Giving books away free has always been something of a controversial subject in self-publishing circles, and when Amazon's algorithms changed some time ago to give less weight in ratings terms to giveaways as opposed to paid-for copies, many authors became less enthusiastic.
However, the advent of new players in the giveaway frame, such as BookFunnel and Instafreebie, has added a new way of distributing free books, and a new purpose: to build your author database by effectively trading email addresses for free books.
While the jury's still out on the long-term benefits of the latter approach, as we discover how many of these subscribers will unsubscribe – as is their legal right – or not bother to read their freebies, it seems a good time to air the debate about what the pros and cons of giving away our work. In this week's Opinion slot, Michael Jason Brandt weighs in to gently but firmly make the case against it.
In the interest of playing devil's advocate, and with complete respect for those who disagree of whom I know there are many, how about the advice: don't do it?
This is probably a minority opinion, but:
Think twice about doing giveaways, period.
I suspect they can help in a small number of cases, but I'm of the opinion that there are two big problems with them in general.
Impact of Free Books on the Indie Author Business Model
Although individual authors can be in a position where free books don't hurt them, given that existing ebooks cost nothing to provide, at a macro level,
all of the free and supercheap books erode the viability of the business model for all authors as a whole
I can say without hyperbole that at least half of readers I know never buy anything but free and $0.99 books from services like BookBub.
New and unknown authors, those who don't qualify for BB's requirements, and those who hope to make a decent living off their writing, all suffer in the current climate.
As with any any decision, we should evaluate any potential short-term benefits alongside the long-term effects on the mindset of our customers/readership.
Low Readership of Free Books After Distribution
The vast (vast, vast) majority of free downloads never get read, so giveaways don't actually accomplish what they're intended to do: spread the word, get reviews.
On top of that, many authors pay money to advertise these giveaways, and spring for shipping in the case of hard copies, so they're actually paying people to get a free copy and not read it.
Part of the Learning Curve?
Again, I don't mean to come off as abrasive and absolute.
I'm sure that giveaways work for some authors in some circumstances.
I think many new authors do it as one of many things they try out as they're learning the whole marketing part of the job. I just thought I would share some of the less appealing factors to consider.
OVER TO YOU What's your experience of giving away free books? What's worked for you? Do you have any cautionary tales to share? We'd love to hear your views.Opinion: Why #IndieAuthors Shouldn't Give Away Free Books by Michael Jason Brandt #selfpub Click To Tweet
6 HELPFUL POSTS ABOUT DIFFERENT KINDS AND USES OF BOOK GIVEAWAYS