Yes I’m an author. I love writing books. It’s what I do. But as I’ve said over and over and over again, being a writer also means I am the publisher and the marketing department for my books.

It still eludes me exactly what makes a best seller in this market. It’s not only a great cover and catchy blurb. Not just wonderfully well-written story and great reviews. It’s not social media and guest blogs. You know how I know that? Because none of that is working for me. Been there. Done that. Have the bruises to prove it.

So I’m trying something again. I’m giving away one of books for FREE. That’s right, “BLIND HER WITH BLISS” is now free on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, KoboAll Romance Ebooks, and iTunes  How long will I keep it free? I’m not sure.

There are a lot of free and $0.99 books out there these days so I don’t know if it’s going to work, but perhaps readers will find my book. And when they find the first book in the series I’m hoping it will lead them to DECEIVE HER WITH DESIRE and CHEAT HER WITH CHARM, the other two books in my sexy romantic suspense series. “Blind Her” will become a loss leader and hopefully bring readers to my books.

Now there are A LOT of authors trying this strategy. The KDP Select Program through Amazon offers authors the ability to offer their books for free for 5 select days without jumping through hoops and trying to price match. The problem is the book can ONLY be available at Amazon for 90 days. Anyway, with all the books available for free, readers can’t possibly read everything they’re downloading onto their kindles and nooks. And some readers have come to believe that free=unedited crap.

I’m hearing more and more people who say they download free books only to get through a page or two, perhaps a chapter before discovering the book was never edited. And since more and more of these books are out on the market many people think it’s giving self-publishing a bad name. Or worse, that authors are selling their hardwork short and not giving it value.

Kristen Lamb wrote a very long blog post about the FREE! phenomenon. You can read the full article HERE. Go on, take a minute and check it out, I’ll wait…

So what do you think? She makes some valid points. But I don’t know if anything is going to change with the free phenomenon in the publishing world any time soon. This whole book selling thing is a business. That means owners (authors) need to find a market for their product (books). If this means passing out coupons for a free sample, then why not? I wouldn’t mind getting a free bottle of Lemon Fizzle Soda. I enjoy a lemon wedge in my cola, but I’m not sure if I’d like it flavored like that. But I’d be willing to try it especially if the company offered it for free. Who knows I might fall in love with it and go out and buy their cherry, vanilla and regular flavor Fizzle Soda because it was so good.

So that’s what I’m going to try. Just a chance for readers to try my books without investing a whole lot of money. Will it work? I don’t know. I’d like to think readers won’t turn their nose up at it just because it is free. It’s hard to know. But since this whole thing is one big experiment, I figure it can’t hurt.

But I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.


21 Responses to Does *FREE* Cheapen the Value?

  • A really timely blog. I know there’s a lot of discussion now about free books. I’ve given away a few of my books free on Amazon and Apple. I’ve had success so it does work. However, there are so many more free books out there now that I’m not having the same success as I did before. A problem with free books is that readers will download books they don’t normally read, then trash those books in reviews. I’ve seen it happen, not so much to mine but to others. Unedited books give indie publishing a bad name. I would never put up a book that hasn’t been professionally edited. This is a discussion that will go on. Thanks for your insights.

    • Cara – All the things you’ve said are all the reasons people are arguing against the FREE! books on Amazon. The glut of them seems to make it hard to be seen/heard above all the noise of people shouting “here’s my book … read me”.

      I don’t know what the answer is. I’m not even sure how to help readers find authors who have done due-diligence with their stories before putting them up on Amazon. I mean, let’s face it, it doesn’t take much to get your book published these days. Honestly? If this had been six years ago when I couldn’t get anyone to publish my book, I may have gone the indie route without editing … because I didn’t know any better.

      The waters are definitely muddy.

  • Great blog Nina. As a reader and reviewer, I don’t think it cheapens it all. In fact, I have found new authors and the beginnings of a series that I hadn’t read yet. So for me, its a win/win situation. Also, if I really liked the free read, I’m more likely to seek that author out and buy their books, follow their blog/FB/Twitter and learn more about them.

    Also, if I don’t like a book, I don’t review it. I don’t do snark on my blog and I never will. I don’t see the point of trashing a book or an author just because I didn’t like the book.

    Marika Weber

    • Marika – YOU are the reader/reviewer authors are trying to find. Someone who’s willing to chance a free read and then buy other books if they enjoy it. My fingers are crossed that this will happen for me.

