Why you shouldn’t give your book away

grazing cows

Our guest blogger today is my friend-in-real-life Rhonda Penders, who I have known for almost 20 years. Rhonda is president and editor-in-chief of The Wild Rose Press, Inc., a publisher of mainstream fiction including women’s, romance, historical, murder/mystery/thrillers, and erotica. She’s also an author using the pen name Roni Adams. When she told me over lunch recently about the negative impact free giveaways were having on her authors’ royalty checks, I asked her to write about it for us. Here’s her perspective.

Why you shouldn’t give your book away

By Rhonda Penders

Why buy the cow when the milk is free?

We’ve all heard that saying. Basically, the meaning behind it is that someone isn’t going to pay for something that is offered for free. Whether it’s your virtue or your book, the issue is still the same.

When a writer devalues her work to the point of giving away her book, isn’t that what she is really doing? Just giving it away as if it were nothing?

I have to wonder if an author is so desperate to have someone, anyone, read her book, that she’s passing them out like pamphlets on the street corner.

Is it so bad that she doesn’t think anyone would or should pay for it? What about the months, maybe even the years, she spent pounding away at the keyboard creating that book? What about the lost hours spent editing and reworking it to perfection?

A promotional ploy

Most authors sacrifice a lot to write a book. They give up any and all free time in exchange for getting the story on paper. That has to be worth something; certainly more than a freebie.

Authors tell me it’s a promotional ploy. Promotion is great and today we have to constantly try new angles and ideas to draw in readers. I have no issue with giving away a chapter to entice a reader to purchase the rest of the book but give away the whole book? It doesn’t make any sense.

Authors hope that by giving away a book, readers will buy more of them or will buy the next book that comes out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t usually work that way. Readers are a very frugal bunch. If they can get free books, why would they pay for yours? They will simply pick up someone else’s free book tomorrow, and someone else’s the next day, and so forth.

The numbers don’t lie

You may disagree with me — maybe your experience is different — but as a publisher, I have to tell you that the sales numbers don’t lie. While a select small number of authors may have seen book giveaways as a clever promotion to boost the sales of their next book, it is rare. Giving books away isn’t making sales numbers climb. How could it? Free doesn’t equal bigger royalty checks.

Meanwhile, authors have devalued their craft to the point where even they don’t think it should cost anything. I’ve been to a lot of craft shows the past couple of months. I’m amazed at the price of the handmade pieces people are selling. But then I think about the hours and hours of hard work these artists put into each piece and I have to admit it’s probably a bargain. Aren’t authors the same as these other artists? Aren’t authors creators of their craft and shouldn’t they value their work just as much as a wood carver or a glass blower does?

The Wild Rose Press president, Rhonda PendersMaybe this old adage has a point in today’s publishing world. Every writer has to do what he/she thinks is best for their career.

It’s a tough time in publishing for authors but the answer isn’t giving it away. To me, that’s the same as giving up.

What do you think? Do you agree with Rhonda Penders that you shouldn’t give your books away for free? Tell us about your opinion or experiences with this in a comment below.


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Sandra Beckwith is an award-winning former publicist who now teaches authors how to market their books. Three groups have recognized her BuildBookBuzz.com site as an outstanding resource for authors, so you know her advice is author-tested.

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109 Responses to Why you shouldn’t give your book away
  1. Larry Edwards
    December 2, 2014 | 3:03 pm

    As an indie book publisher, I agree. I chuckle every time an author claims to have a “best seller” on Amazon’s free book list. One does not make many trips to the bank that way.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 2, 2014 | 3:10 pm

      I love that perspective, Larry! Most authors I know who say their book was an Amazon best seller achieved that “status” through a giveaway. That feels dishonest to me, since the book wasn’t “sold.” A more honest description would be “Amazon top giveaway” or “Amazon best freebie,” right?

      Sandy

      • Larry Edwards
        December 2, 2014 | 3:25 pm

        Yes, I agree. It feels dishonest to me as well.

        A curious thing for me: I have downloaded many free books, but I have never read one. I seem to gravitate to books that I paid for.

        • Kathy
          December 3, 2014 | 12:14 pm

          So true. Paying for something makes you value it more.

          I have read some free books and really enjoyed them but I don’t think a single one has led me to buy one of the author’s books. To be honest, the blurb sells me more than the author’s name except for my writer friends’ books. Somehow knowing the person makes me want to read their books.

          • Sandra Beckwith
            December 3, 2014 | 2:40 pm

            Thanks, Kathy. My problem is that I download the free books but don’t have time to read them. (Sigh.) When you say “blurb,” are you referring to testimonials and endorsements, or are you talking about the book description?

            Sandy

          • Kathy
            December 3, 2014 | 5:20 pm

            I really identify with the frustration of having so many good books to read and not enough time. Sandy, the book description usually sells a book for me. It either hooks me or bores me. Problem is I’m useless at writing my own ones.

        • Sandra Beckwith
          December 3, 2014 | 2:41 pm

          Ditto, Larry.

          Sandy

          • Sandra Beckwith
            December 3, 2014 | 5:33 pm

            Thanks for the clarification, Kathy. And…I think a lot of us have trouble writing that description!

            Sandy

          • Jae Hall
            April 9, 2017 | 8:53 pm

            Sandy I think the blurb Kathy is talking about is the back cover blurb.
            I know the blurb will catch my interest before the Author name or cover photo. If I don’t like the blurb then I won’t be ‘buying’/downloading the book even if it is free.

          • Sandra Beckwith
            April 9, 2017 | 8:58 pm

            Thanks, Jae. Yes, she clarified that. Publishers also use “blurb” for pre-publication endorsements.

            Sandy

    • Rhonda Penders
      December 3, 2014 | 1:12 am

      Thanks Larry for agreeing with me. I hope more authors can see our point of view. I appreciate your comments!

  2. Jerry Gill
    December 2, 2014 | 3:56 pm

    I agree. Don’t do it. I didn’t and didn’t, then broke down and did. First book in a series, to get more people interested in the series. The only thing I noticed was a lot of books were given away. No more. Back to original plan, although I may try what you mention. Give a chapter. I have excerpts of books on site but usually about a page. I may start giving full chapter or even make a pdf download of chapter one. That’s all. I agree completely that it is an art and should be paid for and also admit that, while I would like to make plenty of money, my real reason for writing is more selfish. It’s fun.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 2, 2014 | 4:20 pm

      Thank you for validating Rhonda’s experience by sharing yours, Jerry. I’ll say that as a reader, I will snag a freebie in a series to see if I want to buy more in the series…but the problem is, I don’t have as much time to read as I’d like, so that freebie sits on my Kindle unread. I’m glad that writing is fun for you — that’s SO important.

      Sandy

    • Rhonda Penders
      December 3, 2014 | 1:13 am

      Thank you so much Jerry! It was great to have validation of my opinion and experience.

    • Jae Hall
      April 9, 2017 | 8:56 pm

      you can automatically ‘give away’ the first chapter or so when you set up your book on amazon/kindle. You pick what percentage of the book you want the reader to be able to preview
      (it shows up as the ‘look inside’ on the sales page.)

