Giving Away E-Books for Free and the Damage This Can Do

A controversial though well expressed argument which can be summed up by the following quote, “I agree with Foster’s entire article. If indie authors want to establish a solid reputation amongst themselves, they must ban together, so to speak, and
imbue quality in their work by not giving it away for free. Yes, there are books given away for free that have great ratings, but then it drowns out the
rest of those who want to attach a value to their work. Authors, do not undervalue your efforts. If every single author never gives away a book for free
again, readers will have no choice but to pay, will not expect free books (save review copies), and you will be making money that is well-deserved.”
The problem with this perspective which is, as I say extremely well articulated is that it presupposes a perfect world in which all authors (or most) determine not to give away free books which, in the real world simply isn’t going to happen.
I understand the blogger’s argument and have some sympathy for it but, as an author I have received a number of 4 star reviews as a consequence of giving away my books for free, reviews which would, almost certainly have not been forthcoming had I insisted on keeping my books as priced publications. Once reviews are forthcoming this does, I hope encourage others to part with hard earned cash. To my mind many self-published writers have little alternative other than to utilise tools such as KDP Select if they wish to get their foot in a crack of the door and be noticed.

This is a very sensitive topic that I am going to try to handle with care, as I know some or many authors may disagree with me. However, this is a conversation I had with my personal assistant and the publisher of Writers AMuse Me Publishing. All of us came to the same conclusion: giving away e-books for free (outside of review copies, which are only given to select individuals) devalues both the author and his/her work. Now I’m not writing this article based on a conclusion among three people. However, I will use author Melissa Foster’s article to support my points, along with adding a few of my experiences as a YA author trying to compete with books being given away for free. Let me present this graph to your from Smashwords before I begin. smashwords-price-pointsOkay, so free books aren’t on here, but notice even books at $0.99 cents…

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5 thoughts on “Giving Away E-Books for Free and the Damage This Can Do

  1. jorobinson176

    This is always interesting Kevin. Melissa Foster was one of the first successful authors I came across when I originally started out on line – joined her beta reading group when I still had time for Facebook & I met some really cool people there. The thing with kdp free days – I won’t be using them for my novels now, and not only because they are published on other platforms, but because my learning trip has taught me that other ways of getting noticed work better once you have a small platform to work from. I think that from this vantage point it’s easy to tell newbie authors how to get their names out there, but also think that the decision to go free shouldn’t be frowned upon, because it does get attention from readers at the end of the day. I’ve paid for loads of books by authors I’ve discovered by downloading a freebie which I wouldn’t have bought to begin with, and I’ve had the same thing happen with my own books. I have three of Melissa Foster’s books on my kindle – all downloaded on free days by the way, and not paid a cent for, so maybe the freebie isn’t bad in all cases. 🙂

    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Many thanks for your interesting thoughts Jo. What other means do you use to gain the attention of readers and potential readers? I am not wedded to KDP Select, which I have found useful. I remain open to other ways of doing things. All the best, Kevin

  2. jorobinson176

    I’m still a greenhorn myself Kevin, and learning as I go, but I do think that having either a short story or one particular novel only as free promotions now and then are a really great way to get attention. Once you have a couple of novels under your belt I do agree that that should rather only be used as freebies when given in exchange for a review, or as a prize in a competition – offering copies of your ebooks as prizes is another great way to find new eyeballs by the way. Giving all your books away for free at some time or another on kdp select is not a great idea as far as I’m concerned. Readers get to know which authors do this, and merely sit back and wait. That way they get entire collections of free books from a single author. I’ve done this myself both as a test to see if it was possible, and also because I know that some of my real favourite authors do this – Robert Rankin is one who gives his books away for free every Christmas, although he’s probably famous enough to afford it. I think that the main ingredient is patience and writing more books, and just interacting on your favourite online places to be. I don’t see much point in trying to hard-sell if you only have one or two novels out there – as a reader a book has to be really special for me to buy it if it’s the only one the author has to offer, but as a total newbie popping up for the very first time with a very first book, I think that kdp freebies are a great way to meet readers. Offering on Twitter and so on means that people from all walks of life (real readers) will have the opportunity to meet you and become a future fan. It’s different for every scribbler I think, and they should find out which marketing strategies suit them, without being accused of letting the whole side down, because at the end of it all, no matter how much or little we support each other, each author is only responsible for himself. For me, I believe the ingredients are patience and hard work – I think that what works for one writer might not work for another. Phew – pardon the novella. 🙂


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