Fat Mogul vs. The Free Book

From noorosha.com.  Click to read their thoughts on free book promotions.
From noorosha.com. Click to read their thoughts on free book promotions.

Oh the magic of the holiday season for an author…you know…because people just got their new ereaders and are already loading them up with piles upon piles of books.

Well, you know, piles upon piles of free books anyways.

I remember those first couple of days with my Kindle so many years ago.  I was overwhelmed.  Just looking at the Kindle store, I saw so many options of books I had wanted to read for forever.  In the end, of course, I found my way to the section of free books and clicked happily on all of the ones that even came close to things I might want to read at some point.  I’ve had that thing for over three years now, and many of them have yet to even begun to be read.

This isn’t because I don’t use my Kindle.  In fact, as an indie author, I use it quite a lot, both for reviewing my own work as well as reading so many of the great indie titles out there.  But those free books I’ve nabbed over the years, they’ve just never taken a precedence in my reading.  I really really really do want to read that autobiography of Benjamin Franklin that I picked up a little over three years ago, I promise I do.  But I just got my Kindle Unlimited subscription and…

Free books.  They’re a double-edged sword.  Sure, as an author they can be a magnificent way to bring new readers into your fold.  They decide to pick your book up on a whim, you know, because it’s free, and perhaps they actually do read it and enjoy it and decide to pick up the next book.  More than likely, it will sit on a kindle for forever, never to actually be seen.  The other problem with offering your books for free is that it gives off a rather dangerous image, that you don’t value your own writing.  Outside of the initial sales I received the first time I put my books up for free, I see much more for the regular book sales than I do for the free grabs.

Marking your book as something valuable can make a world of difference for the reader.  I’m not suggesting you attempt to emulate the practices of the big publishers and price your books at ten bucks and above, but there is something to be said for ensuring your books are priced reasonably while ensuring you are considering it as something of value.

But while I say all this against free books, there actually are many reasons in which a free book could be a great way to increase your exposure, specifically with regards to giving readers a taste of what you produce.

I had long held interest in the Kingdom Keepers series of books.  I like Disney World, it’s been established.  These books are set in Disney World.  The problem for me was that these books just seemed too stupid to actually pay money for (or apparently to borrow from the library).  When I got an e-mail telling me the first one was free, I picked it up immediately and actually read it not to long afterwards.  I was right.  The book was terrible.  I have no interest in reading the rest of the series.  But if that taste was good, I definitely would have been back for the rest, no questions asked.

Something to consider when putting your books up for free.  It’s actually probably smarter to put your best foot forward with the free books, make sure that the taste your readers get is one that will cause them to come back for more, not one that will disinterest them further.

But this is when free books become an actual marketing strategy, finding the ways to keep readers interested in what  you have to offer.  It’s not something you should do too easily.  So many independent authors today will offer their books for free, all of them, for short periods of time, simply because Amazon offers that ability.  Frugal readers will learn this and just await for the day when the books do come up for free to nab them.

My suggestion, be careful how you offer your books for free.  In my opinion, it’s much better to offer one of your books as constantly free (something that can be done even on Amazon with a little bit of finagling), and the rest to never be free.  Or, the first book in all of your series to always be free.  But nothing more than that.  There should be a majority of your books that are never offered for free (unless done in secret somehow specifically for family and friends).  Make your stuff wanted, make it a valuable commodity.  Don’t make it just appear as something you can pick up off the street.

No one will want it then.

Speaking of which…I’m currently working on getting a couple of my books to be up for constant free-ness.  I’ll probably be making some announcements rather soon regarding this change in policy.  Hint: if you’re here, you’ve probably already read the books in question 🙂

Okay, I’m out of here, have fun out there!

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