  3. Nicholas Merolesi.
    December 2, 2014 | 4:44 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree with all of this. It’s hard enough that most e-books, which I am writing now, cost less than the price of a greeting card, no matter how many pages the book contains or how good it is.
    Amazon asks us to give our book away,and they say you cannot advertise it anywhere else for 90 days, and if you don’t cancel, two weeks before the end period they do it again. Not for me. It would not be so bad if they let us advertise elsewhere without the exclusive agenda. That’s not fair.
    I use someone else as a buy host, and they will be up and coming soon on the marketplace. Payhip.com. Check them out. I love these people.
    The only time I agree with giving a book away free is when an author is using it as an introduction to a course,(book marketing, etc,) they are teaching. The cost of the book is absorbed into the price of the course. It’s not truly free.

    • Darke Conteur
      December 2, 2014 | 5:35 pm

      Amazon doesn’t ask you to give away anything. It’s a promo option and your choice to use in your 5-day promo that is part of KDP Select program.

      My free ebook is in many online stores including Amazon and it’s free in all those retailers. 🙂

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 3, 2014 | 12:51 am

      Nick, are you going to sell it on Amazon, too?

      Sandy

  4. Darke Conteur
    December 2, 2014 | 5:07 pm

    I’m afraid I must disagree. I put the first book in my paranormal series free two years ago this March. I saw no interest in it until then. Not only have I stayed on Amazon’s top 100 for Occult and short reads (scifi/fantasy), it’s carried over to my paid books as well. I’m looking to double my royalties from last year, and, as I keep adding to my catalogue, that number should increase.

    No, I don’t claim to be a ‘best seller’. I just find that too pretentious for a free ebook. 😀

    As for devaluing my work, the only way this could happen is if I put out a book that was riddled with problems, had bad formatting or lousy over art. If I didn’t care about my book. I take great pride in putting my books out. They go through two editors and I have a cover artist.

    Pounding away at a keyboard? Lost hours to editing? You make writing a book sound like a burden, when these are the realities of writing a novel, and it’s something we all do to get to the finish line.

    I think the problem is, many people use the free ebook as a marketing strategy, when it’s a marketing tool. I use mine like swag. A parting gift, a thank-you for stopping by my blog or website. There’s nothing wrong with that. If they read it, they read it, if they don’t I’m not going to get upset. Don’t writers give out bookmakers and key chains and other material items to garner interest in their book? How is a free book, especially the first of a series any different?

    Anyway, just my two cents. 🙂

    • Dan Holloway
      December 2, 2014 | 10:08 pm

      *stands up and applauds* Lovely to see some balance. Absolutely agree.

      • Sandra Beckwith
        December 3, 2014 | 12:58 am

        I could hear you cheering all the way over here, Dan!

        Sandy

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 3, 2014 | 12:56 am

      Darke, I wouldn’t compare giving a book away to giving out bookmarks or key chains unless you’re selling bookmarks or key chains. Most businesses don’t give away what they’re selling. Instead, they give away *samples* of what they’re selling.

      Thanks for stopping by. Your success is encouraging!

      Sandy

    • Rhonda Penders
      December 3, 2014 | 1:19 am

      I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with me and I’m thrilled that giving a book or two away is working for you. As I said in my blog, there are authors who are finding success with it, but as a publisher I have access to a lot of authors and the majority of them find this doesn’t work the way they thought it would. As an author, I don’t find writing to be a burden, but it does take time. As authors we lovingly give up free time to bring our story to life; but it isn’t always easy and sometimes yes it is an actual chore as we all know. Thank you for your thoughts and comments, everyone can learn something when you have two sides of a discussion. I appreciate your feedback. All the best.

    • J. Kirsch
      December 4, 2014 | 6:37 pm

      I agree 100% with Darke Conteur’s points and have author friends who have had similar experiences. Contrary to some of what was described at top, if readers enjoy the first book in a series, they DO very often go ahead and buy the subsequent books.

      For series writers, the marketing strategy of offering book one for free is a tried and true business model. Many successful (profitable) indie authors can attest to this.

      Now admittedly the free book craze might be harmful for authors who don’t write in series, but even then I feel that as an author it’s possible to adapt in other ways.

      As to the comment of the author not valuing one’s book because it is offered for free, that’s amusing to me for a few reasons. Every day people check out books for FREE at my local library, and then after reading some authors and discovering favorites, they BUY additional books for their personal collection. (I count myself in this number).

      Don’t underestimate the usefulness of a free book.

      • Sandra Beckwith
        December 5, 2014 | 12:48 am

        Rhonda hasn’t told us whether the books her authors gave away were the first in a long series for each of those authors or not, but I suspect that they weren’t. Maybe she’ll chime in here. While others here have referenced series authors who have started earning more after giving away the first book in a series, Rhonda’s authors’ royalty checks got smaller after they started using this tactic. It is what it is, right?

        As for libraries, it’s not the same thing, really. Libraries buy the books they lend to readers and many of those people who borrow books would never have bought them. So, while the books might be free to borrowers, they aren’t free to libraries. You could also bring up a common practice of friends sharing books. Yes, some read them free, but somebody had to buy them to pass along.

        Sandy

        • Lisa Marbly-Warir
          September 22, 2015 | 2:26 pm

          Re: Libraries. I used to live at the library back in the day. I checked out and read many books over the years, but when I stumbled across a good book that I couldn’t let go of, I marched myself to the book store and purchased it. So while libraries may have to purchase the books for their customers, customers like me, once I read something and liked it enough I went and purchased it for my own collection. Win, win for the author.

          • Sandra Beckwith
            September 22, 2015 | 3:11 pm

            Great feedback, Lisa. Thanks. And yes, a double win for the author, for sure!

            Sandy

    • April M. Reign
      December 5, 2014 | 10:09 pm

      Amen to that! My first in a series is free too and has been for 2 years. It’s on all book retailer sites and the entire series is my best selling series to date! Prior to it being set to free, it was hardly noticed! Now for 2 years, it remains ranked from 500 to 2500 daily.

      • Sandra Beckwith
        December 6, 2014 | 2:57 am

        How wonderful, April! Congrats! Thanks for sharing.

        Sandy

    • Mysti Parker
      December 7, 2014 | 2:32 pm

      Same here. I made the first book in my series (went indie with it this January) free and sales jumped for the other two that are still under contract with a small press. Of course I’m still not making a lot in royalties but it’s better than before. I used to have some sales quarters with no royalties at all. Readers are a skeptical sort. Unless you’re published with a big six or they’re already familiar with your work, they hesitate to pay for something they’re afraid they won’t like. Draw them in, get them interested and they’ll be much more likely to pay for more.

      • Sandra Beckwith
        December 8, 2014 | 1:52 pm

        Thank you, Mysti. Now that you’ve got some experience with this tactic, would you do a giveaway if all you had was one novel that wasn’t going to be the first in a series?

        Sandy

    • Tam May
      February 15, 2015 | 9:27 pm

      Well said about it being a marketing tool rather than a marketing strategy. I can definitely see how giving away the first book in a series might make sense. I’m reading a lot of historical mystery series now because I’m working in this genre which is new to me and I’ve bought several first books of series either for free or for a very cheap price. I’m in the process of reading one series right now where a package of the first 3 books in the series were offered for some thing like $2.99. So far, I’m on the second book and I like the series, so I can see myself buying more in the future.

