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Why Do Authors Make Their Books FREE?

Written By: Jackie Weger - Aug• 01•17

This question pops often in forums… Here are the answers often posted…

 

  • Because they don’t know any better
  • To maximize downloads because they don’t care about money
  • Advisers telling newbies giveaways are the best career decision
  • People think the author is begging for sales
  • Because the books are worthless
  • I never price any of my books for free

FACT: None of these answers are helpful and some are out right lies by omission. Take the last on the list. The author who never prices books for free–can’t! Nope. That author is under contract and has NO control over the price of his/her books. I checked. And all are sucking mud to China in stats…perhaps selling one or two a year.

Because the books are worthless: That is pure snark. I pass.

People think the author is begging for sales: Nope, free book promos are used in several ways, but usually to introduce the author to a new audience and/or to draw attention to the authors stable of books. That response does beg the question: Is the OP psychic? How does he know what people are thinking?

Advisers do often tell newbies to promote a unit FREE to gather reviews and visibility. I do. It works. I also caution savvy promotion.

Maximize downloads because they don’t care about money? Who are you kidding? Everybody cares about $$$. Savvy authors maximize  a book in a free promotion to: Generate a halo effect, which includes hard sales of the author’s list and increase borrows and  KENP pages read.

Because authors don’t know any better.  Don’t know any better than what? It is utterly true there is a wealth is misinformation floating around. It is also true many authors do not read or blatantly ignore Amazon’s TOS.  I say: If an author  knows of a better way to promote and sell books, I’m listening. But mostly  when I post something positive in a forum or add to a discussion, I just get an argument. I’m not into debating or trying to win. I’ve learned this much in my long life: Failures always have an excuse. And always want to be R.I.G.H.T.  Honey, that ship can sail without me.

My all time best selling book~97,278 downloads. 359 Organic Reviews ranked 4.3/5.0. FREE w/KU “Phoebe Hawley is so LOL funny I snorted my coffee through my nose.” ~ avp.

But offering success stories does not happen. Nobody offers a best/better way to market books. The sour grapes in some forums would make a vinegar so vile even a pickle would hold it’s nose. Each indie author has his or her own POV and seldom will it change. I get that. I offer my two cents and move on. I don’t say my way is best. I tell ehow what works for me.  The loudest voices tell newbies how stupid it is to give away a book when one doesn’t have another book on one’s list.

I don’t get that. If I write it, I sell it. I did a giveaway on my first book and when it returned to priced sold 5$K the first month with a halo effect of 2$K the next pay period. Now. I was a beginner, I didn’t know this language of ‘halo’ effect. I didn’t know I was stupid to giveaway my first book and wait for sales to roll in once it returned to paid.  That promo ran in late 2013 and the book continues to sell or see borrows to the tune of  35 or 30 units a month without me lifting a finger.  Who knew?

Newest Release 99c. Sold 542 units in a small July 19, promo highlighted by a FREE unit on offer. KENP 113,142 Pages Read. $$$ in the bank.

Here is my experience in the publishing universe. When I was under contract, my books were published along with a packet of other authors. I never had back-to-back books published. Six months or a year later, another of my books was published. It sold. No way am I going to let a book sit around on a virtual book shelf without marketing it.  I have a list of books now, so I get to choose which book to market.  It is lovely to have fans, but I cannot publish a book a month. Sometimes I can’t publish a book a year. Readers move on to other books and other authors they enjoy. I have in mind when I publish another book and market it, readers will circle back to my book. If not, I have confidence that if I promote wisely, I’ll gain a new audience.

However, my also bought stream on Amazon is filled with all of my titles.  That says my fans are hanging fire and circling back.  Indie authorship is not easy. I learn something every day. Plus, the marketing climate changes with the seasons. I encourage new and even savvier authors to stay on top of our digital universe. Do network with other authors. Don’t take a rumor for fact. Check it out! Go HERE to read some simple steps to get visible and sell books.  I don’t do many interviews, but click the link to read one I gave to Naomi on Many Books.

