For Free Or Not For Free…

We’ve all seen them, perhaps even downloaded a few, but do we ever read them?  Free ebooks, whether they are part of the Kindle Select program or a promotional drive, are a controversial aspect of self-publishing.

As a new author, it’s a difficult decision to make.  Do I list my book with Kindle Select and give it away for free for a couple of days, thereby boosting my title in the sales ranks and hopefully increasing my profile?  It’s a tantalising carrot to dangle in front of a newbie, but the real figures would suggest that these kind of promotions do not have a lasting impact.  Many authors report a drop in rankings as soon as the promotion ends, meaning that they’ve just given away hundreds or thousands of free copies to eBook hoarders, who may not even read their book, never mind leave a review.  Of course there are the success stories out there, authors who blind you with algorithms and whatnots, swearing by the success they’ve enjoyed after having given their book away for free.  There is evidence that free days can work for books that are part of a series, but who’s got time to write a series, eh?!

I believe there is a much greater argument here, that of value.  If every new author feels pressured to give their book away for free, readers will start to expect free books.  Eventually, this could mean a world where readers are unwilling to pay for books, which would be very bad news for anyone trying to make a living out of writing.  Too much free content threatens to devalue the whole business of writing.  If a reader sees a book priced at 99 cents or less, they will automatically assume that the book isn’t’ worth much.  However, if a book is priced from 2.99 to 4.99 (the alleged ‘sweet spot’ for eBooks), there is a belief that this book is ‘worth’ something, that the author believes in this work and has priced it accordingly.

Still, the bottom line is sales and let’s face it, after spending X amount of months or years writing a novel, you want people to read it.  Which means sales.  And if the world and its dog are telling you that the only way to increase your sales is to give your book away for free at the start, you’re bound to be tempted.  Still, I have decided that this is not the route for me.  Of course I’ll be giving away some free copies as part of my book launch and tour, I’m not Scrooge after all!  But listing my book on Amazon for free?  That would be inconceivable.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this… have you tried the freebie route and has it worked for you?


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