In Self-publishing Unboxed, I mentioned that I don’t use permanently free books any more.
People have asked me when I would recommend using free books, and when not to use them.
Free books are excellent for giving away samples of your writing. People will download the free book and then will read the other books if they liked it.
But if you have a permanently for a book on Amazon or any of the other retailers, you will find that after initial burst of downloads, the number of people downloading your book reduces quite a lot.
When that happens, you will have to advertise.
And with advertising comes a cost. Also, there are only so many venues where you can effectively advertise your free book, like ENT, Freebooksy and, if you can get it, Bookbub. Eventually you’re going to run out of places to advertise, and it will be harder to get free downloads. You can ask fellow writers in similar genres to post about your free book to their mailing list, but you have to work harder and harder to give your free books away. There are people doing this very successfully by the way. But don’t expect the fact that you have a free book to just lead to higher sales by its self.
On Amazon, I tend to only get free downloads if I have advertising going, on Kobo, the free books are right at the bottom of the rankings, so people will only find them when you point them to the free book, and this is the same at Google play. Apple is the only retailer that still shows free books to readers in a place where they can actually find them, but unfortunately, a soon as you make your book free on Apple, Amazon will make it free, too.
When I say that I no longer use free as a tool, that is not entirely true. I definitely use free, but I give away free books in exchange for people’s email address so that they can be on my mailing list.
This is a huge advantage, because now you know who your readers are.
I started doing this when I noticed that all the downloads on the retailer sites were through activities of mine. If you’re going to have to pay to get people to download your free book, you might as well pay for a place where they need to leave your email address to get the free book.
I uploaded my free books on Instafreebie and Bookfunnel and required mandatory email signups for people to download their copy.
I will occasionally make a book free for month or so, but I won’t leave it like that, because the downloads diminish when your ad campaigns have finished, and there is no point leaving the book free if you are driving all the downloads.
In short, free is useful when there are external mechanisms that will direct new readers to your books. If you are the only one directing the readers, you should dictate where people download it. It might as well be in a place where you can get their data.
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