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General > The Great Free Book Debate

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message 1: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments This might be of interest to some - I am running a couple of articles about the merits (or not) of free books. I have interviewed some authors and readers whose views vary and it is a really interesting article. The first, linked here is from the readers' perspective.

message 2: by Christian (new)

Christian W. (cwallers) | 42 comments That was very interesting - thank you for sharing. I am on the fence with the free book debate. I have one of my books in KDP Select and periodically use the free promotions but haven't seen much progress in sales or reviews. As a reader, I love having the opportunity to discover new authors and books without forking over any $$.

message 3: by Carol (new)

Carol Dobson | 6 comments As a reader I think free books are a wonderful idea As an author it seems best to sell at a small price, not completely free. Sometimes people do not value things which are free or think that an author is desperate.

message 4: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 60 comments Complicated. As a reader, I enjoy free books, but if I buy one, it usually gets read before the freebees, unless they were from a Read and Review program of course.

As an author, I haven't tried to offer my book free on Amazon yet, but I did on Smashwords. I have about the same amount of sales on Amazon as I gave away on Smashwords.

I know that if the same offer would have been made directly on Amazon instead of coupon with SW, more books would have been downloaded, but for now I'll stick to what I'm doing. I'll see when the next book comes out.

message 5: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Here is the second half of the debate - authors.

message 6: by Steph (new)

Steph Bennion (stephbennion) | 178 comments This is interesting. Now I stop to think about this, I haven't downloaded a free indie book for months, but it wasn't a conscious decision. It's more that with there being so many new titles out there, I'm getting more selective about what I read. I'm not sure if it's significant that of the books which did grab my attention, none were offered free.

I released a free Christmas short story via Smashwords in December 2011 and again in 2012, but decided to make December 2013's offering only available via my website. That way, the freebie is offered after readers take the time to seek me out, rather than before. I'm not sure if this publishing strategy is any better!

I do download a lot of free classics, though. I think ebooks have done a lot of good to maintain interest in older works.

message 7: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn I've had really good success with the free promo I'm running, but it would not have been successful if I didn't submit my book to advertising sites too. Some of the book sites are free and the few I paid for were reasonable.

message 8: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments It certainly works for some. I don't download free books as much, simply because I am trying to limit the number of books I get. If I actually read everything on my book shelves and kindle I'll need to live to about 200

message 9: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn So true, A.L, but if a book catches my eye and passes my first page test, then I will snatch it up.

message 10: by Kevin (new)

Kevin (khardman) | 6 comments I was in Select when I published the first book in one of my series last year. I was doing great - ranking #1 in multiple categories - when the date rolled around for my free promotion. I had over 3000 downloads in two days and hit the Amazon Top 100 Free. But then my sales and ranking plummeted when the promotion was over. Frankly speaking, it almost made me ill.

I know it still works for some, but I'm not a fan of free. For one thing, there's so much in the marketplace that it's hard to get noticed. Next, I believe that there's a you-get-what-you-pay-for perception asociated with much of free, and such books go to the bottom of the read pile because they aren't perceived in the same light as books that cost a little moolah (unless you are an established author with a strong fan base).

In short, as a reader I'm all in favor of free, but as an author I think we are past the days when offering books for free had a lot of upide.

message 11: by L.L. (new)

L.L. Watkin (LLWatkin) | 13 comments I'm trying out the KDP promotion on my new book, but I've not got high hopes for it. Previous experience with free offers is that they rarely roll on to actual sales. Still, I'm a "don't knock it til you've tried it" kind of person.

For me it's pot calling kettle, because as a reader I have downloaded the free book, liked it, but then not bought any of the authors other stuff! So I expect to get a taste of my own medicine :-)

message 12: by A.L. (new)

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

message 13: by Mati (new)

Mati (matiraine) | 15 comments I think this is an interesting thing to think about. I guess I sort of consider different levels of free as a reader and an author. As a reader, I tend to shy away from free ebooks. More often then not, they don't share the quality I've found in print, and I end up loosing interest early on. I know if I tossed up one of my works without an editor looking it over it would be a nightmare, and I can see that more often than not in the ebooks I read.

I don't think investing money in the book is really going to make me invest in it more though. I check out books from the library and I give them the same attention I give books I buy in the store. I may give them more of a chance if they're in print, because I guess I expect more from them. I do like the input of Massimo Marino on devaluing the industry was great though. It's the quality that gives free books a bad rap sometimes. I know this is true at least for me.

message 14: by C.G. (last edited Feb 01, 2014 01:07AM) (new)

C.G. (CG_Garcia) | 21 comments I get a free book a month through Amazon Prime which so far has featured some really good titles. I've also downloaded several featured on BookBub, but all of them have a blurb that's really stoked my interest. I don't download them just because they're free, and I don't download any from genres I don't usually read unless the blurb is especially compelling.

