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.

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