  • I like the idea of free book because I’ve personally found new author and series. And if I read a freebie that’s not a genre I usually like but it’s well written I make sure when I leave a review on Good Reads I make that clear because I can tell that if that genre is your cup of tea you would probably love the book. But the freebies I’ve gotten have really broadened my horizons. For instance I would never have purchased a M/M romance. Figured I wouldn’t like it. But since I got a couple free from All Romance I gave them a try. Discovered a whole new genre to love. Freebie let me try out F/F and I discovered that now I really didn’t like those but now I know without wasting money. Now books with sloppy editing or just plain errors like the wrong character name used are irritating but that’s a whole different subject.

    • Katie – That’s what authors are hoping. We’re hoping to find authors like you who are willing to try new authors and genres when books are offered free. Thanks for stopping by.

  • I don’t think free cheapens it either. I love getting books that I might not have spent money on for free, because then I can try it out with no risk. I spend a ton of money on books (shhh, don’t tell the hubs) to begin with, so being able to read one and then maybe put out the money to buy more from the author if I like the free one is a great way to go for me.

    And unless I see a valid reason to post a bad review, I don’t. There were a few dangerous BDSM things in a book I read recently and I did review it just so readers wouldn’t think those activities were safe. But other than that, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

    • Cassandra – I don’t think there are many authors who knowingly post a poor review. There’s no reason when enough snarky people out there seem to have that base covered. But I do like the idea of mentioning dangerous things portrayed as “no big deal” in a BDSM book.

      And I’ll never tell your hubster about your book-buying habits. We’ll just pretend they’re ALL free … just like I do with Mr. Nina. 😉

  • I know I’ve been enjoying downloading the free books, and I got yours too. 🙂 Thank you.

    But I do think its okay if your giving away the first of your series, after its been out for a while, to get interest in the rest of the series. Hopefully it’ll hook some new fans.

    Good luck with your series.


    • Janice – Thanks for downloading. I do hope you enjoy it. Yes, like so many others with series, I always hope it brings new readers to the rest of my books.

  • I recently downloaded a free book from a new to me author. Read it. Loved it. Bought about 15 from her backlist – through from a different site than the free book. That one was a winner.

    However, I also download a lot of free books that I have not yet read, that I read a portion of and did not finish, and may or may not ever read. Those are not winners.

    I think if you have good stories and a backlist, giving a book away can lead to great success.

    • Jennifer – It’s all the “others” that people are saying is causing a problem. Those books that readers aren’t enjoying that may turn readers off to downloading free books.

      I think a savvy reader can choose well written FREE books through the blurb and the sample pages. I’m just not sure they’re taking time to look at those things before buying … again, leading to the frustration of downloading unedited books.

      I’m sure that author was pleased you found her through her free read. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Zrinka – You said it so well. “we sent them on their way with a little something to remember us … They all came back.” That’s what authors who give their books away hope also. And no, you can’t do this your publishers books. I’m speaking of books I’ve self-pubbed.

  • Like many marketing ideas this is a gimmick but one I think will build support for writers. I am gonna try it myself. why not give readers an idea of what they can expect from you?

  • You make some good points. Years ago I signed up for Harlequin books and received free stuff including books and just last month I got a free book from them again trying to entice me back. It’s not a new strategy and it works for some people.

  • Free can be a good thing. But, watch out for those “reader comments” on Amazon. It’s amazing that people will take a free romance book and then give it a bad rating…because they don’t read romances. Huh? Happened to me.
    Good luck with your free book!

    • Marianne – I’ve heard that readers can be very harsh with *free*. Every comment from too much romance, to too much sex, to too short, to too much violence and on and on. I have heard that *free* in some readers’ eyes means they can trash the book as well. I’m crossing my fingers that doesn’t happen … but I’m prepared. Thanks for the warning.

  • Interesting post, Nina. I’m currently editing my next Indie and plan to do the same thing you are and hope it works. A few of my friends did this during the holidays and the numbers were amazing. I kept thinking once the free stage was over their numbers would likely go back to where they’d started but that didn’t happen. They’re all still enjoying the same sales rankings, and lower, a month after, so there’s something to be said for ‘free’. Let’s hope we experience the same thing. Good luck to you.

    • Carolyn – Hopefully all those Christmas Kindles and Nooks will be looking for some new material and they’ll find my book. Like I’ve said, I’m going to give this a try. I figured I’m not out anything if it doesn’t work. (But I’m crossing my fingers it will!) All the best to you with your books as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *