You don’t have to look far to find books offered for free on the internet. But should you offer your novel that you worked so hard to produce for nothing?
Well, that depends…
I have heard many authors claim that it is a bad idea to offer our books for free. We are diminishing what we do, they say. We worked hard on our novel so shouldn’t we expect to get paid? Are we setting a precedent for readers who will now expect free books all the time? Are free books deterring them from actually buying books?
These are all valid concerns but from a marketing stand point offering a novel at no charge has its benefits. It allows readers to get a taste for your writing without them having to risk any of their money. Your hope is that if they like your free book and purchase your other novels.
The keywords here are “other novels.” To make this an effective marketing strategy you need other novels for them to purchase. So offering the first novel in a trilogy for free would hopefully entice readers to fall in love with your series and buy the next two books.
This is how I read Amanda Hocking’s Trylle Trilogy. I saw Book 1, Switched, on the Amazon top 100 free books. I liked the first book well enough to pay for the next two.
Basically, this is a sound economic principle. You offer one book as a “loss leader” because you will be making your money by selling your other novels. Many authors have successfully increased their readership with this “loss leader” strategy though some authors have noted that they don’t make enough money to make up for the books they’ve given away. And others have said that offering a book for free only boosts sales for a short period.
You just have to remember that when you offer a book for free, you probably will not see immediate results. If the person has downloaded a lot of free books, it may take them months to get around to reading yours – if they ever do.
Quite simply you will never know if the thousands of downloads of your free books are actually being read. People download more books than they can read. People simply cannot turn down something that is free. I have seen numerous comments by readers about having too many free books to read that they will not be able to read them all.
Of course, you still may reap some benefit, even if they don’t read your book. Every time they open their e-reader and scroll through their books, they will see your name and title. Maybe later while searching on the internet they come across one of your books and recognize your name. They may not remember where they saw it before but perhaps that recognition will get them to buy your book.
But the readers you hope are downloading your free book are the kind that finds a new author and buys all of their books. These readers are hungry for new books and will keep coming back. By offering them that first book for free, you are building your readership with them. Many readers will pay for books when they find an author they love.
Still, it is hard to put your 80,000+ word novel out there and not get paid for your work. In this case, you might consider putting a short story or novella out there for free instead.
I have written a short story, The Search, that will be released this month. It is about one of my characters from my The Elemental trilogy, and I wrote it with the idea of offering it for free so that people can be introduced to my writing and my trilogy. I have the first two books in the trilogy already for sale, and book three will be out this fall. At the end of The Search will be the first chapter of Book One. Hopefully, this marketing strategy will work for me.
So remember that offering a book for free can be good advertising and a good way to gain readers. But, and this is very important, you MUST have other books available for readers to buy. Otherwise you won’t see any benefit from offering your work for nothing.