1. I love your strategy and it works. I started with your first book for free and then HAD to buy the rest(they are that great). I read them all in less than a week. I especially love the little details about the Ogden area as I live in Ogden myself. Thank you for writing such great novels. I can hardly wait for the next one.

    • Hi Barbara! I get such a kick out of hearing from local people. Sometimes when I’m in a busy place, such as Wal Mart or Newgate Mall, I indulge in wondering if any of the people around me have read my book! I’m glad you read them, and thank you for enjoying them.

      Linda :)

  2. Linda,
    I had to add my two cents worth of opinion as an avid fan…long before I had a Kindle or e-reader of any kind I was hooked and paid full market price for the Along Came A Demon. Now that I have a Kindle, I like getting those freebies and trying out new authors that I might not otherwise have taken a chance and spent my hard earned cash on. Print books are getting pricey, but there are certain writers that I wait with baited breath for their books to come out. When they hit the shelves, or Amazon e circuit, I eagerly pay the price to get my hands on those words. You happen to be one of those on that list. Marketing is slippery slope, but in my opinion, you’ve traversed it well.

    • Maecene, you may win the prize for long-long-long-time Whisperings fan! Knowing I’m on your “list” makes me feel . . . wonderful. Thank you so much!

      Linda :)

  3. Catherine M. Hunsuck

    I too am amoung the many readers who have discovered your books by being able to accuire the first one free. I have read all of your “Demon” series books and eagerly await the next installment.
    I believe that writers who offer a free book are smart because this action introduces the readers to your characters. Thank you for introucing me to Tiff and Royal.

    • Catherine, thanks for stopping by to tell me you enjoyed the Whisperings books! Each time someone tells me they got the first because it’s free and went on to spend their hard-earned dollars for the rest, it validates my decision. :)

  4. Pamela Garrett

    I read voraciously, print, desktop PC, through 3 Nooks, and now a Nexus 7. I love to browse the free, 2.99, new emerging author categories at B & N, you never know what treasures you will find.

    I downloaded Along Came A Demon this way, and promptly went back and purchased the entire set.

    Kudos to your marketing strategy-over the past few years I have purchased, in quite a literal sense, hundreds of books exactly in this manner.

    Thank you for being a writer, you do it extraordinarily well.

    • Pamela, I’m glad you chose to download Along Came a Demon, and gratified you liked it enough to get the entire set! I was internet-less for three days and about to pull my hair out by the time it was fixed. Your post was the first thing I looked at, so your delightful praise of my writing skills cheered me tremendously. Even after four years of being published I still feel humbled and somewhat surprised when anyone tells me they like my books.

      I, too, have found many treasures by downloading free and inexpensive books. I believe it’s the way to go nowadays.

      Thanks for taking the time to visit.

      Linda

  5. I don’t have the money to purchase a kindle or electronics, when this laptop dies that is the end. I have to work on computers and it kills my eyes. I love the feel and intimacy of real books, so sorry you aren’t continuing in that ralm too. I enjoyed your work.

    • Hi Renee!

      I have worked with computers for so long, all day at a day job then on my laptop writing when I got home. It negatively affected my back, knees, shoulders, wrists – luckily not my eyes. I’m so sorry your eyes give you problems! If by “continuing in that realm too” you mean paper books, my books are indeed available as paperbacks. If you mean the Whisperings “realm” – well, you never know!

      Thanks for stopping by. I’m gratified you enjoyed my books.

      Linda

  6. Like other first addition ebooks I have gotten for free, if I enjoy them I will go back and collect the balance that has been publicized. I have found many new authors this way. I have close to 700 books on my kindle is less than 2 years. Needless to say I am a bookworm and I do value the images the words give me in my head. I have always enjoyed a good read and will probably go out with a book in my hand. I also am teaching my 2 young grandsons the value of reading and expanding your imagination. Needless 2 say they can come up with some whoppers now.

    • I get free and low-cost Kindle books, Brenda, which is another reason I wrote this post. I don’t have as many books as you, around 425 I think. I read a great deal, and if I enjoy the first in a series will happily pay for the rest and, like you, have discovered some authors I didn’t know of before. Some of their writing blows me away, it’s so good!

      Good for you, helping your grandchildren discover the magic of reading. Children have wonderful imaginations and I bet they DO come up with some whoppers!

      Happy reading,

      Linda

  7. The only reason I found out about you and your books is because you offered the first book free! I couldn’t get enough of that series after the first book and read them all in about 2 weeks! If you had not offered that first book free I never would have heard about you and most likely I would not have read any of your books. You did the right thing offering it free. I will never forget that series.

  8. That is awesome! There may be a few out there who can’t afford to buy books at one time or another and this may lead them to request their library buy it. This leads to that author being exposed to many more readers.
    Been there and done that :)
    I don’t have an ereader but do read alot of print books.
    carol

    • I wish I could offer print books free, but that option isn’t available to me. Perhaps one day you’ll get an e-reader and become a convert, like me. :)

  9. I was searching the scifi/fantasy free nookbook section on barnes & noble. Along came a demon sounded good to me, so I downloaded it. I liked it & proceeded to purchase & read the entire rest of the series. Guess the free book strategy works.

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