      Tam

      • Sandra Beckwith
        February 15, 2015 | 9:41 pm

        Thanks, Tam. I’m glad it gave you something to think about.

        Sandy

  5. Michael R. Stern
    December 2, 2014 | 6:09 pm

    I have struggled with this idea for gaining readership. As a new author, with a limited fan base, I have tried a number of different approaches, all unsatisfactory. I really hate the idea of giveaways. If I value my work, then I think people will also. But much has been written about effective price points etc. I think our collective problem is that there are so many writers now, and readers have so much choice, that the effort to become known, to build a “platform”, becomes an obsession. Selling should be fun, talking about your work a joy. But statistics work against writers. The average American reads 5 books a year. Amazon adds 3000 a day. Good luck with that.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 3, 2014 | 1:01 am

      I can’t argue with you, Michael. It’s harder to build an audience for fiction than for nonfiction, too. You just have to keep working at finding those people who read the type of fiction you write. You REALLY have to know your target audience, even before you start writing that first book.

      Sandy

  6. Stephanie Chandler
    December 2, 2014 | 7:10 pm

    Thanks for sharing this perspective. I think it all depends on a number of factors. I know many fiction series writers who swear by the give-the-first-ebook-away strategy, and it makes a lot of sense to me. It’s a quick and easy way to find new readers and if they like your book, they’ll gladly buy the rest in the series.

    But if you have authored just one book so far, then offering it for free would have little value because it couldn’t lead to sales of your other titles. The biggest exception here is for nonfiction authors (who I primarily work with). For many of us, our books help to build our businesses and therefore the more readers, the better.

    I’ll add that I’ve personally been against the KDP Select program from the beginning. I do not want to give Amazon exclusive rights to distribute my books. And the problem with their free give-aways is that you don’t get to capture any sales data–they do!

    To challenge this theory, I hosted my own ebook give-away awhile back. I put it up for free on my website for three days, requiring visitors to register to receive the download. I collected over 1,000 email addresses, saw a spike in my book sales across the board, and landed some new clients in the process! You can see more details here: http://authoritypublishing.com/ebooks-information-products/how-to-host-your-own-ebook-giveaway-without-amazon-kdp/

    Finally, I happen to be in the process of experimenting with a free give-away on Amazon right now. Instead of using KDP Select, I took advantage of Amazon’s price match policy. I set the price of the ebook to $0 via Smashwords, which made it free at B&N and other retailers. Amazon searches for prices and quickly matched it on their site, so the Kindle edition is now available for free (until I raise the price back up again).

    This is not my latest book, and it’s a book that drives a lot of business my way so I’m happy to give it away for awhile. In less than a week it’s been downloaded over 2,000 times. I don’t like that I’m not able to capture contact information from readers, but I am curious to see what the long-term benefit will be. I’ve authored nine other books and own a related business, so there are many potential benefits to a short-term, or even long-term give-away.

    (Indeed, this has put the book in the #1 spot in several categories, but by no means should anyone who follows this strategy consider this a “best seller”!) Here’s a link if you’d like to check it out: http://smile.amazon.com/Own-Your-Niche-Hype-Free-Service-Based-ebook/dp/B0076ON81G/

    Overall, I think results will vary. I also think it’s worthwhile to try new marketing strategies to see what sticks. That’s basically what it’s all about anyway!

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 3, 2014 | 1:12 am

      Thanks for such a thoughtful and helpful response, Stephanie. Like you, I advise novelists to skip the giveaway option until they’ve got a few books in the pipeline. Then, the first book offered free can serve as a sample for the other books, particularly those in a series. That said…I don’t recommend it as a strategy — I just offer that advice for those who are hell bent on doing it.

      I also recommend something that you’re probably doing already, and I recommend it to both fiction and nonfiction authors: Add a free bonus offer in the book. Readers who want that bonus gift have to opt-in on the author’s website to get that gift, whether it’s a bonus chapter, a checklist, or an audio interview. It’s a great way to build a mailing list of “hot” prospects (and get access to that book buyer data that Amazon guards) while providing a real service to readers.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Sandy

      • Rhonda Penders
        December 3, 2014 | 1:24 am

        Sandy, thank you so much for posting this blog and starting this thought-provoking conversation. I hope all authors will realize its never bad to try something different to drive sales. What works great for one author will not work at all for another. Today’s market for books is a tough one but you can never forget why you write in the first place; because you have a gift and the gift is meant to be shared with readers. I’d really like to see them pay you for it though :). All the best for a wonderful 2015!

  7. Stanalei Fletcher
    December 3, 2014 | 2:06 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your perspective, Rhonda. I’ve tried the free once, and feel that I’d rather see if my work can find readers if it’s not given away. I appreciate your insight.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 3, 2014 | 1:48 pm

      Stanalei, do you write fiction or nonfiction?

      Sandy

      • Stanalei Fletcher
        December 3, 2014 | 5:00 pm

        I write fiction and the wonderful Wild Rose Press is my publisher. My experience has been awesome!

        • Sandra Beckwith
          December 3, 2014 | 5:34 pm

          Thanks, Stanalei!

          Sandy

  8. Suzie O'Connell
    December 3, 2014 | 4:32 am

    A couple years ago, when free downloads of books counted toward the paid ranking on Amazon when a title reverted to paid, running a KDP Select free promotion for a handful of days was a useful way to gain visibility. However, that no longer works, so if you have a single title or a number of stand-alone titles, free probably isn’t the wisest choice. However, I and a number of writers in my online marketing group have made the first book in our series free and seen massive increases of sales on the sequels. That is the one place where I highly recommend trying free. As others have commented, it’s a great way to get readers to sample your writing. My income has increased by a factor of 9 this year from last year simply by making the first book in my series free. Until I made that move, nothing happened. I was a new and unknown author and precious few readers were willing to take a chance on my books.

    For me, making the first book in my series free was a simple choice that made sense to me, but it is a choice every author should consider very carefully before doing it. The fact of the matter is that it is becoming harder to get noticed with each passing day. Advertisers such as BookBub, Ereader News Today, and others like them are raising prices even as the return on those investment are diminishing for authors. Having a free first book in a series, particularly a well written, captivating story wrapped in a professional package (eye-catching cover, top-knotch editing and formatting), is still a very viable way to get noticed. Without making my first book free, I’d probably still be making a few hundred dollars a year and struggling to find time to write as I worked a full time job rather than writing full time and loving every minute of it.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 3, 2014 | 1:51 pm

      Such great feedback, Suzie! Thank you! My biggest concern about this tactic is that many authors use it because they see others doing it, not because they’ve researched the tactic to see when it works, and when it doesn’t. When you’ve got a series, it can be the equivalent of a sample chapter from an author with just one book. But if you’ve got just one book, you’re giving away everything with nothing left to sell. It’s really important to educate yourself on this and any other book marketing tactic.

      The “rules” are different with nonfiction, too, but I’ll skip that for now.

      Thank you!

      Sandy

  9. Juliet C.B. Aharoni
    December 3, 2014 | 5:21 am

    Hi Rhonda,
    I hoped that by giving my debut novel, ‘Together They Overcame’ I’d get more people to read it. After having read the above, I’m beginning to have second thoughts. Do they read what they get free?Since there are far too many books available that are free, I doubt that readers can go through all the books they download.
    Juliet C.B. Aharoni

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 3, 2014 | 1:52 pm

      Juliet, I hope Rhonda will reply but in the meantime, I’ll say that if this is your only book, you might be better off turning the first chapter into a short e-book and offering that free, with a teaser for the rest of your book w/in that e-book.

