I'm intrigued by the arguments of writers like Neil Gaiman who propose boosting sales by making digital content free. Last fall, someone posted a link to an article by another writer who makes ALL his digital content free and still earns an excellent living off just his paperbacks. I can't remember that writer's name or find the article again. Did anybody else see it? Or does anyone have more examples of this nature?
If you could write a story so compelling that readers can't wait to find out what happens next. Write it as a serial. Give away the first ten episodes and then start selling the rest. Let 'em all pay $5 a pop to find out what happens next. It's like dealing heroin: give away the first few hits and then bleed 'em for more. It sounds awful when you put it that way, but hey! Charles Dickens did it.
Love it! I actually have a story arc in mind for that exact purpose. I'll be filling it out soon as I finish up a few summer projects. Thanks, Deacon!
Since more and more people are now reading off some kind of digital device, giving away books for free doesn't seem like a very wise idea, at least not for struggling authors. I haven't bought a paperback or a hardcover book since I got my Kindle. I think that digital content should definately be offered at a lower price than an actual book, but to give it away for free is not a good business practice if you are hoping to turn a profit.
Thanks for your comment, Irina. I have no intention of giving away all my work free, but invisibility is a real problem in a sea of so many digital books, and freebies draw new readers. It only makes sense to try it, though, if you have other books for SALE as well.
I appreciate readers like you who purchase digital books. That's how so many of us earn our bread.
Since my book just came out, I went with a coupon for 25% off til the end of the month. I am considering doing a two week free for the exposure but making it a limited run hoping to get the word of mouth going. I will be making the decision this week.
It's always an experiment, isn't it? Let me know how it goes. I have a new one releasing in two days. It's a final book in a trilogy. I made an advance copy free on Smashwords for the last week of July. I've given away about 80, and I've seen some additional sales in the series as a result. But the release on Amazon will be specially priced at .99 for one month. Then it will go to 2.99. I'm experimenting to see if any of this has an effect on collecting new readers.
Neil Gaiman was a well-known author long before he started giving away his digital books for free, which makes a HUGE difference.
If you're an unknown, then free books still cost time. You have to convince reader to read them. They may download them, and then they sit on their Kindle or Nook forever. I know...when I got my Nook, I downloaded about two dozen freebies. I read three of them, all varying degrees of painful, and haven't touched the rest. I'd rather pay for a book I believe will be good (based on recommendations) than randomly download freebies.
I do think making ebooks CHEAP is a good strategy. Big publishers are, IMO. giving the rest of us a terrific window of opportunity to take advantage of the digital market while they wallow in fear of change. Their books cost as much as the print copies...I've even seen them cost MORE than the print copies. Crazy...and I won't buy it at that price.
How cheap is cheap? Anything under $3 (by which I mean $2.99) is reasonable. If you're really going for the impulse buy, $0.99 is great, but you still have to get the marketing machine behind you to let people know. The ebook version of my own novel, The Immortality Virus, is normally $2.99, but I've got it at $0.99 right now for a virtual book tour -- to try to catch those people who were maybe on the fence but think hey, for less than a buck, why not?
This is perhaps ironic, but I am wary of advice from authors who have "made it." At the very least, I want to make sure I'm comparing apples to apples in taking their advice. Neil Gaiman has dozens of well-known and well-loved books taking him back well before the onset of the digital age. I, on the other hand, am a new author with 2 titles so far (#3 coming out next year), both published by a small press AFTER the onset of the digital age and ebooks. Very little of what he did is going to apply to me.
What I've got coming up next is a series, and I've toyed with the idea of making the first book free (as a hook), but the more I learn, the less inclined I am to do that. Giveaways have their uses, but the psychology of it just doesn't pan out. People are more likely to actually READ a book they've purchased, even cheaply. And you do want readers.
You've been thinking about this a lot, Christine!
I'm with you on the new vs. established author bit, but I'm still intrigued by some of Neil's arguments. For example, he asks how did you discover your favorite author? Did you buy their work, or did someone lend it to you? I still think there are opportunities to be had by making a book free.
But I hear you about the awful junk out there. I get so irritated at indies who don't pay for editing. They make us all look bad! But I think my work will hold its own...IF I can draw readers.
Yes, I have! Book marketing is about all that's been on my mind for the last few months. I'm about to release my third book, and this one is the first in a four-part series, so the pressure is on to make this one a success.
And you're right -- I read most of my favorite authors for free the first time, especially getting their books from libraries. If there is one thing I wish I could do as a small press author it's get my books into libraries across the country. I've asked friends to make requests at their local libraries, but it hasn't worked.
Now...here's a thought. I have noticed that more and more libraries are giving away digital editions. These are limited use (you get them for 3 weeks or so). I wonder if there's a way to donate digital editions of an ebook to these programs. Ooohhh...I think I have some phone calls to make tomorrow.
I have looked into this when one of these programs came to my local library in February. The answer in my case was no. I only looked into the one program, Over Drive, but I read an article about the same time by a librarian that said that's generally the case. I think it may be up and coming, however. I know Smashwords has a program in place http://blog.smashwords.com/2012/03/smashwords-to-distribute-to-blio... to get their books in libraries. But I can see the problem. If you make it available for everyone, you've got a lot of junk books to filter through.
I must jump into this convo. Everyone is thankful for a freebie but it is soon forgotten. Here is the truth. Anything given away freely is not appreciated, examples,"welfare, some ebooks, salvation." All this is free. Flip side, me personally, I appreciate water, why, because it cost $20/month. That affects me on a deeper level.
Christine, yes, you should be wary of those who have made it, but you should also be wary of those who have not made it.
No magic formula for this selling business has been discovered. If freebies work for you, then continue on that path. I don't subscribe to that technique, it does not work for me.
Michelle, every writer can't afford an editor. I agree that editors make your work superior and help convey your message. And other Indie authors do not make ME look bad. But, I encourage everyone to keep writing. One $$uccessful book could lead to better written books.
I know it is tough to afford an editor. I have to scrimp. When others don't bother and produce work so unprofessional that a large percentage of readers become prejudice against Indie work, that is hurting all of us.