Jackie Weger

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@2017. I’m Jackie Weger, Founder of eNovel Authors at Work.  On our website you can find a wealth of information and ehow on Reviews and promotions. All FREE. We share what we learn.

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22 Comments

  1. dalefurse says:

    Giving a book away for free helps to get the name of the book out there. If people read it and like it, they might tell their friends and if they love it, they just might shout about the book to whoever they meet and wherever they are on social media. Word of mouth is a wonderful thing. 🙂

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Dale! You nailed it. Word of mouth moves books. I notice many fans/readers don’t write a review, but they do tick the reviews they agree with: That’s a digital word of mouth. Early Romance writers, among other genres, especially time travel, made their reputations in used book stores where our books were traded and talked about because our books had a new shelf life between yogurt and ice cream. Digital books don’t land in used book stores, so the clicks on a review a reader agrees with is our word of mouth system.
      For those of you who don’t know, Dale is the author of the Wexkia Trilogy. All read FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

  2. Ewenique says:

    I found you through your free book offer, I loved your book so much I immediately found you on fb. You offered me another free book. I was ecstatic to write a review. I had already went to Amazon and bought all your other books. I didn’t know about how this kind of marketing is supposed to work, all I know is if you write good books and you give away a free one you have found a new customer base. I have found so many new authors that I would never have looked at their books except it was “free” when you read as many books as I do its nice to get free books. Thanks again Jackie. Margaret Hall Diggs

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Wow! Margaret. You have said it better than any author could possibly have done. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. We often don’t hear from our fans. We know they buy our books. That’s about it. You are a jewel among readers. Thank you!
      xoxoxo Jackie

  3. Amy Vansant says:

    Gave away 20,000+ copies of Pineapple Lies through bookbub shortly after release back in the day. Ended up with HUNDREDS of reviews and future sales of the series. Exposure is great!

  4. Julie Frayn says:

    Agree that giving your book away free is a great way to garner reviews, and fans. My first freebie got downloaded 62000 times (thanks, Bookbub!), earned more than $6000 in royalties after it went back to priced, and brought in about 400 or more verified purchase reviews. I’d call that a win.

  5. I fully believe in the power of free. You can’t have something for nothing. Every entrepreneur worth his salt knows free works because it creates a special service to people that gets them to notice/try you, then they want to get to know you, then they trust you, and from then on the sky is the limit. Naysayers of free are self-destructive (if not small-minded) in my opinion. They hold on to their books, which wind up dusty in the virtual Amazon shelf, rather than get it in the hands of people where the book was intended to be. And that’s a real shame to say the least.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Frossie, I love that phrase: “the power of free.” I had not considered naysayers as self-destructive, but you convinced me. I have watched indie authors get in the way of their book’s success. I recently saw a post in which the author says it took seven years to research and write his book. Writing is not his day job yet it sounds as if he wants us to believe he starved in a cold garret somewhere while he produced his opus. Thus, it is a grand intellectual property, valued because of his own intellect. Which does not mean squat to the reader, who just wants to be entertained at a reasonable price. Which I might add, is what you do, bringing to life all things Greek. I adore The Amulet, your HEA Greek Holiday romance. Not to mention the luscious recipes you post. Foodies, do visit Frossie’s blog…effrosyniwrites. you’ll want to live there!

  6. Vickie Britton says:

    Speaking as both a writer and a reader, I often download a free book to see if I’m going to like the author’s writing. If I do, I’l probably buy more books from that author. It’s a great way to introduce readers to your work, especially a series. I sometimes offer a free book in our series and that helps with sales for the other titles. As a writer anything that gets your book noticed is better than having it just sit on Amazon doing nothing.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Thank you, Vickie for speaking out as a reader as well as an author. I too, download free books. and enjoy them immensely. Love it when I find a new author to read.

