When Free isn’t

I have long been against free eBooks. My knee-jerk reaction was that you don’t go into a brick-and-mortar bookstore expecting to walk out with a free book, so why should you shirk at paying just $0.99 for a decent eBook on Amazon? Or even an indecent one. Or even an outright awful one – even though I have never done it, that’s what refunds are for. I know it’s supposed to work, but… seriously?

Then I joined a listing group – eBookDaily – and everyday I had a choice between a dozen free eBooks in a variety of genres. I joined because a friend had a free book there, and I wanted to promote it for her. I stayed because… free books!!!!

And so I justified violating my own principles by saying “OK – I’ll review every free eBook I read. That will get the author some exposure (which is why they’re offering it for free), and I’ll get some too.”

Of course I VASTLY overestimated the potential audience of an erratically updating blog 😀

That aside, I also learned something about that exposure… and myself. Which is that, even for books and authors who I HAVE liked… I have rarely actually paid for another book from that author. A. Wendeberg – whose book “The Devil’s Grin” I LOVED… I did not buy the sequel even though it ended on a cliff-hanger. Courtney Milan (whose book “The Duchess War” I read as part of a dare to read as many “Duke” historical romances as I could, and which I have not reviewed yet even though it was a 5-star read), I bought another short story from which I also enjoyed… and not the rest even though I know I would love them.  And so goes the entire list. I loved the free book… but rarely have I paid for a follow up.

Why? A large part is because I have SO MANY FREE BOOKS TO READ. I mean, hundreds. And very little free time right now to read.

But an even bigger thing is… because I put a priority on reading all the books I did pay for. I have a set reading list for the next few months (and hopefully I’ll post the reviews… someday), and 100% of those are books that I bought. Even if it was for as little as $0.99.

I know there are undiscovered gems in the pile of free books I have, but getting through that pile – even if I do another “first chapter” experiment – is exhausting. And it’s too easy to devalue something that I got for free, even though I know from experience that what I hold in my hands gratis is a gift of blood and soul.

I want to drop two more blog-posts here about authors swearing off giving their writing away – one by Alyssa Rose and one by Elizabeth Flora Ross. Both are talking about writing for other blogs and aggregate sites, but… it’s making me rethink my approach to an upcoming charity anthology I’m helping put together, and to which some incredible indie authors (and yours truly) are donating their writing to support the Alzheimer’s Association. But even for charity… is exposure without seeing SOME income worth it?

After all, exposure is only good for dying naked and alone.

What I’d like to hear about are authors that people encountered for free and who love enough to eventually support… and weren’t friends with the author 😛 If a free promo worked on you, I’d love to hear about it!



4 thoughts on “When Free isn’t

  1. I say you’re 100% right. Though I plan to go back and purchase a few sequels as soon as I have a little extra money for the most part I never follow up with authors whose free book I downloaded. And I’m sure that the 18 people who downloaded my book with the FREE coupon on Smashwords haven’t read it – if they have they’ve given me any reviews.
    I did get quite a few downloads on my pen name’s first novella when I offered it free but that didn’t really translate into reviews or sales so I withdrew from Kindle’s exclusivity thing because there was no pay out.
    Charity books I would do because I enjoy giving back but I wouldn’t expect too much from it for myself.
    I read an article that said some 3000 new books were published daily, everyday, for the last year – on average. That’s a scary figure.
    I’ve found reaching out casually and directly to people who share interests and naturally generating a conversation about the book has generated more sales than any other form of advertising – of course it also takes the most time.


  2. I can only think of one time where the free book ended up with me buying three more books in the series. Even then I didn’t end up finishing the series, but the author did make three sales off of me at first. But I think the author’s (self-published) internet presence convinced me more than her book did.
    In all honestly, I’d prefer to purchase the book. I’m much more likely to read and give an (honest) review if I have spent my own money on it.


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