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No Free Books!

Don't Give Away Your Work

© 2016

The concept of giving away books for free goes against my very nature as a creator. Why would you give up many hours of hard work by making the books free?

I recently read an article by a writer who advocated making the first book of a series free in order to get attention and some publicity for the books. Then in the back matter to the first book, he would give the second book of the series to readers if they would sign up to his mailing list. At the end of the second book, he offered the third in the series for free to anyone who would leave a review for the first two books. That's three free books. My first though was, "When do you sell any books?". Sales are what we are after, not notoriety as the free book guys.

How many free books do traditional publishers give away? Not many and only to established book critics and review sites. They don't even give away ebooks. You know why? It's a losing proposition.

I know there is a group of writers who advocate using free books as an enticement for readers. There is some value in that proposition but the negatives outweigh the possible benefits.

When you list your book for free, you are essentially saying that it has no value. It doesn't matter if that is not your intent; it is reality. When the readers browsing the lists see your book for free, their subconscious estimation of the value of your writing plummets.

When you give away a book, you will get lots of downloads, however, they are not quality downloads by actual readers. Many of the people that download your free book will never open it up and surely never read any of it. Some people love to get free stuff but they are like hoarders and never utilize what they covet.

Another claim from writers who post books for free is that they do it for the reviews. My experience is that the vast majority of the folks that get freebies will never write a review, and most of the one star reviews come from people who got free downloads and decided to complain about a free book.

If you make the first book in a three books series available for free, you have just cut your potential earnings by 33%. It takes a bunch of work to recoup that kind of loss!

There are a number of good solutions to the free book problem. Just some of them are:

  • Make the first chapter available for free. When someone reads it and likes the way the book is starting out, they will be more likely to buy the rest of the book and leave a review.
  • Give away some special content that is not part of the book. Write something special for the people who purchase the book and give it away as a bonus. This works well for non-fiction writes but can be applied to any niche.
  • Some authors will write a short story using the same characters as the book series and give it away. This is certainly better than giving away an entire book and is a treat that only purchasers of your work will be able to access.
  • Record and post an audio clip of you talking about the book, why you wrote it, and possibly reading the first chapter. This makes a personal connection with the reader and will go a long way into getting them to buy your books.
  • Rewrite PLR (Private Label Right) content as a quick source of free info to offer. This will be better if you can expand and add value to the basic material.
  • Start a newsletter that is only available to purchasers of your books. Give them updates and personal insight into you writing world.
  • Have a buy one, get one free sale. This is better than free books since it guarantees a sale, even at a reduce rate.
Note: These suggestions apply equally to free songs from musicians and bands. Use 30 or 45 second sound bites instead of entire songs.

Free books is just a losing proposition. Try some of the alternate ideas and save your more substantial works as income providers.

Jerk Guy has been involved in online communications even before there was an Internet.

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