The Freebie Debate

Have you ever been perusing Amazon or B&N and saw a book that piqued your interest, but you weren’t sure whether or not to get it?

Large Stack of BooksHow does price affect your decision making?

If it’s free, do you think, “Awesome! I’ll give it a try. If I hate it, I’m out nothing and can move on to something else.”

OR…

Do you think, “I wonder why this book is free? Is it not very good? Can they not sell it? Does the author not think it’s very good either?”

Basically, do readers in today’s market see free ebooks as opportunities to explore new authors, or a statement about how the author/publisher values that particular book?

Whether or not to offer free books has been debated among indie authors for quite a few years. I recently read a blog post about a group of authors who have banded together to vow never to offer free ebooks because they believe it devalues their work and the effort it took to produce it.

Now, I have used free book promotions from the moment I figured out how to get Amazon to price match. Yes, it’s effectiveness has decreased over the last few years because there are so many free ebooks now, but to me, the benefits of having a free ebook available to readers hasn’t disappeared.

Price doesn’t determine the value of a book. I could price all my ebooks and $19.99. That doesn’t mean my ebooks are worth that amount, or that I value the work I put into creating them as more than a book I price at $1.99. Price does not equal value in this case. As an indie author, price is something you can manipulate and learn from. Try one price, watch sales. Try another, watch again. Eventually you find, either through trial and error and/or research, what a good price point is for your genre and book length.

For me, that includes free ebooks.

Why?

For one, I am a reader myself, and I’m timid about trying out new authors. I’ve picked up some pretty awful books over the years, and I’ve randomly chosen amazing ones, too! It’s a gamble every time. Taking away the barrier of price makes it that much easier to entice readers to give one of my books a try. If they enjoy it, I usually get 2-3 consecutive sales on that series, potentially more if they enjoy my writing and pick up another series.

All from one free book.

Did that one free book make readers think I didn’t value my own work? No. It introduced them to my writing.

Creating a Marketing PlanAnother reason I choose to offer free books is because many of my books are Young Adult titles. Teens don’t have a lot of purchasing power in many cases, especially in non-US markets. They can download free books at the click of a button, or read on Wattpad with no restrictions. Many teens need permission and a credit card number to purchase ebooks. That means convincing their parents the purchase is worth the money. That gets easier when they can say they’ve already read the first book and loved it.

Now, I know I’m on my soap box a little, but I think the debate over free books is a frustrating one when argued simply on the “rightness” or “wrongness” of the tactic. Every author has to figure out what works for them and their genre. I’m not telling anyone else how they should run their business or career. This is what works for me, at this time. I’ll change when and if I need to. I don’t need to join a group for or against a particular marketing tactic. I do my own research, including talking to other authors about what works for them, and make my decisions based on that research.

If other authors don’t want to offer free books because it goes against their views, that’s totally fine. Other people won’t agree, and that’s fine too. Just do your research and make a decision based on that and not simply on what someone else tells you is the right thing to do.

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