On the other side of the equation, I only have one novel out so far in my series and don't really feel the urge to offer it for free just yet. Perhaps I'll run a free promotion down the line when I have several more books out.

message 15: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments The free book from Amazon prime is not quite the same, authors get paid for that. It's great you've found some good free books.

message 16: by Geoffrey (new)

Geoffrey Porter (trulyjuxta) | 2 comments I hope to have six books available soon, and other than a freebie giveaway, I really don't have a good way to push the books.

I have tried marketing on facebook, google, microsoft, yahoo, and it's just a money black hole, at least a freebie weekend where I give a book or two away for free really doesn't cost me anything.

I am trying to get more into goodreads, and other books sites, having a presence on this site and others like it, it surely a good way to go.

I don't know. I would like to believe people will judge my work on it's own merit, not if it's a freebie weekend, but I think people do tend to see free books as crappy.

I just downloaded a book recently that was labeled erotica, and it had zero graphic sex in it, and I was kinda like, "and that's why it's free."

message 17: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments What genre do you write? If it's fantasy or sci-fi then I might be able to point you at some good groups on FB.

message 18: by Mary (new)

Mary (maryellenwall) | 32 comments I didn't get any apparent sales from my single Kindle Select 'free' offering of the first book in my Sci-Fi series, but I got a great review...very worth it. Over time, I've come to understand reviews are the most important thing I can work on(not rocket science, I know). I would be interested in the FB groups too.

message 19: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments I suppose it is hard to say which review relates to which sale. I often buy books and don't read them for months so I might review a book I bought last year, or the year before. Who knows. Grats on the nice review.

message 20: by J.M. (new)

J.M. Rankin (jmrankin) | 54 comments I haven't given my book away from free as yet on Amazon, and I came away from Select on KDP as I wanted to start getting onto Smashwords, but I do agree with the thoughts that free sometimes means 'not great quality', and although there are a lot of great books out there for free it's hard to find one amongst them. As an author I have gone as low as 99c/99p for my ebook, but as a reader I've always paid for kindle books unless they are classics which I know already. Admittedly I have seen a few freebies that have caught my attention, but it remains to be seen if they live up to the promise.

message 21: by Donna (new)

Donna  | 7 comments As a reviewer I do receive free books to review for authors, but I have also received books for free when authors offer them on Amazon. There are books that are awesome out there that authors offer for free as a "come Check out my new series" or "I just wrote a new book and will offer it free for One day".

These are generally authors who are already established and readers are waiting for their next new book. So a new Free book from them is Awesome. But free does not always make the greatest books, it just makes and usually a good enuf read if you don't have anything else.

message 22: by John (last edited Jun 19, 2014 01:12PM) (new)

John Logan (johnaalogan) | 41 comments I did my first free promo in 2012, 5 days free promo on Kindle Select - had 10000 free downloads...and then 1100 sales at £2.99 over the next 7 days. That was without paying for any advertising.

A year later, I combined a 5 day free promo on the same novel with a Bookbub ad - had 49000 free downloads, then 1000 sales at $2.99 over the next month - along with 50 new Amazon reviews.

I think the Amazon alogrithm that used to make this possible has changed now...I haven't done a free promo this year to test that, though.

message 23: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Wow, those are great figures. :)

message 24: by Peter (new)

Peter Prasad (goodreadscompeter_prasad) | 123 comments I'm hoping to get John's numbers. GUT-CHECK GREEN, a climate fiction thriller, is FREE this weekend.

If you like it, please write a short review, as wild and wicked as you like. THANK YOU!

message 25: by G.R. (new)

G.R. Paskoff (grpaskoff) | 21 comments You know, I fell into the whole KDP Select program because of all the hype that went with it, that it's the best way for an indie author to get noticed. I've run several free giveaways and it's exciting to watch your rankings go up in the Free Books section, but after the first few times it kind of loses its luster. Especially when you don't see much paid sales when the promotion is over, or if no one leaves a review. I think what John said is correct, that Amazon changed their ranking algorithm so now you don't get the same boost afterward.

So now I'm considering taking my book out of KDP. I was thinking about signing up for one of their Kindle Countdown Deals, but what is the benefit? I can change the price of the book anytime I want and not be restricted to Amazon's 5 days. And it's not like they do any marketing for you. I generally have to do all that myself. Can anyone suggest any reasons that would make using the Countdown Deals a sensible solution, particularly if it means sticking with Amazon's exclusivity clause? Just curious because I'm thinking about making a major shift in my marketing strategy.

message 26: by Thaddeus (new)

Thaddeus White | 631 comments Mod
I've not participated in KDP Select, but I have downloaded a fair few free books. I think a problem is that it's easy for a reader to download them at once (due to time limited offers) but then forget about them for a while, whereas paying for a book makes someone (well, me, at least) likelier to read it immediately.

message 27: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments I buy lots of books and often don't read them for ages.