      Sandy

  10. Randy Ingermanson
    December 3, 2014 | 5:48 am

    You ask, “Why buy the cow when the milk is free?”

    But that’s a bad analogy. Books are not like milk. Milk from any cow tastes pretty much the same. But every author produces a different product, and some of them are vastly more desirable than others. Giving away a sample of a product is a great way to promote sales of more of that product.

    You’re correct when you say, “Numbers don’t lie.” Most of the successful indie authors I know have the numbers to prove that making the first book in each series free is a smart thing to do. It’s easy to test. You look at your numbers before and after you take a book free.

    When I say “successful indie authors,” I mean those who are earning five figures per year, or six figures, or seven. I know a number of these, and virtually all of them have one or more books free.

    You may be correct in saying that few authors are successful at this strategy, but that’s because quality is rare, which means that few authors CAN be successful. The free strategy works when you’re giving away something that has high quality. If the book you give away is poor quality, that won’t generate sales for the sequels.

    My own experience and the experience of many of my indie friends is that making the first book in a series permanently free has changed our lives.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 3, 2014 | 1:56 pm

      Thanks for such a thoughtful comment, Randy. I always love hearing about successful indie novelists. I’d love a guest post from any of them and if you’re one of them, let’s talk.

      It sounds like you’re echoing what I’ve seen here in the comments and on my Facebook group — this tactic can work for novelists who write a series. When they give away the first book in the series, it’s their equivalent of a sample chapter that a fiction author with just one book might offer. Correct?

      Thanks!

      Sandy

      • Randy Ingermanson
        December 3, 2014 | 5:24 pm

        Yes, correct. The most common reason that successful indies offer a book free is because it’s the first in a series. This works wonderfully for fiction, and it may also work for nonfiction, but I don’t have any data on that.

        If an author is using a nonfiction book as an introduction to their products or services, then giving it away free would also make good sense. I don’t know of anyone doing that, but I think it would be highly effective. I have a recent nonfiction book that’s normally priced at $3.99 and it’s been effective at boosting sales of non-book products on my web site. But it’s also been a good earner on its own.

        As for a guest post on your blog, I’d be open to that, Sandy. Shoot me an email and we can discuss whether that makes sense and on what topic.

        • Sandra Beckwith
          December 3, 2014 | 5:35 pm

          Sounds good, Randy. Thanks for your thoughtful input here.

          Sandy

      • Suzie O'Connell
        December 3, 2014 | 5:40 pm

        Sandy,
        That’s exactly it. It’s a sample for readers to try risk-free, and if they like what they read, they will buy the rest of the series. In my experience, I would recommend having a minimum of three books in the series before making the first free. And, as Randy said, make sure (as you always should) that every book is the very best you can make it. Don’t skimp on the quality. Quality is, far above everything else you can do, of the utmost importance.

        Explaining in a little more detail than in my previous comment (I’m still recovering from a head cold)… I guess you can say that I’m one of those “successful indie authors” Randy mentioned because this year, my royalties are in the upper five-figure range. When I say that, I’m looking at royalties that have been paid or will by paid by Dec. 31 rather than royalties by the number of books sold so far this year. If I were looking at that figure, I’d very likely be in the six-figure range. My sales didn’t “take off” until I made my first-in-the-series novel free in March (the bulk of the royalties for which weren’t paid until May), 95% of my income for the year comes from just eight months’ payments. I’m on track to cross the six-figure barrier next year, all because I made that first book free… and advertised the heck out of it with advertisers (like BookBub, Ereader News Today, and Pixel of Ink) that I had researched with the help of a very astute group of self-publishers.

        • Sandra Beckwith
          December 3, 2014 | 9:32 pm

          That is SO awesome, Suzie! Congratulations! I really appreciate this level of detail, and I’m sure others do, too. Thank you!

          Sandy

          • Suzie O'Connell
            December 4, 2014 | 2:37 pm

            Most of what I’ve learned about this business has come from conversations with other, more successful writers, so the least I can do is pay that information forward. We can all learn a lot more by being helpful and supportive than secretive and antagonistic 🙂

          • Sandra Beckwith
            December 4, 2014 | 3:11 pm

            I agree, Suzie.

            Sandy

  11. Paulami R Mukherje
    December 3, 2014 | 9:21 am

    Hi Sandra,

    Thank you for sharing this lovely insight from Rhonda Penders. Give my heartfelt thanx to her. I have been reading so many things about book giveaways, but somehow I was not convinced. If I want to give away, it should be for some very strong purpose. As am coming up with a spiritual self help book, I think giving it away for free will definitely undermine it’s importance and thus readers rather than benefiting won’t even utilize the tools. My purpose that way won’t serve.

    Having said that mine is a little different from other authors of fiction books, but then again they too are putting a lot of effort, lot of creativity in building up a book. So why give it away for free.

    Yes we can provide 1-2 chapters that will build the interest of readers. Also, if there is certain information or knowledge sharing then part of it can become a giveaway CD? What do you think.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 3, 2014 | 2:00 pm

      Paulami, in your case (and this is my opinion only…), because your book is nonfiction, this approach makes sense if you’re using the giveaway to build your e-mail list by offering a bonus download to people who get the book, or if you’re using the book as a marketing tool to get customers/clients for a related service that you provide. You might be better off offering it for a low sale price for a period of time or doing a Kindle countdown if you qualify for that.

      As for a CD giveaway, I love offering bonus content, but would make that an MP3 download or a bonus video available online, rather than a CD, which you have to ship.

      Sandy

      • Paulami R Mukherje
        December 4, 2014 | 4:54 am

        Yeah, I think this approach will make sense. And yes just got an idea reading your idea of the MP3 give away rather than CD. Yes, the CD will cost higher, let me see the feasibility of my idea.

        I will offer the book at a lesser cost for some days during its launch for sure. Thank u so much Sandra <3

  12. Debby Grahl
    December 3, 2014 | 4:13 pm

    I wanted to thank everyone for this informative discussion. I’m a newly published author through a small press. I know nothing about what is the best way to market my books, but I’m trying to learn. I’m getting good reviews on the book, but my sales aren’t great. As far as giveaways, my husband is a perfect example of how free books don’t work. He’ll download the first free chapters of a book , then if he likes it, he’ll go to the library and check it out. I don’t think he’s ever paid for an E book .

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 3, 2014 | 9:35 pm

      I’m glad you found it helpful, Debby. I did, too. Do you write fiction or nonfiction? If fiction, what’s your genre?

      Sandy

  13. miral
    December 3, 2014 | 5:30 pm

    I checked out the books by Wild Rose Press and I think that since the books are mostly romance and erotica, they don’t need to be free. But I’ve worked with a lot of authors who have had great success with the free and discounted strategies.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 3, 2014 | 5:38 pm

      Thanks, Miral.

