Our regular readers may have noticed we've started listing all the daily freebies here at 90daysnovel.com
We've done this because we want to share the best indie books that are being given away free (and we do download and read a fair few ourselves). It has got us thinking however. Is the free download market oversaturated? Is there a point at which your eyes begin to gloss over the myriad offers of free books? We had over 50 today only, and at that rate you'd be downloading hundreds of freebies per week. It would therefore be perfectly possible to fill your entire kindle for a year without paying a penny, but is it worth doing?
As a reader, I love freebies. I remember paying £15+ for a hardback of my favourite authors, and that price constraint meant I read less than I could have. At free however I can easily get my fill, and then some. I have items on my kindle that have languished for months unread, and I imagine many of you are the same. With the advent of free and 99 cent/99p ebooks we have become avid hoarders of digital books.
Do we actually read them though? Or have we just begun to have extremely distended to be read piles? I somehow doubt I'll ever read every freebie I've downloaded, particularly as there are more every day. I do make the effort to try and read those by authors I've chatted with on twitter, but there is a physical limit to consumption.
Amazon estimates we now read 6x more books as kindle users, than print readers. I'm not convinced by this stat. We might well download 6x more books, and ebooks might be 'outselling' print (inclusive of freebies) but actual consumption still has a ceiling. As a reader, this huge to be read pile isn't problematic unless said reader reaches capacity on his or her kindle, and then it's a case of managing files (which can always be re-downloaded).
For the authors among us, this isn't so good a deal. While it's easy to get 1000+ downloads, the number of readers that come out of that is much lower than the % that will get read by paying customers. The greater the financial investment, the less likely a reader is to waste it. By contrast the readers who consume free books are likely to have a cornucopia of choices. Very few of them will become the die hard fans that make or break an authors career (and I mean those who buy your book on release, and immediately want to know when the next one is!).
What it does do is get you visibility. Downloads and page views both feature into Amazon's listing algorithm (along with purchases, likes, tags, reviews, % conversion on samples to downloads, category listing, number of reviews, average of reviews etc. I should also note that Amazon do use a decaying average for review - you need consistent reviews to maintain your ranking).
By giving away a freebie, you'll probably wind up on lists, twitter feeds (inc ours!) all over the place. Those links will generate hits, and downloads which will increase your ranking. This does give a short tail after the free period ceases, but it won't be worth much, and will continue to shrink as more jump on board the free download bandwagon.
The real value in freebies is for authors with backlists. It's the crack cocaine principal in play. Give them a taste, and if they like it they'll be hooked. You can then cross sell all your other work.
For a debut novelist however, freebie downloads might not represent a great option as they do devalue your work. Once you've given it away it's much harder to sell it for a reasonable price. Wait until you've got more work out, and those freebies will do much more for you career than giving them away early.
As a postscript, I'll also point out Friday, Saturday and Sunday get many more freebies - there is a more obvious oversaturation on certain days of the week. It's silly competing to give your stuff away. Wait until it's a bit quieter, and hook in other bloggers and tweeters beforehand to ensure maximum coverage.