How Come Everybody Want to Keep it Like the Kaiser?

3 Nov

I read an interesting post today – “If I’m not going to make money off my books, why don’t I give them away for free?” And I’m torn on the issue. Because although that might be a way to generate readership, people perceive free things as having no value.

One of my favorite authors, David Weber, worked with his publisher and offered the first book in his space opera series, On Basilisk Station for free on Kindle and on his website. It’s a great book – I should know, I’ve been a member of his fan club for many years! As he likes to joke, “The first taste is free.” Like any good drug dealer, the hope is that you get hooked on the character and want to buy all the other books in the series.

So the concept can work. I’ve read many free books. I love the Little Free Library for just that reason; exposing me to books I would have never been inspired to read on my own. Some books I’ve wanted to keep reading in the series, others I’ve been like, “That was nice, but I don’t need to find out more about these characters,” and some I’ve been, “Ugh, I’m glad I didn’t buy this.”

But on Twitter, I’ve been offered books for free, and I download them but… sometimes I never even read them. In one case, I realized, “Oh, I hate mystery novels.” Sometimes, I’ve read halfway through the book and thought, “It started out good, but it’s just the same thing repeated over and over.” Sometimes I’ve read the free sample, bought the book, and realized far too late that all the good stuff was in the sample.

That’s why pricing is such a big deal on Kindle. $0.99 sounds good, but it also sounds cheap – am I getting a short story overpriced? On the other hand, I read a 10-book (quickly written) series for under a book and enjoyed it. I put all my books at US $1.99 which I figure gets me compensated fairly and still puts my books available for casual readers.

I think I’ve going to go halfway and give away a book for free for a week as a way of celebrating an upcoming novel (which is Drag’n Drop, coming out December 4th). I’d like to give away Fatebane, which is my favorite novel I’ve written and the only character I’ve written over three books, so there’s a chance at repeat business.

But what do you think? Is it a good idea to give away books? Have you embraced a free book to become a wild fan of the author? Or are free samples or short stories on their website enough? Let me know in the comments below!

2 Responses to “How Come Everybody Want to Keep it Like the Kaiser?”

  1. Sheila Murrey November 3, 2020 at 9:37 am #

    I’ve freely given away my book (during promotional periods), but it hasn’t resulted in more sales later on.
    I really like your questions and observations here, because with so many free options (some even read or teach from their books on YouTube), that I now, only buy books that I want to keep as a reference. ❤️🦋🌀

  2. spwilcen November 3, 2020 at 9:45 am #

    Still working it out for myself. When I get an answer, I’ll let you know and provide a link to the essay for $1.99. Or for free. Still undecided, you see?

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