      Sandy

  14. B.E. Howard
    December 3, 2014 | 11:26 pm

    I’d love to read everyone’s responses before I write my own, but we’re all faced with the same problem – who has enough time to read everything…

    I must also disagree with much of this post – not in an angry way of course. Many of you are more experienced in the industry than I. You have reputations. People know who you are. For a first time author like me who has put in 5 years on a single book and hopes to leave his day job, giving away my book, or the thought of it, seems necessary. I have to develop a reputation. I need people to review my book and say they like it.

    I’ll try to sum this up. Look at Amazon. Has anyone ever bought anything on that site that didn’t have a review? Whether it’s a TV or a book, you want to make sure it’s worth your time. Even if it is free, if you don’t feel like you’re missing out on something amazing, the price doesn’t matter (which is why free books collect dust on e-readers. So yes, I would like to make money as a writer. But how can I if no one knows about my work?

    Writers need reviews. Writers need reputations. If you don’t have either, you either pay people to write reviews for you (that’s actually spending money instead of making it) or you give it away (time spent, but money saved) to build reviews and reputations.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 4, 2014 | 2:25 am

      What you’ve said makes sense, B.E. I’ll just add one tidbit for you — there are other ways to get reviews: http://buildbookbuzz.com/book-reviews/. I mention that because most people downloading free books aren’t doing so with the intention of writing reviews. It’s just not on their radar. Avid, passionate readers write reviews so if you’ve got them downloading your book, you might have success. But if your goal is reviews, you might also be disappointed.

      All that said, I like that you’ve thought this through. This isn’t a knee jerk “everyone else is doing it” tactic for you. You know what you want to accomplish, and why, and that means you’re more likely to succeed than someone else doing it just because his writer buddy is doing it. I’m looking forward to learning more about your future successes. Please stop back and share!

      Sandy

  15. Wilma Fleming
    December 4, 2014 | 12:26 am

    I agree 100 percent that to give your book away is a negative. Why? I’m not ashamed to admit that I (as an avid reader) am literally filling my personal Kindle with free novels and have not purchased a book in a long time.
    I do it because the opportunity is there and I love to read. Who can resist a freebie?
    But, it saddens me. As a writer, I see no future in doing all the work to publish a book to give it away; unless you are using your book as a public service/awareness announcement for the public’s greater good.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 4, 2014 | 2:26 am

      Wilma, like you, I’ll download a freebie that looks interesting and promising, but unlike you, I buy most of the books I want to read. And, honestly, I’m more inclined to read those I paid for than the freebies. I’m hoping, though, that I’ll end up being one of those readers we’re hearing about here who discovered a wonderful series through the first free book in the series. Fingers crossed!

      Sandy

  16. Shannon Barczak
    December 4, 2014 | 6:37 am

    I have to say that I have never felt the pressing need to comment on an article before but I feel I must.

    I am one of these horrid self-published indie authors who have used the free book promo from Amazon kdp. I did it because it is a great way to get your name and work out there to the public.

    When you’re a self-published author it is difficult to break into the publishing world and you have to use any means at your disposal. To suggest that it in any way devalues my work is highly insulting. I write because it is a passion and one that took me many years to gather up the courage to do. I have never looked at writing as a get rich quick scheme and if your doing it for that reason, well, good luck to you.

    I am very proud to say that in one year I have had over 20,000 downloads. Were a lot of those from free promotions? Yes, but in the last few months my royalties have tripled and I am grateful for every one of those free days that I offered my books to new readers.

    I do not feel as though I am ‘giving up’ but instead I am trying to establish myself within this highly competitive world. I have worked my tail off and to read this article, as well as some of the responses has been upsetting.

    I am not desperate. I am not begging people to download my books. I’m proud of what I have accomplished and do I want people to read my work for free if need be then yes I will gladly do that because I’m a writer. I want my readers to get lost in my story and be excited about my next book.

    I didn’t get into this for fame and fortune and while I am very much aware of the business aspect, I still have an artist’s soul.

    So please feel free to bash us Indie authors who ‘give’ our books away but just remember, some of us are doing this because we believe in something other than the almighty dollar.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 4, 2014 | 3:03 pm

      Shannon, I’m disappointed that you’ve taken this so personally, but I love your passion.

      I didn’t see any bashing or reference to “horrid” indie or self-published authors. I’ve seen a lot of interesting discussion and several comments from people who disagree with the indie publisher who wrote this guest post, but nobody was rude or angry. I’ve also been impressed with the experience and knowledge of many of the commenters here, and I’m grateful that they took the time to say, essentially, “Here’s what I’ve seen that works.” I feel more informed about this tactic after reading the entire thread here.

      Sandy

      • Shannon Barczak
        December 4, 2014 | 4:17 pm

        Dear Sandy,

        I respectfully disagree.The tone of this article is not one of unbiased opinion but scathing in my view. When someone throws around terms pertaining to what I do as desperate and references that I must be giving up in some way, well I don’t know about you, but where I come from those words are hurtful.

        I truly wish that the author had reached out to the Indie author community so that maybe we could have our voices heard. I agree that there are some valid points on this thread. I do not ask or beg for reviews just for the sake of pushing my book. I am probably the most inept writer at self-promotion and the use of the free promo days have been a Godsend to me and my work.

        I also think that this website is usually very informative but when I read this last night, I have to be honest, it really made me almost feel ashamed of myself and I also felt slightly degraded.

        I’m not trying to bash the author or you but I feel I must defend myself and all other authors that are in the same boat. I also hope that some of your readers get another side of the story and we can pull together as authors who support one another.

        Yes, I am passionate about what I do as I’m sure all writers are but let’s not call one another desperate for trying to get our stories read by using what is available to us.

        Insinuating that we are giving up on our craft and devaluing our hard earned work by using the free promo days is simply wrong in my humble opinion.

        I only hope that other writers and members of the publishing community realize that most of us work very hard and while it can give us some pause to give our books away for free, we have to do whatever we can because at the end of the day we are the writer, publisher and agent of our books.

        Thank you for letting me ramble! This was one article I could not ignore and I thank you for posting this honest discussion.

        Happy Holidays to all and keep writing!

        • Sandra Beckwith
          December 5, 2014 | 12:39 am

          Thanks, Shannon. I’m glad you stopped by and took the time to comment.

          Sandy

        • Linda Banche
          December 11, 2014 | 3:47 pm

          Shannon, I’m with Sandra. I saw nothing insulting about this blog post or any of the comments. And then I read yours. I have seen other people who do free promos get very defensive about them. If people who don’t do free promos can be polite about what they do, so can those who do.

  17. Destination Infinity
    December 4, 2014 | 8:52 am

    Even if a book is free, without visibility, ppl. may still not download/read it. Also, it makes sense to giveaway first/second book to collect feedback and improve writing.

    This process of giving away a book is called investment, and without that, there is no business.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 4, 2014 | 3:11 pm

      Destination, yes, a book giveaway of some type is a business investment — no argument from me there — but if your goal is feedback, I’d recommend that you give beta copies to people in your target audience who you can trust to provide honest feedback LONG before the final book is released for publication. You want it as good as it can possibly be before it’s available to a mass audience.

      There are also many more effective ways to get honest reviews than a large scale, full-blown giveaway.

      Sandy

      Sandy

  18. Carol Graham
    December 4, 2014 | 3:15 pm

    I agree 1000%. I have never understood this technique. When I see a “free” book I assume that either it is worth what you pay for it or it is promotion for the author’s next book. It actually turns me off.

