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Marketing > The Great Free Book Debate

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message 1: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments I often see people arguing over the merits (or otherwise) of authors offering books for free for promotion purposes. Some people use it as a good marketing tool and some people see it as akin to satan's work. I also see readers snapping up free books left, right and centre and some who avoid them and would never read a free book.

I have decided to host a debate, both camps can put forward their views, including readers. Questions will be asked and opinions can be vented but it will not get nasty.

If you think you might like to be involved, either as an author or a reader please email me at libraryoferana@yahoo.co.uk stating:

Author - for freebies.
Author - against freebies.
Reader - for freebies.
Reader - against freebies.

If I get enough responses it could be a regular thing.


message 2: by Peter (new)

Peter Prasad (goodreadscompeter_prasad) | 123 comments I'm a author for Freebies. I'm curious as to what others say here.

If I give away ten books, I expect to sell five more from referrals and to get two reviews. Writers like me tend to load our Kindles with free books that interest us, or buy them for $3.99 or less. But we don't often get around to reading them until we are between books.

I read 30 books between October and Feburary. And try to write 3 books February to October. Unless I've promised someone a review; then I try to read the book in a week.

I really enjoy writing positive, fun-to-read reviews and post then on Amazon US & UK and of course at GOODREADS. Huzzah Indies everywhere! Campaign Zen 500bc - 2012. by Peter Prasad


message 3: by Peter (new)

Peter Prasad (goodreadscompeter_prasad) | 123 comments Please tell me your opinion. All opinions are helpful. Thanks for starting this.


message 4: by David (new)

David Rogers | 2 comments It's pretty simple. You have to ask yourself what your goal is. If it's to get read, then give books away. If it's to sell books, then free is the opposite of that.


message 5: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Well no, not entirely. In order to sell books and author needs to be noticed, so that is the "to get read" half but this hopefully leads to sales and/or reviews. It is one, amongst many, marketing tools. Whilst it is certainly true free means you get nothing for those specific books the people who downloaded them may not have paid anyway but if they like it they will tell their friends who will then buy a copy.

I don't think it is a clear cut case.


message 6: by Tim (new)

Tim | 44 comments Giving your books away gets you downloaded. I don't think it gets you read though. many people have hundreds of unread books on their kindles, and the real trick is getting yourself to the top of that TBR pile.

On my kindle, other things being equal, the more I paid, the sooner a book will get read. It's only things like an R2R deal, or a personal relationship of some kind with the author that'll promote a freebie up the list. (even a simple discussion in a GR forum can be enough, which is why I think it's important for authors to do more than "dump and run")

Although it's something that I don't think can be proved (easily anyhow), my gut feeling is that a much higher proportion of books bought for cash will be read than those downloaded for free.


message 7: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Usually by the time I get to a book I can't remember if it was free or not. I don't list them such on Goodreads. I could go back and look but really if I like it I am happy if the author gets some royalties and happy if they decided to offer me their book for free and I could support them. If I can leave a review I will. If I like the book I will look out for more, paid or otherwise. I tend to buy my e-books on Kindle anyway.


message 8: by Mia (new)

Mia Darien (mia_darien) | 425 comments Personally, whether a book is free or not has nothing to do with the speed at which I read it. I love free and .99 indie books, because it's a low-risk way to try new self-published authors. I've gotten some free books that were fantastic. I've bough some for $2.99 or more that were total crap. So, I just pick my books based on my reading interest of the moment.

As an author, my reasoning was such: readers are often hesitant to give self-published authors a shot, although this is changing; and the market is glutted with paranormal. Since I was writing a series, I chose to make the first book in the series free.

Personally, considering the market, I think this is probably one of the best reasons why I'm selling copies of two, three and four. People have taken a shot because hey, my book was free, but they have read it and gone on to buy the next.

It's an author's personal choice, hopefully being made based on their goals and the market and their audience, and I don't think any writer should be given grief for choosing either way.


message 9: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Well I have been offered a feature for this on mythic scribes so I am trying to work out the logistics of how to run it so far. I may use googledocs and grant the participants shared access or ask for some space there. Please anyone who wants more than an bit of a discussion here email me and I will send out whatever questions I end up with. Not everyone will be used and not all the answers will be used but it will be a fun debate.


