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Free Books

For some years now I have been investigating ways in which Independent Authors (namely me) can market their works and gain a following, and earn an income.

If no one knows you wrote a book, then no one will buy it. People know of you if you’ve sold a lot of books. But you can’t sell books if they don’t know who you are. And so on and so forth around in a circle.

So one has to find ways to gain notice, get one’s book in front of eyeballs. One way to do this is to make one’s ebook free for a period. I tried this months ago and gave away 600 copies. Which resulted in zero sales and zero book reviews (book reviews are another way to get noticed).

I know that some Indie Authors have become successful. But I don’t know if it is because of the quality of their writing or because of the quality of their marketing strategy.

But I wonder if all those free ebooks are encouraging readers to experiment with writers they’ve never heard of, or if this is just a way to pack their e-readers with thousands of books they’ll never read in order to make them feel smart.

Your comments are welcome.

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14 thoughts on “Free Books

  1. Ouch. I’ll admit that I have a lot of books on my Kindle that I haven’t read, and a lot of them are books I downloaded because they were free at the time.

    However, I do often go back and read books that I’ve had for months (or years) and never looked at before. So before you dismiss your giveaways as useless, give them time. People tend to read books that they’ve paid money for first, but that doesn’t mean yours won’t get read or reviewed, in time.

    • I guess it doesn’t compute for me because I don’t read ebooks. I like the physical book in my hand, where I can read sitting in bed, or upside down, or on the porch or whatever. And those are rarely free.

  2. I would love to see free e-books eliminated from the planet. That’s not going to happen, however. I do believe that a lot of people download anything that is free and they now have a ton of books on their readers that they’re never going to get to. Think about the stack of books you have in the corner, or if you’re like me, the multiple stacks scattered around and about. It’s just a different version of that, made easier by FREE!!!
    I’ve had more success with my free promotion for Bridgeport than you did with your book. But almost no success when I tried it with Weed Therapy. I think a lot depends on the genre. Bridgeport = legal thriller = something almost everybody who reads will try. Weed Therapy = literary, slow-paced = a much smaller audience. I’d say the same thing about your book. I had Bridgeport available for free two different times. The first time almost 7,000 people downloaded it without me doing anything to spread the word. The second dime, it was about half that number. From all of that, I got almost 40 reviews on Amazon. And, in the in between, a couple thousand people have bought it — mostly at .99 per download. Unfortunately, I think that’s where us self-published authors who have no PR campaign but what we can come up with reside. .99 or free.

  3. Seems that the only authors who get into publishing companies are celebrities or those who have had best-sellers in the past. So…there we go to self-publishing. Obviously, the shades-of-gray kind of books get picked up and turned into dollars. Oh well…

    • It feels that way. I just refuse to accept that the odds of getting into a family-supporting, income-earning book situation are worse than the odds of winning the lottery jackpot. It’s probably true, but I refuse to accept it.

  4. I have so many books to read, free and otherwise, that I’ve stopped collecting them for a while. They don’t make me feel smart. Rather, they frustrate me, because I don’t download a book unless I fully intend to read it. And if I like the author I’ll happily buy more … um … to put on my list. One at a time. 😉

  5. Dear Vince,

    It’s a thorny problem, isn’t it? Makes me want to write a fast ‘how to’ book for authors like us. Sure to sell millions.

    Thanks for following Ironwoodwind, Have to wonder how you found it.

    Aloha,

    Doug

  6. Hi Vince, I’ve had some success with offering my books for free–if I promote it through free and paid sites. The first free offering usually doesn’t bring much traffic. However, last month I did another two free days of Trails in the Sand and spent $40 advertising it. 9,000 downloads occurred and then I had some residual sales (50 books, which more than paid for the advertising). The reviews are trickling in slowly. Same thing happened with Live from the Road last year and I’m still getting reviews on that book. I’m not sure I like the free thing, but it does give exposure. I figure if 5 percent read the free book downloaded last month, that’s still 450 folks reading my book who wouldn’t have found me otherwise. I’ve since put Trails on Smashwords so I won’t be offering if for free again. I probably am done with Live, too, and just need to format it for Smashwords. I believe perseverance is key to surviving in this business. I’ve been doing the Indie Author online thing for a year and a half and each month I see an increase in sales. I’ve also produced more books and reissued old books whose contract expired with former publishers. I believe that helps.

    By the way, I still have your book in my queue and hopefully will get it read soon!

  7. Hey, Vince! I absolutely love finding free Kindle books, and if I like a book, I will buy more from the author. Do you get any say in having a book offered free? AND – WHY isn’t The Silent Heart Beats offered on Kindle? Someone wrote a good ( imho) review for it! Susan

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