Wednesday, 29 January 2014

A question from the audience - why give books away for free?


I had a question via email - why do I want to give away my book?

The corollary here is 'Doesn't free devalue the work?'

It's a fair question. At the moment, Dead on Demand is an 80,000 word free sample. Free samples only work if you have something else to sell, or if the free sample represents a consumable that the buyer might buy more than once (like chocolate).

With books, both of these situations exist. I have a second novel (and will have more) so it's not free for the sake of free. I want readers to have a risk free chance to try one of my books, and then go on to pay for the rest. That sounds pretty fair to both author and reader - you don't have to risk a cent to try me out, but if you like me then more books are available (and very affordably priced).

Our "pre free" post explained our long term strat here - same total price, just spread differently (free and $3.99 rather than $2.99 and $0.99). For the immediate future, we're going for $0 and $0.99 as a bit of an experiment - if that breaks even due to added volume, we'll stay there. We're not out to price gouge our readers, and if 99c for two books can pay a fair return that's wonderful.

Some readers go on to buy free eBooks in a different format. Not many, but a few. Free eBooks do sell paperbacks, audio etc. It's not a total wipeout in terms of earnings.

But the real long game is simple: amass a readership who like my work. At the end of every book, we invite readers to follow us, and join our mailing list. That mailing list then get first dibs on ARCs, early discount copies etc.

We want to build value - for the reader. What we make from any one reader doesn't need to be much. Many readers will simply enjoy the freebie, and move on to other freebies. That's fine - I don't blame people for doing that. But if you want to see what DCI Morton gets up to after Dead on Demand, you can move on to Cleaver Square.

Eventually, we'll have enough books out that one book is actually a fairly small part of the overall library. Giving away copies (which costs nothing - they're digital!) doesn't make our intellectual property worth less. It makes it worth more - because the challenge for authors is not the writing, or the story (as hard as that may be!) but being read. Readers have a huge variety of choices, and we're truly delighted when someone tries our books.


Four thousand two hundred people have had a free book from us in the past week. That's not $8200 in lost sales (at $2.99). We wish it was! It's 4200 chances to gain a fan. Some will read it, some won't. Some will like it, some won't. That's fine. Readers and authors need to find each other - and free gives us a wonderful mechanism to do just that without anyone losing out.

1 comment:

  1. I am amazed at the thinking behind this Mr. Campbell. I wish more authors would try this approach, even well-founded authors would benefit from this with the right publisuty. Select an older novel such as Storm Front by Jim Butcher and put the word out that it is being given away for free as an Ebook to give readers a chance to try an author out. themechanic10000

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