I’m finally back for a new Monday Marketing post.
This one might be a little controversial as I’m going to be discussing whether or not new authors should be offering their books for free! 🙂
I do love me a little controvesy.
A Common Practice
It’s become a pretty common practice these days for new authors to offer their shiny new book for free the moment it’s published.
After all, we all love free stuff, don’t we?
I’ve read a ton of posts, articles and even taken courses that touted the awesomeness of the “free book marketing” idea. But just because something is common doesn’t always make it the best choice.
An interesting marketing tactic
I can understand the appeal of offering your new book-baby for free. Think about it, you’re a new writer, people might not be ready to take a chance on you so by throwing your work at them for nothing, you can reel them in, right?
This is not a bad marketing practice I guess and in theory, it totally makes sense. It’s like the free sample of perfume they glue into a magazine to get you interested before you splash out on a very expensive bottle of scented water. :p
But I’m not 100% convinced it’s the best method.
NB: This is not about the free books you are giving as ARCs (that’s totally fine!)
Just how useful is “Free”?
Now, I’ve received my fair share of free books (almost all ebooks). Often via newsletters or even on Insta-Freebie emails as well as some I chose while browsing through Kindle Store. I also got some from friends and strangers that offered them on social media.
But you know what, I don’t reach for them when I’m looking for a read. I get caught up in the “ooohh free!” and then instantly I forget about them.
Seriously, I have like 20+ ebooks in my tablet that have not been read.
Instead, I continue to reach for books I’ve bought.
I’m also not the only one. People tell me the books they are reading and when I ask them, they state they are bought ones. If I query if they have any free ones they haven’t read, they all say something along the lines of:
“Oh yeah, I keep forgetting I’ve got [insert partially remembered title].”
We’ve all accepted something for free, just because it was free, then instantly dumped it in a drawer or closet to be forgotten about for an indeterminate amount of time.
Which begs the question… does giving your books away for free really work as a marketing practice?
The answer is… it can.
When Free Books can work
Free books CAN be a great marketing tactic but I find they work better if applied in a specific way.
First book / Standalone book
Say you have just written and published your first book. You have no other books out, just this one. What can you do? Here are some options.
Sell it – Stick a price on it, even a competitively low price (eg £1.99 or 0.99p for an ebook) and start making money.
“But Ari, what if it doesn’t sell straight away?”
A book is a form of passive income, once it’s written it can be sold over and over. So stop worrying about it and go on with writing the next one.
Keep your eye on the sales of that book and if they are flagging then do more marketing… don’t just drop the price!
It’s a knee-jerk reaction of new writers//business owners to panic and drop their prices. As someone who’s run their own business for five years, I can tell you, price dropping doesn’t help unless you’ve overpriced yourself to begin with.
But if you are publishing, you should have been looking into comparative pricing for a while before letting your book out.
Short term free – On the first week (or two, if you’re feeling generous) of the book’s launch, offer it for free. Keep the window short to drum up excitement and the FOMO (fear of missing out) sensation people get.
During this time on your posts and articles and ads about the free book, remember to ask those who are interested to interact. Whether that’s writing a review, sharing their fave character or recommending it to a friend.
Don’t just drop into the pit of “it’s free” and then ignore it hoping people will take it, read it and then do all that.
The few times I’ve actually read free books, was usually when the author made me connect during the time I got the free book.
Having a short window during the launch allows you to control and steer the path you want people to take with your book.
Giveaways / competitions – Offer the book for free to people who enter a giveaway or a competition. Again it’s a form of interaction and you can build on it. There is a deeper bond than just adding in a link to the free copy on Amazon.
Get the people invested in your characters, maybe run a quiz on which character they are most like. Once they’ve done the quiz they can choose to be entered into a giveaway for a free copy.
State in the T&Cs of the competition/giveaway that people have to pose with your book and put it on social media with a tag. This gives you exposure and widens your audience.
Multiple books / Series
Okay, so now you’ve got two books (or more) written and published. This can make things different.
As well as using the 3 options above for each book, if you want, you could do a perma-free.
Perma-Free – Great to use if you have a series (and you have more than just the first book in the series written). Offer the first book in the series for free permanently.
The first book becomes the lure, offering it free gives people a chance to get swept up in your story and if you leave the ending as a hook for the next book, then they will be more likely to buy the next book.
Yes, you still run the risk of that free book being downloaded and then forgotten, but I’ve found that it’s not as likely with series/trilogies.
Again, like the earlier options, the more connected people are with your books, stories, characters, the more they will be drawn to actually reading that free book.
You could even offer the Perma-Free to those who are definitely interested, say the people who are on your mailing list.
You do need to have the second book out at the same time, or at least launching. I personally wouldn’t put book 1 for perma-free if book 2 is going to be months away before it comes out.
First book discount – Instead of perma-free, you could have perma-discount where you keep the first book in the series at a low price.
As I’ve said people who buy books seem to have more invested in wanting to read them. I have started a lot of new series books because the first book was at say £0.99 and I’ve been drawn to read on.
Interesting fact… people BUY books!
It’s true! They do! And Indie book sales are on the rise, so being a self-published author doesn’t mean “no one will buy your book so you have to give it away”.
Remember, you already give your book for free when you send out ARC reviews. (You are doing that, right?) – these reviews are damn important, so definitely do this.
Yes there are people who won’t buy your book and there are people who want things for nothing. But there are people who buy books. People who love finding new authors and taking a chance on them.
So consider not rushing to give away your books for free at the first hurdle.
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Obviously, everyone is different and while I know I’m not alone, there may be lots of people who love receiving free books and wholly support it. Great, if so, drop me a comment and share your thoughts 🙂
Now offering a book for free and getting lots of people to download it may help with analytics, but don’t you want people to actually read your book? Just a thought 🙂
What do you think about new authors giving books away for free?