It really is a debate which tends to go round and round and I don't think there is a firm answer. What works for one isn't suitable for another.


message 10: by Steve (new)

Steve Thomas | 198 comments Mia, you just saved me from writing a response.


message 11: by Mia (new)

Mia Darien (mia_darien) | 425 comments Always glad to help, Steve.


message 12: by Massimo (new)

Massimo Marino | 26 comments "Nobody knows anything", is a famous saying in Hollywood. Same does apply in writing and reading. Free may or may not work, the variables are so many that unless you know what you're doing a FREE book may return you many readers or leaving you wonder why no one wants to read you even for free.


message 13: by Peter (new)

Peter Prasad (goodreadscompeter_prasad) | 123 comments Every writer needs to prime the pump. I think of Mrs. Field's cookies. Remember the free bites serves on a tray? I got fat that way ;-)


message 14: by Massimo (last edited Jun 09, 2013 06:31AM) (new)

Massimo Marino | 26 comments Peter wrote: "Every writer needs to prime the pump. I think of Mrs. Field's cookies. Remember the free bites serves on a tray? I got fat that way ;-)"

LOL

I believe one can prime the pump with $0.99 promotions too.

This said, the free bites are NOT the equivalent of KDP Select Free days nor pricing anything at $0.00

MHO.


message 15: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Ok little update here. Mythic scribes offered me a spot to run this exclusively on their blog, so a fun debate an exposure for me on a blog read by about 10000 people.:)

I am planning to run it, initially via google docs as that is fairly easy to use an pretty much anyone can sign up (although you may need a gmail account - but they are free and you can always get rid of it after.)

I think once the debate has got to a stage when I have some interesting responses I will post it on the MS blog and obviously link back to my own blog and people can read it. Anyone who wants be be more involved than the arguments here please send me an email at the address listed in my OP.

Interesting discussion so far. I will check if we can list the participants books as well. Although that I cannot promise. MS are always looking for new members for fantasy and sci fi fans/readers and writers and they really are a nice lot.


message 16: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Of course now I have volunteered to run this I need to come up with some questions:)


message 17: by Massimo (new)

Massimo Marino | 26 comments Alexandra wrote: "Ok little update here. Mythic scribes offered me a spot to run this exclusively on their blog, so a fun debate an exposure for me on a blog read by about 10000 people.:)

I am planning to run it, i..."


Count me in. I like to interact with readers and writers alike.


message 18: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Sure, send me an email to libraryoferana@yahoo.co.uk.

You best list if you have a gmail account as well as I am not sure if not having one makes googledrive sad.

No immediate rush but by the end of next week I would like to start organising it.


message 19: by Massimo (new)

Massimo Marino | 26 comments Alexandra wrote: "Sure, send me an email to libraryoferana@yahoo.co.uk.

You best list if you have a gmail account as well as I am not sure if not having one makes googledrive sad.

No immediate rush but by the end..."


Yes, I'm on G+ too.


message 20: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Yay. Oh actually I think you are in one of the communities I am in. I assume that was you:)

Cool.


message 21: by Massimo (new)

Massimo Marino | 26 comments Alexandra wrote: "Yay. Oh actually I think you are in one of the communities I am in. I assume that was you:)

Cool."


I'm sure I'm me.


message 22: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Are you certain? I wake up of a morning and I am not sure I am me. Still that says a lot:)


message 23: by Massimo (new)

Massimo Marino | 26 comments Alexandra wrote: "Are you certain? I wake up of a morning and I am not sure I am me. Still that says a lot:)"

:) Well, everyone of my multiple personalities concur and say "I'm me...me, me, me, me, me..."

One of them must be right ;)


message 24: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Not necessarily.


message 25: by Massimo (new)

Massimo Marino | 26 comments Alexandra wrote: "Not necessarily."

You mean... some of them might be a traitor and an infiltrator?
Hmmm, I must call for a Council meeting with me, myself, I, and the others.


message 26: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Hahahahaha


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

hehe, well, that's what I get for being on daily digest, whole conversation is done and moved to a new location by the time I read the beginning. ;)

I was going to say I agree with Mia, but perhaps I should register to participate on the new location. :)


message 28: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments No reason why this can't be the unofficial one as I am still working on the questions and what is needed. I am sure there are people here who may not want to be officially involved but have an opinion.


message 29: by Ian (new)

Ian Kezsbom (iankez) | 23 comments Also, a little late to the party...we've been pretty big proponents of free - only because we've seen, at least, a short term sales spike that was greater than our sales prior. We've also seen an increase in sales for other books we've published (though we hadn't our first few go arounds - this is more recent, now that we have a variety of books out).

Our free promotions have not, however, lead to significantly more reviews, leading us to guess that most of the books have not been read (we had over 6000 of our first anthology downloaded and only got a handful of reviews, but it was worth the strong sales spike after). They also have not lead to an increase in long term sales...after about 2-3 weeks we've settled back to where we were pre-promotion.

We detailed some of it here:

http://www.journeysofwonder.com/2012/11/12/the-true-advantage-to-a-free-promotion/

Time permitting we'd be happy to be part of a more formal debate.

Ian


message 30: by Peter (new)

Peter Prasad (goodreadscompeter_prasad) | 123 comments Alex, I'll follow you anywhere. Good on'ya.


message 31: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Ian, send me an email for the "for free books" side. :)


message 32: by Massimo (new)

Massimo Marino | 26 comments I found this post on a blog that has nothing to do with writing... but if you read it with your writer's mind it has everything to do with it.

I cite the first paragraph:

Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free

In all relationships, and traditional relationship advice there is a very old expression that goes “Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free”. Hello people, stop giving away your milk for free, no one will buy you. If there is something out there that we want we tend to place a higher value on it if it costs us something. The same goes for our relationships. Some people are just so anxious to prove their value that they give away everything they have for free in order to show someone else that they are worth it. However, to the person you are proving your point – you have no value. Pay attention here people, to them you have no value. What you have to offer cost them nothing so you have no value.

http://itsjustkarma.com/stop-giving-a...

Isn't that applicable to ebooks too? What is the percentage of freely downloaded ebooks never read, never considered, only occupying a space in the rom of the kindle waiting to be deleted to make space for the next truckload of FREE ebooks...

I bet it is a minimal percentage those who are actually read. Does FREE create your readers' base or only if you have a readers' base FREE has a value?


message 33: by Mia (new)

Mia Darien (mia_darien) | 425 comments Personally I've always found the milk/cow adage as relationship advice to be sexist and outdated, but that's a conversation for a different forum.

It's already been stated that different things work for different people, and I've known of plenty of successful ebook authors who did the free first book thing and had it work well. It did build their reader base.

Should we not give books for review either? Does that lessen its value to the reviewer?

How many paid books might lie around unread just as easily as a free one? I know they can for me.

Whether the value of a book or author is lessened because of free stories is in the eye of the reader. I don't think any less of my free books than ones I paid for. Hell, if I pay for a book and loathe it, I'm mad. I get a great book for free? I'm trailing that author all over.

But the question of value is important, and was referenced earlier. Are we only here because of the money?

I'd love to be able to make a living with my books, but what I want more is to tell stories that people will read and enjoy. I am rewarded for my "hard work" when someone likes my book, because this is what I love doing. I charge for some to recoup some investment, but it's why I don't mind giveaways and doing one of my books free.

And I only think the free stories devalues the "industry" in the eyes of people likely to find some flaw anyways. To many, it's a very nice thing and *can* endear a reader to an author.

But it's not for everyone, and I take no issue with those who choose not to. I just don't like those who don't talking about those who do like we're fools, which sometimes seems to be the sad byproduct of talks like these.


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

I tend to view setting my books to free status as a gift from me to "you" the reader. My target audience is youth readers (ages 12-16), who generally don't have a disposable income of their own, but many seem to have smart phones or ereader devices. If I give them the gift of a free book, who knows, they may tell their friends or come back for more.

I have to say, when I purchase a book to gift to someone, they are receiving it for free as a gift. I somehow don't think they value the book any less because I bought it on their behalf; unless, of course, it's something they wouldn't read anyway...but that's what regifting and used book stores are for.

My poor bedside table has 3 paperbacks and my ereader has probably 5 or 6 books, all purchased in the past year and still waiting to be read. I'm doubtful of the concept that spending money equals readers. It just equals sales.

I gift free books because I like to gift free books. If I had to give a "business sense" I would site loss/lead in giving away something to get the word out in the hopes of future returns. As a friend who has also published told me, her publisher told her the average author is around for at least 5 years before being noticed. All things considered, I've got a long way to go, so I may as well pass out ebook freebies.


message 35: by Massimo (new)

Massimo Marino | 26 comments I regularly do giveaways and give free books with Smashwords coupons. Actually, Smashwords is the venue for giving free copies because it is so flexible and easy to manage: a real plus wrt to other sites.

The Cow/Milk unfortunately seems to attract many in the ebook scenario and I know of 'readers' on Amazon threads who brag about the hundred free ebooks they download each months, and delete them at times without a second thought, and saying exactly that: why should I pay even $3 for an ebook when I can find tens every day on the same genre for FREE. I don't know if the majority realizes that if one likes that particular author and wants to read more the need to put $ comes into play.

I believe it is a hit&miss situation in most cases.


message 36: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments I am as likely to read a free book as one I spent money on, or in fact not get around to reading as the many paid for books on my shelves gathering dust will support.

As a reader it doesn't devalue a work, I still appreciate the time and effort which went into the book. I may well decide to look for other books by that author.
Example Viridis I downloaded for free and read. I REALLY enjoyed it and went on to buy Devil On a Sparrow's Wing which is the sequel, which I also enjoyed. I would happily buy more from Ms Taylor and have recommended her books to friends. As I had never read Steampunk before it introduced me to not only a new author but a new genre. I am not sure I would have bought the book. Maybe. Maybe not.


message 37: by Mia (new)

Mia Darien (mia_darien) | 425 comments I got Viridis as well, actually had character issues with it, but chatted with Callista a lot for some months. She credits much of her reader base to the free first book. It was my first Steampunk and I probably wouldn't have paid for the book, but gave it a try because it was free.


message 38: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Cool. Which characters did you have issues with?


message 39: by Mia (new)

Mia Darien (mia_darien) | 425 comments Phoebe. And...Phoebe. *lol* The heroine drove me absolutely insane. Except for her, I really liked the story, and I wrote a review saying as much, which is how the author and I ended up talking. She said she actually saw where I was coming from and tried to tame "Saint Phoebe" syndrome in the future, though that was her style of heroine (since I read "Jack" too, and that heroine was very similar) so I think it was just her thing. Fine for her, I apparently was in the minority on that one. ^_^


message 40: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Hehe she was better in book 2:)
I haven't read Jack yet, should pick it up. I actually didn't mind Phoebe too much.


message 41: by Mia (new)

Mia Darien (mia_darien) | 425 comments I don't want to hijack the thread, lol, but will just add that is was more the way she wrote people in relation to Phoebe: that everyone just loved her, worshipped her, thought she could do no wrong...even when she was wrong...and without enough to Phoebe to make me believe she deserved that adoration and loyalty.

I've seen it in other books and such. I call it Pasqinel Syndrome. ^_^


message 42: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Hapney (teej220) | 2 comments Alexandra wrote: "I often see people arguing over the merits (or otherwise) of authors offering books for free for promotion purposes. Some people use it as a good marketing tool and some people see it as akin to sa..."

I'm an author and reader/book blogger for freebies. I support indie publishing and have found some great authors along the way from free downloads as well as people sending me ARCs, etc. Michael R. Hicks is a good example of this for me. I downloaded the free first book of the In Her Name series, was entranced by the story and have since bought all the books in the series. In fact I even ended up paying for the free one eventually as I downloaded the bundled Redemption trilogy. He is now one of my favorite new authors, but I may never have found his books if there had not been a free one to start with. I also read for authors I have become friends with before they put out their books to help with copy editing and the like. Though it's not really the genre I now write in, I indie published a romance that I had written 20 years ago when my writing was less mature and polished as a test to see how e-publishing works. I've done free giveaways and the like which did get me readers. My true love is sci-fi and I plan to put out a new book later in the year, but one of the things I've learned from the experiment with the romance is that though no one knows who I am, I sell books and we have long passed the friends and family stage. I believe that is largely due to free giveaways. I know that as a reader if I love an author's free book, I'm more willing to put out a few dollars for an author's next book because I was able to sample their work. I hope you feel that adds to the discussion.


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