To Free Or Not To Free

sale labelTo free or not to free? There are benefits and drawbacks to both. Lots of people say: “Don’t give your work away” and I can understand that, but I also know that there are authors out there who’ve made a great business using free books to funnel readers towards their books who will pay for their other books. Then there’s the flip-side, that you’re debasing your work.

The Attitude of Some Free Book Readers:

I found two readers discussing on a book forum (unfortunately I don’t recall which one), about authors who gave away free books on a series, and they called it a scam. A scam! An author gives them a free book in a series as a trial to see if they like it, with no investment on their part, all they had to do was download it and read it, but they called it a ‘scam’ because the author didn’t finish the story in the first book.

angreyreaderNow I’m not saying all of the readers who get free books are like that, but you do get enough of that kind of attitude that it’s been mentioned by other authors who give free books. Think about that…a substantial percentage of the people who download your book don’t even like the genre they’re downloading and are getting it just because it’s free and then give you a one-star review because they didn’t like it. That kind of resolve is closed-mindedness. I’ve rated books I didn’t like as three stars or higher depending on their quality, they merely didn’t suit my taste (one star ratings are reserved for poorly written, eye-rolling books that I can’t finish). Myself, I have so many books in my e-reader that I only ever get the free books that make the cut on my interest level… free or paid, it doesn’t matter to me. Interestingly my husband, who goes through books FAR quicker than I do and reads voraciously, doesn’t even like the idea of getting a free book. I was floored. I questioned him about it and he said: If the author doesn’t value it, why should I? (I’m truncating but that was the gist).

In essence, I recommend an author not to give away your book for free without having it do something for you, because it’s just another form of marketing. My free book week got me about 30 reviews, and that was because I asked for them at the back of the book. At the moment I want to find the readers who like the same stuff I like to write or who like the Wanderer multiverse that I’m currently writing in. Unlike most authors, I don’t think I’ll give away Book One for free… but I’ll certainly be handing out lots of a large sample from it.

Update: I apologise for the huge delay between posting in here, I believe three weeks is the biggest gap this blog has had so far. I’ve been working on getting Blue Shift ready to publish this month and am finishing up Book One of Wanderer of Worlds… I’ll have some stuff to discuss soon once I find out what’s working (and not working) while I bring them up to speed.

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9 thoughts on “To Free Or Not To Free

  1. Great post! I find the matter of giving away work for free an interesting one. I give away 2 flash fiction stories a week for free on my site (that’s the whole body of content!). But I do publish others professionally and independently – those aren’t free.

    But I suppose it’s a bit of a different matter with longer form pieces…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting!

      Short stories are the best, they have so many benefits. I believe they’re perfect for giving away (individually) and is something I also do on my website… mostly because I need to try and hold reader interest in between the bigger projects.

      You can also create a book (collection) out of your work once you have enough that you like… it costs very little to put something up digitally.

      Short fiction is also an excellent tool for practising the craft of writing… all those beginnings, middles and ends to shape! Best way to learn.

      Free and not free is a personal decision I think… for me, it has its place. There is the problem of supply and demand though… massive growth in supply with little growth in demand = problematic result for new authors.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m about to give away my book for free this weekend. It’s not a series, but I’d like to see what happens, and I”m hoping to get reviews from it. Giving it away free can also boost your standing on Amazon, so I’m hoping that will happen too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting and best of luck with your free book weekend! I hope it does more than you expect 🙂

      I’m sure you will get reviews but you have to be patient (as with everything else in publishing, ha!). Reviews started trickling in about a month after my giveaway with most of them arriving around the three month mark. Getting a review affects your standing on Amazon as well, (including Goodreads). I’ve noticed that both my author and book ranking goes up on Amazon if someone reviews my book on Goodreads, so they’re connected.

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      1. I believe I saw that Amazon was either in the process or had already bought Goodreads, so they might be using each other’s stats already. I put a note in the back asking for reviews, so I’m hoping that it works, even if I have to wait.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I keep considering a “free week” or “giveaway” for my debut novel, The Soul, now that the sequel is coming together and getting ever-closer to release time, but then I think of the negative side effects that could have on my book. I try to target the readers that would seem interested, not the ones who’re described here. That’s like a nightmare for my star rating, with so little input that even 1 one-star review will debunk me from my good standing.

    (Wow, that all sounded very self-centered and selfish. I promise it wasn’t meant that way, though. Life’s hard for a new indie author.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not self centred at all! Once you have a ton of 4s and 5s, a reasonable reader will understand the 1 is random and emotional. You really shouldn’t get lots of poor ratings (not with your literary style, Ms Carillo!), but if you look around Amazon and goodreads, you’ll see fantasticly written books have a few 1s.

      Since you have two books, you could bundle them at a special price, like a two for one, or you could just take the risk of dumb 1* ratings to reap the benefit of reaching hundreds of people. My post wasn’t intended to scare anyone off doing a free promo, but to ready for the very real possibility of reaching outside your audience. I think it’s worth the risk, especially if you have a book two launching.

      I advertised the freebie on Facebook for $16 btw, which I think has a much higher chance of attracting duds than using Booktastic, Bookbubs, SweetFreeBooks or those other reader-subscriber newsletters.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent post, highlighting another of those ongoing issues for self-published authors. I think the main problem with free giveaways is that so many people are doing it (including some established authors and publishers) that (1) it must be less effective now and (2) many people just grab a load of them and may never get around to reading yours, let alone reviewing it. Yet I think it still has its place. I don’t have the answer, except that a giveaway probably works best if it’s targeted in some way, and for some specific purpose. Giving away samples or short fiction is another good thing to do.

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    1. Thank you for saying so Chris. I certainly agree that it’s a technique that should be used carefully rather than chucked out there just because everyone is doing it. Targeting the correct audience I think is the biggest hurdle and the most help, actually. The people who want to read the kind of book you’ve written will happily pay for it. If only they all gathered around coffee shops according to genre; all the thriller readers can go to Starbucks, mystery readers to Gloria Jeans, fantasy to Merlo, sci-fi to Coffee Club… then you could stalk them and attack them with free samples as they unsuspectingly sip their flat whites (or designer lattes).

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