by Jordyn Redwood
Recently, I read a blog post that theorized Amazon may be leaning toward doing away with free Kindle downloads. You can read that post here.
When I was growing up my mother used to tell me, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” At that point in my youth, the phrase was to extol the virtues of abstinence but I think it applies in this area as well.
First, why is it a good idea to give away books for free?
Biggest reason-it allows people to take a chance on you and your novel without risking money. I do think it is particularly helpful for debut novelists who are trying to build a readership base. Word of mouth is the main marketing technique that grows readership but the difficulty becomes just that-getting a reader to take a chance on you as a relative unknown. Hopefully, when they do download your novel for free they read it and love it (versus letting it hibernate in their Kindle) and they’ll tell someone else or loan them that copy.
Evidently, Amazon feels they are losing revenue. Of course they are. But evidently they feel they are losing too much money.
From my perspective, in lieu of the above which I do think is a benefit, I think often times readers are holding out on novels they would normally buy from authors they like waiting for the free download. My hope would be that readers understand that purchasing a novel really does help an author. It builds sales. Sales make an author look attractive to publishers-the one they’re working with or to a bigger publisher down the road. The risk of not purchasing books is that the author may not be able to traditionally publish again.
I think there is a better way to utilize free downloads and if I could change the system-I would do this.
1. Publisher and author working together. Honestly, why does Amazon get to have all the fun? When a novel is downloaded for free on Amazon the benefit to the author is the hope that someone will read it and love it and maybe increase ranking so other eyes will see the novel, too. However, I think anyone should be leery of claiming top seller status from a free download list. A better avenue would be for the publisher to give the author the e-file that the author could then offer on their website (for a limited time) in return for something like signing up for a newsletter, following a blog and/or placing the book on their social media sites. Help the author get something from the free download.
2. Consider only offering the first book in the series for free. This is hard for me to even write as I do see the value in the free download but I think this would also allow people to check the author out but develop the expectation that that’s the one opportunity. After this freebie-the rest of the trilogy can only be bought. I think also offering e-books for a lower cost could help generate better sales.
3. Consider offering the debut book when another is released in the trilogy. Again, in conjunction with a contest or marketing event that will increase exposure for the author.
What about you? Have you or your publisher given your book away for free? Do you think it helped build a readership? What are some strategies you think would make better use of a free download than just giving it away on Amazon?
Jordyn Redwood is a pediatric ER nurse by day, suspense novelist by night. She hosts Redwood’s Medical Edge, a blog devoted to helping contemporary and historical authors write medically accurate fiction. Her first two novels, Proof and Poison, garnered starred reviews from Library Journal and have been endorsed by the likes of Dr. Richard Mabry, Lynette Eason, and Mike Dellosso to name a few. You can connect with Jordyn via her website at www.jordynredwood.net.