Monday, April 25, 2016

Promo: Are Free Books Worthwhile? by Suz deMello

Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, believes that free remains a catalyst for discovery. I surely do hope so, because I've offered several books for free:

Secret Father, a sweet romance, which is free via on KU until May 17:

Fashion Victim, a romantic suspense, which is 99 cents on Amazon, free via KU and smashwords:

An older work, The Romantical Groom, a Regency satire:

It's free, but so what???
And the latest, Viking in Tartan, the first book in my Highland Vampires series:
Again, this is 99 cents on Amazon, but free via KU and smashwords.

I have great doubts.All of the books I offer for free have been well-reviewed. The Romantical Groom has been offered via Amazon for free for years, and I haven't noticed a rise in my royalties. 

It's so easy for readers to read only free books. If they download one that sucks, well, they just go on to the next one. And authors earn nothing.

We'll see.

Even Coker admits: "Free is no guarantee of bestsellerdom. There’s a glut of high-quality free books. At Smashwords alone, we‘ve published more than 60,000 free books. The competition for reader eyeballs is fierce."

When asked, authors had varying responses. One stated that when she offered the first book in a series for free, the rest took off and she earned $17,000 from Amazon that month.Not bad. But that was five years ago. Most have the same experience as I--doesn't work. 

But I'm willing to proceed with the experiment. Comment below if you have an opinion.


Tina Donahue said...

For me, an author's style/subject matter has to really strike a chord for me to continue reading the author. Even then, with many authors I've read, I don't get much past the first 'great' book I liked. For example: I think The Handmaid's Tale is one of the best books ever. I've read it a dozen times. I was so taken with Atwood's work, I got her other books. Not the same. They didn't hold the same magic for me. I find that with Dean Koontz's books too. Loved Intensity and Odd Thomas. Many of the others I could barely get through. I go to Google books and read the first chapters before I buy anything. If I love those first chapters, I'll get the book.

I think the 'free' thing might work best with series books. If the first book is free and readers love it, they'll be willing to pay for the others in the series to see what happens next.

Free, IMO, doesn't work so well for single titles. What happens there, for me at least, is what happened with Atwood, Koontz, and others I've read.

jean hart stewart said...

I not only mind the idea of free, I think it doesn't work. Low prices work better, in my estimation.

Cerise DeLand said...

As an author, I have had a basic aversion to the concept of giving my work away for nothing. Although I have offered my self-publiished work for 99 cents from time to time, and found that helpful to boost name recognition and sales, I only lately have come to the point where I was willing to try the Perma FREE concept. A few days ago, I put the first in my Regency Romp series free. So far, so good. I have promoted it and seen it uptick my sales on all my books, not just self-pubbed ones. We shall see if I am pleased as we go onward.
As a reader, I will say that I have downloaded books for free in the past and found perhaps 5 % of which I was willing to buy the author's other works. I am a very picky reader, figuring that my time is limited and my interests are WIDE. So I think very long and hard about downloading any work, free or not. When I do, I do give them a good read. Whether I like them enough to buy more of that author's work is the Big Question. And I like a select few of them. I can even remember one, by a NYT author too, that was TRULY HORRIBLE. A romantic suspense with the most ridiculous errors in it that I could tell the author took no time to do any research. It was insulting to any reader and rather outrageous I thought to assume that others might find it a good read. (And that, I am sad to say, shows in the tumultuously rapturous reviews by those who have NO CLUE just how awful this novel is. Oh, well. I rage on.
Lately, I have begun to download free books that interest me, especially by self-pubbed authors and esp. by those who are my friends and acquaintances.
My thinking?
If my download gives them a boost up the ladder of sales, wonderful.
It is my contribution to the fine art and wonderful freedom of self-publishing. If and when I get around to reading them, I may be spending money to contribute to their success!

Fiona McGier said...

I've had a book in the middle of one of my series' as a free download on Smashwords for years. It's "migrated" to all over the internet, as Google Alert lets me know. But the only result I've seen is readers asking on pirate sites for the others in the series. A few even contacted me and asked how to get a copy of the other books in the series. I tactfully directed her to my publisher's site, and pointed out that they're available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine retailers.

What's that old saying? Give a moose a muffin? Give one book for free, and suddenly the whole series is supposed to be free. Authors only write for the fun of it, right? Royalties? I don't need no stinkin' royalties! ;-D

Suz said...

Thanks, everyone, for your thought-provoking comments as I try to figure out how to sell more books.