Monday, March 4, 2013

Free Book Phenomenom: Is It for You?

Who hasn’t downloaded a free eBook? Who hasn’t thought that offering their books free would make them into a bestselling author? Can you actually get a good book free? These are all good questions about the free eBook phenomenon.
In the beginning, a few authors, usually self-pub authors offered their books free to generate some buzz, and then they would carefully raise the price as the interest in their book grew. This worked reasonably well. Most people focus on E.L. James book, Shades of Grey to demonstrate that offering the book free can benefit you. Thousands read her book free as fan fiction.
Yes, you can still offer your book as fan fiction too, which might be the cheaper route to go, especially if you are testing the waters. Maybe you’ve heard the expression you can’t get anything decent free, well potential readers don’t believe that. In fact, they expect a great deal for their free download.
I am a big anything for free fan. Currently, I have 193 free books on my Kindle.  My free books include:

a.       Short stories-some as short as five pages including the title page.

b.      Excerpts- a tantalizing glimpse of a book I might want to buy.

c.       Introductory stories, which introduce a line or a trilogy.

d.      Cookbooks with only 10-18 recipes included.

e.      Rants feature provocative titles that have nothing to do with the rant. There is very little actual writing, but links to blogs, examples, and YouTube videos.

f.        The Sneaky Direct Mail marketing approach-I paged through a book to find the right way to get rid of my cellulite only to find out on the last page that information wasn’t included, but it could be bought.

g.       Famous Authors Tidbits-this can go two ways. It can be a great short story or a mediocre one. The point is to keep the author’s name current. Many well-loved authors are bringing out their early books free. Be aware that sometimes they are only free for a day or even a few hours.

h.      Actual full-length books, truthfully there aren’t that many of these.
How many great books did I read that were free? Five, maybe six, actually that’s it.  I started eight the other night usually I ditched each one after two or three pages. I refrained from reading books that were poorly formatted, boring, silly, historically incorrect, or borrowed from famous books. Now with this in mind, can offering your book free improve your bottom line?

Sometimes, yes, especially if it is in the wrong category. I have romance writer friends whose books were under wrong headings like aeronautical engineering, playwriting, and herbal remedies. They can honestly say when they offered their books free they were one of the top selling authors for the week. Ironically, people like to read a popular book, even if it isn’t all that good. It is rather like the fairy tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes. No one wanted to mention the emperor wore nothing because they didn’t want to look unintelligent. Often, we readers feel obligated to like a popular book, when secretly we might think it could have benefitted from an editor.

If you are self-pubbing, then please do a professional job. It is a date with a potential reader. Would you wear your yard work clothes on a date? Why let your book go to press, unformatted, and without the benefit of a professional editor or cover. Getting your eBook in top form can run anywhere from $500 to $1,200. If you are paying more, then someone is taking advantage of you.  Why spend money, when you are trying to make money?
Your book has to stand out from the forest of free books. Today, I noticed 54,913 free books on my Kindle. Searches can be conducted via release date, subject matter, and rating. People often download free books and give bad ratings because the book wasn’t what the reader wanted.

A reader review blasted an erotic author whose book cover featured two naked people in handcuffs and words describing it as a bondage novel. The reader’s main complaint was all the nasty sex scenes in the book. This demonstrates free books do not guarantee good reviews. Sometimes just the opposite because people not normally interested in a particular genre, will download them anyhow.
Free books are a bit like real estate. Offering a free book for a long time makes it worthless. How do you get people to know you have a free book out there? Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media alert the public you have a free book. By limiting time, the potential reader develops a sense of urgency to get it before it cost money. Not limiting time allows reader to think it will be there later, causing him not to download it.
There are thousands of eBooks out, a few are worth reading, but most are little more than vanity publishing, previews and commercials. These are things to consider when offering your novel free. Your potential reader is already jaded. A few will go crazy about a wrong tense or word. Ask for beta readers. I recently reviewed a self-pub book and noticed she was missing one word in her conclusion. It was the word ‘out’ for writing without, which totally changed the meaning. I sent her email asking if that is what she meant, and she quickly changed it. Most reviewers would have lit into her despite the book be charming otherwise.

Free books are rather like blind dates. Your goal is to make yours the best the reader has ever had. Later, your reader will be booking future reading dates with you, and even paying for them. J


Anonymous said...

I only download free books from authors I like.

However, this is an interesting question and one that's come up unexpectedly in conversation with non-authors. Apparently, there are so many free books, that they are getting a bad name.

Cara Marsi said...

A very timely blog. I only download free books I think I might like to read. I've offered some of my indie books free (and yes, they are all professionally edited and formatted). At first, when Amazon began their Select program where we could offer books free, it worked like a charm. I'd get thousands of download which translated into mega sales when the books went off free. Alas, Amazon changed their algorithms and freebies no longer translate into sales. I've given up on offering my books free. I've gotten a few snarky reviews from people who evidently don't read romance yet downloaded my free books, which are all romance.

morgan said...

Hi Ella,

I do find some of my favorite authors free too, but usually due to Twitter or Facebook alert, not from going through 50,000 books.

morgan said...

Hi Ella,

I do find some of my favorite authors free too, but usually due to Twitter or Facebook alert, not from going through 50,000 books.

morgan said...

Hi Cara,
Most romances have a title and a cover that tells you it is a romance. Even if that didn't do it, there's the blurb. On another website today, authors were complaining about silly reviews they got because someone downloaded their free book, but didn't like science fiction.

I guess they feel like they are getting a bargain. Thanks for commenting.