    I put 10 long years into writing my memoir, mostly because of the difficulty in opening up old wounds. If I give it away, it is for a specific reason usually because I meet someone who needs to read it and be encouraged by it.

    You made excellent points and I am grateful. Thank you

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 5, 2014 | 12:41 am

      Thanks, Carol. I think it takes a lot of strength and courage to write a memoir. I’m sure it helps people. Congratulations!

      Sandy

  19. Stephanie Golden
    December 4, 2014 | 5:33 pm

    Thanks everyone for this really useful discussion. I have been unwilling to do any giveaways for my one nonfiction ebook, especially since it’s not related to a business that it could boost. However someone gave me the idea of doing a quickie booklet (20 pp or so) that reminds people that the problem the book addresses hasn’t gone away, with some current examples plus a teaser for the book contents, a link and a pitch. I could give this away and/or sell it really cheap. I’m seriously considering doing this.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 5, 2014 | 12:53 am

      Stephanie, consider using it to build your e-mail list. Offer it on your website to people who opt-in by providing their name and e-mail address.

      You can see how I do it here — there’s an opt-in box in the upper right of this page and at the top of my home page, http://buildbookbuzz.com. When people provide their name and e-mail address, they get my free biweekly newsletter and a free download — my version of your quickie booklet. FYI, 20 pages is probably too long. People are too busy to read that much in a freebie — use one or two pages to give them some kind of info they can use immediately. It might be tips, advice, resources, a quiz, a template, or a checklist. I’ve got some ideas in this article if you’re interested: http://informationproductsforwriters.com/determine-freebie-topic/

      Sandy

      Sandy

  20. Annette Miller
    December 5, 2014 | 8:09 pm

    I agree with Rhonda. I’m one of her authors and I would hear my writer friends talking about the free giveaways and I kept wondering how they were getting more sales from doing that. I thought it was just me. If someone buys my second book, I wouldn’t be against giving them a discount on the first if they didn’t have it. We’ll all find the right combination that works for us. We have to try everything these days.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 6, 2014 | 2:58 am

      Thanks, Annette!

      Sandy

  21. Stephanie Golden
    December 5, 2014 | 9:16 pm

    Thank you, Sandy, that’s a great idea!

  22. Nancy Andres@ ww.nancyandreswriter.com
    December 6, 2014 | 4:51 pm

    Thanks Rhonda Penders and Sandra Beckwith for this great post. In my heart I know not to give my book away, and your research about this point resonated with me. My book is a woman’s self-care journal, “Colors of Joy: A Woman’s Guide for Self-Discovery, Balance, and Bliss.” It has a colorful front and back cover, 12 full page color art inserts, and journal pages that are printed on heavy paper stock. It was expensive to print and took many years to create and publish. Yes, I agree. I won’t give it away. Only give away snippets, if people contact me at http://www.nancyandreswriter.com and sign up for my mailing list.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 6, 2014 | 6:53 pm

      That makes sense, Nancy. Thanks for stopping by.

      Sandy

  23. Michele Orwin
    December 7, 2014 | 11:58 am

    Interesting article and conversation. As a publisher, I understand what Rhonda’s saying – you hate to see an author’s book devalued in any way. But at the same time, I’ve found putting books free for three days to be a great way to gain exposure for both the book and the author. It also breaks up the monotony of marketing. In my experience, reader reviews have tripled or more from free days. Though not always positive ones, like this thread, stirring up controversy can engage people.

    But what I do question is how much is enough? When I see 20,000 or 30,000 downloads, it does seem excessive. On the other hand, that’s 30,000 more people than the author and I would have reached otherwise.

    And, though it seems counter-intuitive, all of the books, fiction and nonfiction, have seen increased sales and borrows immediately following free days.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 8, 2014 | 1:54 pm

      Thanks for the feedback, Michele. It’s helpful! Do you have any sense of why people pay for a book immediately after the free period has expired?

      Sandy

      • Michele Orwin
        December 8, 2014 | 9:29 pm

        Sandy,
        I wish I knew why sales follow free promotions. My only guess is that people were intrigued by the book and didn’t have time to pick it up for free. Or,
        and this one ties into everything you talk about, it could be the buzz. That’s why I like any event/promotion that breaks up the usual day-to-day marketing, it builds a little buzz. Even if it’s short-lived.

        • Sandra Beckwith
          December 9, 2014 | 2:19 pm

          Makes sense, Michele. Thanks!

          Sandy

  24. Olea Nel
    December 8, 2014 | 8:25 am

    I did a great amount of reading up on the pros and cons of doing a freebie on KDP Select before I published the first novel in my trilogy on 1 October this year. My aim was to get my book on page 1 for two important keywords that I knew were popular with readers in my genre. As for ranking in categories, I wasn’t sure where my novel would be.

    Well, here is exactly what happened. After obtaining 10 reviews in week one, my novel appeared on page 8 for my main keyword. As for ranking, my novel wasn’t anywhere to be seen. So I offered my book free for three days accompanied by a few promotions. My novel jumped to page one (out of a 100+)for my main keyword. I ranked #1 and #2 for my categories, and got to #51 in the top 100 in the free store. After my freebie promotion, I stayed on page 1 for all my keywords, but fell dramatically in rank. Nevertheless, several readers per day were buying my book because I was still on page 1 for my main keyword.

    I now decided to experiment. I resurrected an old book, and gave it a new cover. I decided to promote it for $0.99 with two small paid promotions It immediately jumped to number 1 in its main category, and remained there long enough to gain the orange best seller flag. Although it’s gone up and down sales-wise, promoting it for $0.99 has resulted in almost as many books sold as my novel.

    Enter a third non-fiction book that is a short read, which I was promoting on behalf of a non-author friend. Again I tried the $0.99 promotion, and the book did well, ranking 3rd in both its categories. However, it’s not doing as well as the other two books sales-wise, mainly because the genre is small.

    Despite the $0.99 promotions for the non-fiction books coming up trumps, I still think that my free giveaway helped to get my novel to page 1 for my main keyword, where it has remained ever since. I was also able to get 22 more reviews, two author interviews, plus an upcoming free blog tour. There is also the possibility of a foreign rights deal.

    Will I go free again? Well at the moment I’m thinking of doing just that. I’ve changed one of the categories for my novel and would like to rank well in it. It’s a huge category with many top authors. My aim is to attract as many readers as possible in this category with my free offer so that they are primed to purchase the second novel in my series when it appears. (At least, that is what I’m hoping.)

    Will I go free with the next novel in my series? A definite NO. Nevertheless, I might offer the first one free again. According to Mark Coker’s latest article on Smashwords, this strategy works well. Will I go free with non-fiction? A definite NO. I think a $0.99 promotion will do equally as well, if not better.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 8, 2014 | 1:50 pm

      This is fascinating, Olea. Thank you so much for sharing the details — everything is so helpful! I’d like to flag one key point here: You took the time to research the pros and cons of this tactic. Not enough people do this kind of research first. Thank you!

      Sandy

  25. Linda Banche
    December 10, 2014 | 3:49 pm

    I’ve been against free Amazon promotions right from the beginning. I’ve also been beaten up a lot by writers who swear that free has helped them boost sales. While I believe Amazon free has helped some authors, it doesn’t help all. If it did, the best-seller lists would be enormous, and they’re not.

    I also think the only people you hear from are the ones for whom free has worked. You don’t hear from the ones for whom it didn’t.

    I’m not against giving away a book for a review, or a contest, or having a limited time sale.

    I’m also concerned, like Rhonda is, about writers devaluing their work. Yes, I work hard on my books. I see no reason to give them away. But now I’ve stopped saying free won’t work. I’ve had it with people who won’t listen.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that writers are so desperate they’ll do anything to increase their sales, even when the sales generate no income. Why this is, I don’t know. Maybe they’re all hobbyists. Well, I’m not.

    For the record, Rhonda’s company, The Wild Rose Press, did Amazon free for new books for a while, but they stopped when extra sales didn’t materialize. I also have 5 books with The Wild Rose Press (they were never set to free). My sales have never been good (sweet romance), and giving my books away would have been a disaster for me.

    I’m very tired of hearing about the wonderfulness of free.

    • Suzie O'Connell
      December 10, 2014 | 11:16 pm

      With all due respect, Linda, I feel I must respond. You say you are tired of people who “won’t listen,” but, if I may I ask, how do you know it doesn’t work if your books haven’t ever been free?

      I will be among the first to say that making a book free only works in certain situations. Any boost in post-free sales on standalone titles nowadays are brief at best and frequently non-existent. However, offering the first book in a series—particularly a fiction series—free to readers as a risk-free trial of your writing has been proven time and again to work in boosting sales of other books in the series.

      Now, there are several things that have to be done to ensure sell-through to the next book in the series. One, make sure the book is quality all the way around (the writing, the editing, the “packaging”). Two, make sure you have an excerpt of the next book in the series directly after the end of your book. Get readers hooked when they’re already in the world you’ve created with your series; make them want more. Three, after making that first book free, promote it via vetted advertisers such as BookBub, Ereader News Today, and Pixel of Ink. Free by itself will only get so much attention, but readers sign up to the aforementioned services to have emails of daily book deals delivered directly to their inboxes.

      How do I know this works? Because this strategy boosted my royalties from a few hundred dollars in 2012 to close to six figures this year. Giving my first book away free is not devaluing my work. It is an invitation to readers to try what I pour my heart and hours upon hours of hard work into so that they might take a chance on an author they don’t know and pay for the rest of my books so I can keep writing for a living. So far, it has worked spectacularly, far exceeding my expectations.

      Mind you, I am not saying you should try it. What worked for me may not work the same for you or for any other author (though I know many for whom it has worked very well). I am asking that you please don’t tell people a strategy doesn’t work if you haven’t tried it. It is hollow advice that comes from someone who has not tried what they speak against.

      • Linda Banche
        December 11, 2014 | 3:58 pm

        Suzie, I have also never put my hand on a hot stove to prove that I would get burned. You don’t have to do something to prove that it won’t work for you. I see doing a free promotion on Amazon in the same light.

        But I am also very tired of the evangelism on free promo, because that’s what it’s become. Since it worked for you, you want to convince everyone else.

        If you can give me advice, I can give you advice. Please stop all the evangelism on free promo. It’s become tedious.

        End of discussion. I won’t be looking back here again.

        • Suzie O'Connell
          December 11, 2014 | 4:49 pm

          Again, with all due respect, you are just as “evangelistic” about how terrible free is as those who say free works. Perhaps more so because many of the people who tout the benefits of free have the stats to back up their claims. So, let me clarify for the benefit of authors who want to find out all they can about this particular strategy.

          I don’t want to convince everyone else to try free. I want them to make a calculated decision based on fact rather than “gut feeling”. Which means I am not giving advice so much as providing an example of a business strategy (and, yes, it is a business strategy) that has worked for me. You cannot make an educated decision without first considering and comparing all the possibilities. As I said, I am one of the first to admit that free only works in certain situations. There is no “evangelism” here, only information about how and why making a book free has worked for so many us.

          Here’s my actual advice. If the goal is to sell books and to reach a wider audience, it is foolish to ignore and/or deride a strategy that has been proven to work for numerous authors simply because you don’t like it or because you think you’ll get burned. If you truly want to succeed in this business, you can’t sit primly on the sidelines, afraid to get a little dirty. You have to be willing to take chances, and you have to research and test strategies. If all you want to do is write, and you don’t care if you make a living from your writing, then this discussion holds no value for you. But if you want to sell books and make a living from your writing, be smart about it. Research strategies, test them, take notes, and see for yourself what works… and do it again!

          • Randy Ingermanson
            December 11, 2014 | 5:39 pm

            Well said, Suzie.

            It’s time for a little lesson in logic:

            When people say, “I used this particular method and here are my results,” it is incorrect to conclude that any of the following are true:
            A) The method will work for everybody.
            B) They think the method will work for everybody.
            C) They are evangelizing the method because they think it will work for everybody.

            It should be pretty obvious that the reason several of us have commented on our results is because the blog post has the rather inflammatory title, “Why you shouldn’t give your book away.” That sort of blanket advice is dead wrong. As Suzie and I and others have noted, there are plenty of cases when giving books away makes great economic sense.

            Using a permafree strategy on the first book in a three-book series has worked out nicely for me. In the five months AFTER I adopted this strategy, my fiction revenue jumped up to 6.25 times what it was in the five months BEFORE.

            Of course everybody is going to see different results. I have seen a permafree campaign that failed miserably. It would be dumb to claim that it works for everybody. But it would be equally dumb to claim that it never works. Smart marketers test things and act on what they learn.

            Of the successful indie authors I know (earning 5, 6, or 7 figures per year), most of us have at least one series with the first one permafree.

            The way that the logic works here is that “Most successful indies use this method.”

            However, one can not infer that “Most authors who use this method will be successful.”

            There are probably several other factors at work. For example, it’s very likely that successful authors are producing higher quality work than non-successful authors. (My definition of “quality” is very simple–how well do they delight their target audience?)

            I will note that most successful indie authors are numbers freaks who measure lots of things. The reason they are using a “permafree for the first in series” strategy is because they tested it, measured the results, and found that it works.

            Note that Apple has been running a promotional campaign on the iBooks store since early November, where they promote Mystery/Suspense series which have the first book free. They promoted about 70 authors this way. I can’t speak for the others, but my own sales on iBooks have gone up during this time.

      • Sandra Beckwith
        December 11, 2014 | 4:50 pm

        This is great info, Suzie. Thanks! Have you advertised with Fussy Librarian or Riffle Select, too?

