If you have been following Ramblings from a Writers Mind, or if you have scrolled down, looking and reading many of the posts, you will notice they fall into two main categories.
The first, those where I share my experience and attempt, in my rather haphazard way, to impart and to clarify certain aspects of wordsmithing, along with tips and ideas you may wish to try or adopt.
The second Rambling posts are ones where I express my opinions and beliefs about being an indie author. Many of these articles create controversy amongst the varying schools of thought running through the indie community. I do not see this as a bad thing, but one which stimulates discussion and debate, a great platform to exchange views and examine convictions.
This is the first of two posts regarding two current controversial topics.
This one is about giving away free books, an activity which is damaging the entire indie book market and something I am adamantly against.
So, without further ado, let’s get stuck into this wonderfully heated issue of free books.
When Amazon’s algorithms changed some time ago, giving less weight in rating 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 we discover how many of these subscribers unsubscribe – as is their legal right – or not bother to read their freebies.
As with any decision, we should evaluate any potential short-term benefits alongside the long-term effects on the mindset of our customers/readership.
The vast (vast, vast) majority of free downloads never get read, so giveaways don’t 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.
Why buy the cow when the milk is free?
We’ve all heard that saying. Basically, the meaning behind it is that someone isn’t going to pay for something that is offered for free.
Whether it’s your virtue or your book, the issue is still the same.
When a writer devalues their work to the point of giving away their book, what are they really doing? Giving it away as if it were nothing?
It begs the question, are those authors so desperate to have someone, anyone, read their book, that they are willing to pass them out like pamphlets on the street corner.
Is the book so bad they think no one would or should pay for it?
What about the months, maybe even years, the author spent pounding away at the keyboard creating the book? What about the lost hours spent editing and reworking it to perfection?
Most authors sacrifice a lot to write a book. They give up any and all free time in exchange for getting the story on paper. That must be worth something; certainly, more than a freebie.
Authors tell me it’s a promotional ploy.
Promotion is great and today we must constantly try new angles and ideas to draw in readers. I have no issue with giving away a chapter to entice a reader to purchase the rest of the book, but give away the whole book?
It does not make any sense.
Many, often new or struggling authors, hope by giving away a book, readers will buy more of them or will buy the next book they release.
Unfortunately, it does not work that way. Readers are a very frugal bunch. If they can get free books, why would they pay for yours? They will simply pick up someone else’s free book tomorrow, and someone else’s the next day, and so forth.
The numbers don’t lie
You may disagree with me — maybe your experience is different — but as a publisher, I have to tell you the sales numbers don’t lie.
While a select small number of authors may have seen book giveaways as a clever promotion to boost the sales of their next book, it is rare. Giving books away isn’t making sales numbers climb.
How could it? Free doesn’t equal bigger royalty checks.
Meanwhile, authors have devalued their craft to the point where even they don’t think it should cost anything.
I’ve been to a lot of craft shows the past couple of months. I’m amazed at the price of the handmade pieces people are selling. Then I think about the hours and hours of hard work these artists put into each piece and I must admit, it’s probably a bargain.
Are not authors the same as these other artists? Aren’t authors creators of their craft and shouldn’t they value their work as much as a woodcarver or a glassblower does?
“It’s a tough time in publishing for authors but the answer isn’t giving it away. To me, that’s the same as giving up.”
People who get a free copy of your book will not convert to buyers.
You see there are two distinct markets when it comes to anything really: the buyers and the freebie hunters.
I know if I go to Amazon and I’m searching for a book about dogs I click on the top free category, I’m not leaving the free category. It’s already in my mind to not pay for something like that. Even if it’s an absolute hobby of mine, I already have a wealth of knowledge resources I can snag for free.
For instance, there are hundreds of new adult fiction books published every day on Amazon. Hundreds of those books are put into KDP Select and are set to a 5-day free promotion every day. If I’m an avid reader of literary porn and I know I can get new quality erotic stories for free every day, why would I pay for it?