  7. I, too, pick up lots of FREE books to test the author’s writing. No one here would put out free schlock, but for whatever reason, some do. Those who think they can put out free stuff that stinks and get loyal fans need to think again.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Barbara, you are right. Early in the age of digital and ebooks, authors were excited and many aspiring. Readers were often used as proof readers, finding those snags and mishaps…but now the market has matured. Readers of ebooks, whether free or priced expect a quality product. New indies step into our universe every day. Many do produce a well-crafted product, but all too often a reader discovers a less than stellar story or craftsmanship. The excuse being the new indie has no funds for cover art, editors or proof readers. I get it. But a book will only do well for the author if the author first does well by the book.

      Thanks for sharing you POV. Barbara writes under the alias AB Plum and is the author of psychological thriller The Misfit.

  8. As usual, you are RIGHT ON THE MONEY, Jackie. Most of what I have learned about book promotions, the right, the wrong and the tricky, I have learned right here.

  9. Donna Fasano says:

    I have been told by more than one author that I should offer “the first book in a series” perpetually FREE. I understand the concept, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to actually do it. I work so hard at my craft, giving away my work just goes against my grain. But I am getting closer and closer to coming over to your way of thinking, Jackie. (Keep pushing me! I will get there.)

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Donna! I like your POV. I get what you’re saying. I do NOT have any titles permafree. I actually have not advocated permafree. Since I track our member books, here’s what I see: Often nothing is happening with those permafree units. The focus of a permafree unit is to introduce your craft/talent/stories to a NEW audience. A permafree unit must be marketed and marketed hard to do it’s job. The unit cannot just sit on a virtual book shelf, otherwise it is useless as a marketing tactic.

      Since my units are in Select, I can promote a book free for a limited time. I pump the free unit. If it resonates with readers, I see sales and borrows across my stable of books. IMO pricing a book permafree takes it off the table of other marketing strategies such as using it in a collection or a two or three unit boxed set. By their nature, permafree units are published wide, while the rest of the series is parked on Amazon in Select, which means the permafree has to drive readers from other sales venues to Amazon for the author’s list. I’m wondering how that happens? Do Nook owners also own a Kindle?

      Authors who put a book permafree are depending upon Amazon to price-match. Amazon does price-match, but Amazon also often tells the author to price the book, allowing the permafree only for a limited time. I encourage savvy Author Choice. For those of you who don’t know, Donna is a USA Today best selling author of the sensational Ocean City Boardwalk series.

  10. I’m with Donna – I keep hearing the advice, but haven’t yet set any of mine to free. But as she said, I’m getting closer! At the end of the day, we all have to market the best way we can given the options available. It keeps getting harder and harder.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      I hear you, Melinda. I have never advocated permafree. I do advocate limited time FREE book promotion. But those promos can only be engaged if one has books in Amazon Select. I get it that publishing on all venues may be a path to digital and print Library shelves. But shelving an indie authored book into Library systems is difficult for the indie author. Right now there is a path via http://self-e.libraryjournal.com/ and Ingram Spark. Neither of which is smooth sailing.

      In addition to owning her own publishing firm and offering editorial services, Melinda is the author of the the Cedar Hollow Series.

  11. Rosie Dean says:

    In two years, I’ve done two freebies with the help of Bookbub. Both garnered me new readers and new reviews. And,as you say, the halo effect of increased sales lasted three months before returning to usual levels.

  12. I’m always amazed by the mythology surrounding book marketing in general and Indie in particular. Thank you for dispelling some of those myths! Sharing 🙂

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Appreciate the share, Nicholas. Myths are one thing…I am annoyed most by naysayers and sour notes by authors who don’t sell books in today’s climate. They are resting on laurels if they sold in the past but don’t promote and don’t sell now…and then hand out advice as if backed by solid facts, instead of their one-track narrow minds. I believe in Author Choice…with career decisions based on facts that can be checked. Good to hear from you! ~ Jackie

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