Lately there’s been a big discussion on writers’ boards and blogs about the practice of giving away books for free. Since the advent of independent publishing, many writers have posted free books, some for a certain period as a promotion and some permanently. Some writers put up a free short story that they hope will introduce readers to their series. Often when a writer has a new book coming out, they’ll offer their first book free either for a little while or permanently, especially if it’s the first in a series.
This has been a standard of the publishing industry for a long time—giving books away. “Get the books in readers’ hands,” they’ll say. “Then word of mouth will take over.” There are bags of free books at conferences, books sent out to reviewers, contests. They say it works. They also say advertising doesn’t work so much. The selling of books is apparently a mysterious business.
Then there have been the price wars between the New York houses and Amazon, lately just Hachette and Amazon. eBooks have changed pricing structure. I took a promotion workshop from a long-time publishing professional and he stressed the importance of promotions—not so much free books, but pricing your books up there with the big 5 (4?) New York houses so you don’t look like a bargain cheapy. Selling a novel at $1.99 invites bad reviews, he claimed. At least it invites readers to think of your novel as something they picked up at a discount store.
Established writers say the practice of giving away free books and selling at a steep discount is undermining the whole industry. Readers expect to read for free now. They won’t buy a book at say $6.99. Some won’t go above $3.99. How are writers expected to make a living this way, goes the argument.
Others say that giving away books helps them get readers. They cite a give-away that led to an uptick in readers who then read their way through all their titles. The market is flooded with indie books and authors are fighting to even get noticed.
What is your opinion? Freebies or not? $1.99 or $5.99?
In the spirit of this topic, I’ve decided to give away a free copy of my newly released audiobook, The Star Family, to the best comment today. A secret spiritual group. A recurring dream. A 400-year-old ritual that must be completed before it is too late.