Hell, most of them probably won’t even read the book, depending on the genre.
There was a time when I would go to Reddit’s free eBook page and go on download sprees. I Never read any more than 2% of those books and they were deleted from my Kindle library with the same quickness they were uploaded.
It did not matter, they were free. They held no value.
Your e-mail list isn’t going to grow substantially by giving away a book. Even if you offer another free book for signing up, your list will merely be tainted by freebie chasers. They will hop on your mailing list, snag the download, then unsubscribe.
I can’t help but laugh at self-publishing authors who brag about how many books they gave away in their most recent promotion.
Last time I checked, free never paid the bills.
2,000 free downloads of your sub-par eBook do not indicate any level of success.
If it was not selling more than a copy a week, then you gave it away for a few days before it sprang to a few copies a day, I would say it was worth it.
But no… it never happened, did it?
You see, when you discount your book to zero, it devalues mine too, in fact, it devalues every author’s book by undervaluing and diminishing the entire marketplace.
Please, don’t devalue our publishing world.
Giving away one free book can equal a part of an author’s mortgage payment, one of their children’s meals, maybe a new pair of shoes they shall now never own.
The thousands of free books given away mean many thousands of pounds/dollars/euros which should have supported an author and their family has been taken from them.
Giving books away is little different from stealing from your fellow writer’s pockets.
Remember, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
So, okay when would I, if pushed, ever do a giveaway?
Personally, never… but….
It seems to me that the only time to do a giveaway is to brand new authors and salty seasoned veterans.
Even if you have written ten books, but you get no sales, you’re still new.
The only, vaguely possible benefit, of ever doing a giveaway is most major eBook storefronts have an ‘also bought‘ section that shows which ‘other’ books customers also bought.
This is the ONLY possible ‘money shot’ when doing a free book offer (and ONLY for new authors). The population of this ‘also bought’ section will link your book to other books, (& vice versa) so someone searching for a book on a similar subject may stumble onto your book.
So, there you have it, folks. You might give one eBook away for free when you are a brand spanking new author, or perhaps when you have such a massive following and sell millions of books each month, that giving away a book that was once an all-time bestseller, possibly twenty years ago, does not matter a single jot anymore.
….This is where too many indie authors fall into the FREEBIE TRAP.
Trying to emulate the marketing and promotional actions of major mainstream publishers who market the books of authors who are household names.
The truth is you do not know what teeny-weeny, itsy-bitsy part of the publisher’s overall strategy their giveaway forms part of. It is definitely NOT a stand-alone, individual, and isolated ploy, but a small cog of an overall strategy, planned with experts as part of a long-term stratagem focused on future markets and indicated customer trends. A fact every individual indie author I have discussed this subject with, was either not aware of, or did not take into consideration.
My advice, leave it alone.
There are MANY better ways to generate interest in your works.
Take Electric Eclectic books as an example.
Electric Eclectic is where you take a short story, one you may have forgotten and is lying unused and unloved in your files, or maybe you have one which you published in an anthology some years ago. The point is, where your story comes from is not really important.
What is important is your tale must be between 6k and 20K words, a story which you can turn into a Kindle eBook or paperback pocketbook. Publishing your short story as a novelette under the Electric Eclectic brand enables you to benefit from the brand’s extensive promotions and marketing initiatives, many which reach markets way beyond the regular social media platforms.
While there is a small, one-off licence branding fee for each book, you keep all the royalties and rights… but that is only the beginning. The true advantage of being part of the Electric Eclectic brand is that each Novelette works as your own marketing tool, leading your readers to your prime books and novels.
So, instead of giving your prime books away, or worse still, paying someone else to give them away, your promotional tool, (your Electric Eclectic book) is earning you royalties while gaining you potential readers for those main works. It’s a win, win situation.
It’s time to stop devaluing your books and yourself, make your promotions work for you.
To find out more email EEbookbranding@mail.com