Usually by the time I get to them I've forgotten if they are free.

message 28: by Jack (new)

Jack Shaw (httpgoodreadscomjack_shaw) | 24 comments J.M. wrote: "I haven't given my book away from free as yet on Amazon, and I came away from Select on KDP as I wanted to start getting onto Smashwords, but I do agree with the thoughts that free sometimes means ..."

I agree. Sometimes the lower your price, the less the reader thinks its worth. I had no movement with KDP, but then I haven't had much movement through Smashwords, Nook or Kobo. Probably my own fault in not marketing enough, but honestly, it may also be that my book on the surface--the basic storyline and cover make it seem less interesting than it really is.

message 29: by Jack (new)

Jack Shaw (httpgoodreadscomjack_shaw) | 24 comments I offer it for free on my website, It's a little ego crushing that no one will take a free product and at least look at it past the cover.

message 30: by R.A. (new)

R.A. White (rawhite) | 131 comments G.R. wrote: "You know, I fell into the whole KDP Select program because of all the hype that went with it, that it's the best way for an indie author to get noticed. I've run several free giveaways and it's exc..."

I recently did a free promo for two days, and I was happy with the number of downloads but there was no 'bump' afterward, as you said. I did see an increase in sales for book two, however, and that alone made it worth it for me. I also got one review. The promo was less than a month ago, though, so there may yet be some good that comes out of it. Like was said, sometimes we don't get to books for a long time, and sometimes reviews come even later.

message 31: by G.R. (new)

G.R. Paskoff (grpaskoff) | 21 comments R.A. wrote: "...sometimes we don't get to books for a long time, and sometimes reviews come even later.i>

As an author, I get caught up in the excitement of the giveaway and look for instant satisfaction (sales, reviews, etc.). As a reader, well...I've been reading "A Dance With Dragons" for about a year now and my 'To Read' list is piling up. Still, last weekend I received an unexpected 5-star review, so you're right. Patience is a virtue. (I think someone said that once.)

message 32: by Alice (new)

Alice Sabo (alice_sabo) | 34 comments I put my first book in Select and did free promotions. I got a ton of downloads, no uptick in sales and no reviews. Which said to me that maybe no one read the book. I haven't done that with the second, nor will I with the third.

I loaded the third book for pre-sales at Smashwords.(I have a pub date of 8/8) Mark Coker wrote about it, saying it was a new place to be noticed. Only Kobo, Apple and B&N do pre-sales. My book hasn't been listed with them yet. Might take another week. I have my fingers crossed that this will help sales.

message 33: by R.A. (new)

R.A. White (rawhite) | 131 comments Since I started following a free-book promotion site I've found several new authors to follow. I never would have tried them for $2.99, but now I'll buy their sequels. I know it doesn't always work, but it feels like you almost have to have a book for free (at least at times) to get people to try out your stuff. To each their own, as they say.

message 34: by Alice (new)

Alice Sabo (alice_sabo) | 34 comments .I was wondering if the pre-sales worked for you? You don't have to share any stats or numbers, but I was wondering if pre-sales could be a viable method for continuing marketing after the promotion is over.

Charles - I got 2 pre-sales through Smashwords. I don't have much of a fan base as yet and this was the first book in a series. So it was an experiment. Have to say that I was a little disappointed at first, but it's a start.

I will probably do presales with the 2nd book and drop the price of the first book at the same time. It has to be planned carefully. I was running late on revisions and worried that I wouldn't be ready in time. Plus it was the first time I had planned out a book launch. Previously I hit the button and there it was. This time I had to have everything set up weeks ahead of my "publish date", and then wait the 4 weeks of pre-sales before it was available. It was a little nerve wracking.

message 35: by Alice (new)

Alice Sabo (alice_sabo) | 34 comments Thanks Charles. Yes, very nerve wracking. Now I have to worry about the story and the marketing - and getting them both right. I have created a checklist for myself starting with the 1st round of readers on the rough draft and ending with the publication date.(after that it goes on the marketing list) It helps me get my ducks in a row! And it's good to have a deadline to work towards.

message 36: by Mark (new)

Mark Bondurant (mbondr) | 22 comments Downloaded a free book from Amazon, Dead Witch Walking. It's the first of a series which I guess she's trying to bumpstart, but I'm wondering how she did it? As a CreateSpace author, I can't create giveaways unless I go exclusive with Amazon. Do the big book companies have special status. I can't see how it's to Amazon's advantage.

message 37: by Mark (new)

Mark Bondurant (mbondr) | 22 comments The lack of reviews is the downer. I've been lucky really, getting back about a 35% return in reviews, but they're mostly Goodreads reviews because they were Goodreads giveaways.

message 38: by Alice (new)

Alice Sabo (alice_sabo) | 34 comments Mark, If your ebook is also in Smashwords, you can make it free there and eventually KDP will price-match it. Or it used to work last time I tried it. I know things change all the time.

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