If you want to get your book into the hands of more readers, running sales is an effective strategy. Most authors do one of two things: run a $0.99 promotion or offer the ebook for free. Which is the better tactic depends on whom you ask.
I’m currently running a free ebook promotion for Drake and the Fliers, and I wrestled with the free vs. discounted question pretty much until it started, despite it not being my first free promotion. I did one for Project Renovatio leading up to the release of Project Liberatio, hoping to get readers hooked on the series.
Drake is a standalone novel, so the reason for the promotion is different than making book 1 free in order to sell books 2 and 3. Simply put, Drake needs readers and it needs reviews. After seeing how many reviews my friend’s book got after promoting his free ebook on Bookbub, I was motivated to try a free promo with Drake.
I’ve been hesitant to offer my ebooks for free in the past for a few reasons (based on what I’ve read from other authors):
- Free ebooks are less likely to be read – no financial investment could mean less interest.
- Your book could get a bad review from someone who downloaded the free book but didn’t really like the premise – they downloaded simply because it was free.
- Perception of quality – something offered at no cost can’t be very good, right?
- No money will be made during the free promotion, obviously. You’re hoping to gain fans who will recommend the book to others, who will buy it. There is no way to know if it’ll work.
I am guilty of the first point as a reader, but I also purchase ebooks. If given a choice to read something I paid for or something I got for free, I’ll start with the one I paid for. I want to know if my investment was worth it.
On the other hand, there are some plus sides to offering an ebook for free:
- It gets into the hands of A LOT more readers. This is also why all of my books are available to KU subscribers.
- More readers could lead to more reviews. One site I checked said 1-3 reviews per 1,000 downloads is realistic. I’ve seen a similar rate cited for paid ebooks.
- Greater visibility after the promotion – the book will be ranked on Amazon’s free book list, but there may be carryover to sales after the promotion ends.
So we’ll see how this promotion goes, and if I gain any more wisdom on the subject I will write a follow-up post. In the meantime, I leave the question to you – pick the version that most applies to your situation.
If you are an author, do you offer your ebooks for free? What is your reasoning behind it? Have you had success with free promotions?
If you are a reader, how do you feel about free ebooks? Do you jump at the chance to download, or do you have reservations? Do you read the ebooks you get for free?