        Sandy

        • Suzie O'Connell
          December 11, 2014 | 5:10 pm

          I haven’t tried Riffle Select yet, and while I have tried the Fussy Librarian and really like their inclusion of a content rating system, I saw only a tiny bump in downloads. I hope they find a way to make their list take off because I think that rating system would immensely benefit both readers and authors. Thus far, however, they sit at the bottom of the list in terms of return on investment. In order by greatest number of downloads per dollar spent, these are the advertisers I’ve used:

          1) BookBub — expensive, but far and above the best bang for the buck… if you can get a listing with them (they accept less than 20% of books submitted)

          2) Pixel of Ink — great subscription list and some of my most active fans found me via POI

          3) Book Basset — fewer downloads, but they’re cheap so their ads yield a higher number of downloads per dollar

          4) ENT (Ereader News Today) — their reach seems to be slipping as many authors in my marketing group have not seen nearly the results we saw even six months ago

          5) Bknights — you can find him on Fiverr, and his subscription list seems to be growing

          6) Book Sends — for the price, I was pretty disappointed… and I’ve heard rumors that they don’t do as good a job of targeting their subscription lists as other advertisers, which means authors see a higher rate of bad reviews left after an ad with them than with other advertisers

          7) Fussy Librarian — very few downloads, but I like that their subscribers can choose to be notified about only the books within their preferred content rating (helps them avoid books with too much violence, for example)

          I have an “starred” ad running on Jan. 6 with Book Gorilla, but as it is my first, I can’t say yet if they’re worth the rather high price for the listing.

          • Sandra Beckwith
            December 11, 2014 | 7:10 pm

            This is such a great resource — thank you! As a book reader, I buy from BookBub the most. I’d say that reinforces your experience as an author, too.

            Thanks!

            Sandy

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 11, 2014 | 4:51 pm

      Linda, do you write series books or stand-alone novels?

      Sandy

  26. Diana Hockley
    December 10, 2014 | 6:29 pm

    I tried giving free books and one time I have to say I got an influx of paid sales right after, but mostly not. I now have started to giveaway a couple of short stories – one at a time – and I’ll be interested to see if doing this encourages more sales of my books.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 11, 2014 | 4:47 pm

      Diana, are the short stories in the same genre as your books?

      Sandy

      • Diana Hockley
        December 11, 2014 | 10:58 pm

        Mostly they’re humorous and involve animals –

        Christmas with Snoz is about a pet rat that has a wonderful Christmas Day causing chaos 🙂

        The Cloud is a mystery set in the USA (I’m Australian)and was a set competition piece.

        Requiem for a Lost Youth is a mystery/crime set in a New South Wales Australian country town.

        An Honourable Man is about a woman whose infatuation with a man leads to a dramatic and unexpected conclusion.

        The Metamorphosis of Troubadour Merriwether is a male Cinderella romance which gave a few people a good laugh 🙂

        I have more to put up but with finishing the third novel I’ve been distracted lol

        Thank you for asking!

        Best for Christmas and 2015,

        Diana

  27. Traci
    December 11, 2014 | 6:02 pm

    Here is the #1 reason that people should NEVER make their books free:

    More people will find your books, read your books and (if you delight your target audience) want more of your books. This will mean that they might buy your books instead of mine, so please, authors, whatever you do, DON’T let more readers find out about you by letting them read one of your books for free. Especially if it is the first book in a series, follows a likable lead character, and has a can’t-put-me-down writing style.

    If that describes your work, please, please, also don’t use paid ads, have awesome covers, well written blurbs, or a diversified market (ie, don’t be available at as many sales outlets as possible.)

    In addition, and as a side note: Please, dear authors, don’t listen to people who have learned how to sell their books. Only listen to people who base their business decisions on their feelings, their ethical stance against giving generously to readers, and of course, on what advice they are tired of hearing.

    Please. For my sake.

    😉

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 11, 2014 | 11:44 pm

      Traci. I hope you can get your tongue out of your cheek….

      ; )

      Sandy

  28. Traci
    December 12, 2014 | 5:02 am

    I’m surprised I have so much room for tongue-in-cheek–usually my mouth is full of my foot!

    But…I also had my writing world turned upside down by giving the first book away in the series (two series) for free. When I began the project, I was making $200. My peak month after making the first books free was about $7000. Things have gone back down (what business doesn’t?) but giving books away free has done two things for me: increased my monthly income by an awful lot, and increased the number of people with my books on their kindle.

    Sure, an awful lot of free copies have gone out to freebie junkies, but you just never know when the freebie junkie will become a real fan. I know it has happened to me as a reader more than once!

    Anyway, to each his own, for sure. I don’t ever want someone to act against their conscience in business, but I see no real bad coming from giving books away. If you are writing good books, anyway, then the worst that can happen is that more people have a good book to read. And that will make them happy people! Who doesn’t want to live in a world full of happy people?

    The best that can happen is what happened to me and a good number of my writer friends: by giving away free books (I have given away over half a million books) readers who like what I write have found me, and have become fans, and friends. That is worth every freebie I have given.

  29. Jackie
    December 17, 2014 | 10:50 pm

    I enjoyed reading the article, and the subsequent replies that follow. I have gotten great ideas on how to promote my recently published book of poems entitled A Selected Few Just For You by Jacqueline Carr, which is currently available on Amazon.

    Thank you all for your insightful comments.

    Jackie

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 18, 2014 | 12:14 am

      I’m glad you found all of it helpful, Jackie. I did, too.

      Sandy

  30. Pat W. Kirk
    January 14, 2015 | 1:28 pm

    I’m late to this discussion but here’s a question. I’m on the fourth draft of my upcoming book and I agree. Just wondering if you believe doing a preorder campaign for .99 for my ebook falls into the same category. Ninety nine cents wouldn’t cover anything. Would hope to get some reviews this way and impress Spring Arbor and other distributors. (Dear Spring Arbor: I sold 14 copies and–kidding. That’s the average number I read that independent publishers sell). Of course I hope for enough sales that way to get their attention. On publication day, the price would go up.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      January 14, 2015 | 2:15 pm

      Pat, I don’t think there’s enough info from you for us to give you solid advice. (Fiction or nonfiction? What do e-books in the genre usually sell for? What’s your platform — how many are just waiting for you to release this book so they can buy it? etc.) Big picture, though, while I like the idea of a sale price as an in incentive to pre-order, I don’t know that it will get you reviews. There are better ways to do that so that the honest reviews are ready to be dropped onto your sales page as soon as the book can be purchased (or soon after). I’ve got a popular training program on the topic: http://buildbookbuzz.com/book-reviews/ .

      Sandy

      • Pat W. Kirk
        January 25, 2015 | 1:35 pm

        Hi Sandra: Thank you for taking the time to get back with me. I don’t expect you to give me free advice–just looking for general. This one is a Christian Historical Romance. I’m building Twitter and Facebook and and am pre-writing blogs. Will use PRWeb for some contests. I wrote another book in another genre–worked hard to get reviews and got some excellent ones–used PRWeb and received tons of kindly responses. They didn’t translate to sales. Reading everything I can find, I guess I didn’t ask for the sale. Learning. Again, thanks for getting back. Don’t feel you have to write again.

        • Sandra Beckwith
          January 25, 2015 | 3:47 pm

          Good luck, Pat. I hope all goes well.

          Sandy

  31. Tam May
    February 15, 2015 | 9:17 pm

    I appreciate this article a lot. I’m planning on self-publishing and although I’m still far away from that point, I am doing research on different marketing strategies. Freebies has never really had all that much attraction to me, as a reader, and certainly not as a writer. I think posting sample chapters on an author website or as part of an email list is a great idea. I was also given the suggestion of posting flash fiction or short stories on an author blog, which also makes sense to me, since giving readers a taster of my writing style to draw them to buying my books makes total sense to me. I like to do that with authors that I’m exploring too.

    Tam

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