Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Free isn't all it's cracked up to be

You participate in two seminars: one is free and the other you pay $100 (or $250 or $500 or $2000) to attend. Both are weekend-long seminars. Once they’re over and when it’s time to reflect on what you’ve learned, which one do you either go over first in your notes? The one you paid for. Why? Because you have a financial investment in it.

The same goes with ebooks. Some authors—and many of these are bestselling, mind you—will tote that you need to have the first book in your series for free and then, if the reader likes it, they will buy more in your series. While all this seems fine, great, and dandy—and I want to add it is with this strategy that those same bestselling authors will propagandize how they sold those truckloads of ebooks—I think there is an element missing and all one had to do is look at your own ebook collection to figure out what that is.
There are three authors who, collectively, put out a weekly podcast that is not only entertaining, it is very informative when it comes to indie publishing. They have a dozen or so series of books, where in all of them they have the first book set at permanent free status. I’ve “bought” all of these free ebooks because, quite frankly, I used to be a whore for the free. Nowadays, I’m not so much. A perfect example is when I go looking for a book to read—and my Amazon cloud has several hundred ebooks to choose from—do I pick the free book or do I pick something I paid a little coin for, even if it’s $.99? I go with the one I paid money for. Why? Investment, my friend. There is no investment when you get it for free.
I am a devoted fan of the “Writing Excuses” podcast (no, this is not the podcast I mentioned earlier) and in one of their recent episodes they had a guest: Mette Ivie Harrison. I had never read anything by her and when I’ve listened to her on this podcast before, I thought she was one smart cookie and wanted to know what she had written. When I reviewed herAmazon author page I found that her least expensive ebook was $2.99. That’s smart. If there is a book I’m thinking of investing in and I’m unfamiliar with the author, I may get a sample of the ebook first. You can always go that route, but it is marked as SAMPLE on the ebook. That way, I know it’s not the entire ebook and I may still read it sooner than others.
I currently have four ebooks, with three listed at $.99 and my full-length thrillerBeholder’s Eye at $2.99. Oddly enough, guess which one I sell more of? It’sBeholder’s Eye.
Now, I’ve said I’m not a fan of the free, but that doesn’t mean I won’t buy something at a discount. I’m currently reading in the second book of the five-book collection of George R. R. Martin’sSong of Ice and Fire series that I purchased this past holiday season for $9.99. That is WHY too much I want to pay for a single book, but when I saw that I could get all five for that, I bought it. I’ve also purchased ebooks by Brandon Sanderson, Brian McClellan, Bradley Beaulieu, David Farland, and Alan Baxter (to name a few of my favorites) when they’ve ran discounts on their ebooks.
But somehow those “free” books keep sliding further and further down my list.
Having ebooks permanently free, to get readers interested in your series, may still be a viable way to go, but it’s not the only way. It all depends on your marketing strategy and what your goals are as a writer.

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