Why I give books away for free

Listened to the Marketing SFF people’s podcast with Elle Casey this morning.

I love Elle and the nice, unassuming way she treats her career and the success she has had. She said a lot of things that I agree with.

But she went on a little bit of a crusade against people who offer books for free, because apparently it conditions people to think that all books should be free. She had a mini-rant against people doing Facebook ads for mailing list subscribers, which I could get into. Mainly because I think Facebook ads take waayyyy too much time that I’d rather be writing, and I also think that people signing up *because* you’re offering free books tend to be on average the most unengaged peeps (only marginally more engaged than those you get from competitions).


Then she said “unless you are offering a free book 1 in order to entice people to buy the rest of the series”. And this is often a caveat we will hear from the self-professed free-haters. It’s OK if it’s a marketing strategy.

And I just wonder what else these people think we’re doing with giving away free books. You distribute free books so that people can read a sample and go on to buy the rest of the series. That is the whole point of it.

In order to spread the reach, you advertise your free books as much as possible.

But then, their argument goes, you get emails from people wanting the entire series free.

Yes, I know. I get them, too.

And you know what?


That is, if they want to review the books.

Get this: someone writes me saying that they’re a poor pensioner and can’t afford books but liked a free book, and wants the rest for free. I tell them: OK. Become a reviewer, and you get all my books for free.

Maybe what they tell me is true, maybe they’re lying. I don’t really care. What does it cost me to send out a review copy? Nothing! What do I get? Reviews! Win=win.

So I’m afraid I don’t get the anti-free-ranty people. Where do they see lots of writers giving away books *without* some sort of strategy to entice people to buy more books? Because all the writers I know who use free, use it as strategy. I could certainly argue that it *needs* a strategy to work, but I’m not seeing the conditioning to expect everything free. Second and subsequent volumes in series are never free.


  1. I would never have read ambassador 1 if I hadn’t got it for free. I’ve now bought and am working my way through the 5 book omnibus. Thanks!

  2. Patty,
    My attitude is very much like yours. I did get rather huffy after a reader suggested that $5.99 was too high for an indie published e-book. It’s the second in the series. I explained that that was the list price and if they wanted to sign up for my newsletter, they would be able to find out when it did go on-sale. It has been on sale twice for short periods since I released it in September 2015 and each time as part of a strategic sale that included book I on sale as well and Book 0.5 also on sale. Strategy is key, but I don’t get the people who say don’t give it away for #FREE! Look at Radiohead and Cory Doctorow. They’re not suffering after giving their work away.

    • Exactly.
      I will say that some peeps seem to exist just so that they can complain, or they do want everything for nothing. These are the peeps that you respond to saying they can get everything for free if they review, and you never hear back from them. *shrugs*
      Getting huffy is pretty much unavoidable in this industry, but it’s best done in private at the dinner table with your family. Believe me, we all get huffy. It does not look good on the internet, though 😛

  3. For those who ask for entire series free, do you directly ask them to give honest reviews in return?

    • I tell them that they can have all books for free if they review them. I don’t send them all the books at once, but as they go.
      They’re really not many people who do this, and they’re not worth the aggravation to get huffy about.

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