Dear Indie Authors,

Please stop giving away your books for free.

Please.

One of the popular reasons authors give away books for free is to build a readership, and to increase the sale through of other books in their series.

However, there’s one problem with free books. If you want to make money with your books, giving them away for free is an issue because subconsciously you’re teaching your audience that your book is essentially worth nothing.

In the indie author community, there’s a false mindset you have to give your books away for free before people will be willing to purchase them. If the first book in your series is free, someone will pay $0.99, $2.99 and even $5.99 for your full priced books. In truth, I’ve been seeing the opposite effect and heard from indie authors who have had the same experience. Here are some examples:

Freebie Hunters

Free books are swooped up by freebie hunters who have no intention of buying books, and why would they need to? There are thousands of free books available, they can just move to the next free book instead of buying books.

No price = no value

Free books teach people that your work is not valuable. There are marketers who teach people that in order to gain a readership, you have to giveaway your work. If people enjoy the story, they will purchase and read your other work.

Books are too expensive

People can’t afford to buy a book for $5. Honestly… when was the last time you spent $1-6 on something and were so angry, you returned the item and demanded your money back? I hate to use the coffee illustration, but think about how much a cup of coffee costs, or a meal from a fast food restaurant versus a meal from a sit down and eat restaurant? Think about how much we spend, day to day, on things we believe are necessary. Books are powerful, there’s no reason people can’t invest in a $5. If they REALLY want to read it, they can purchase it.

Although there’s a powerful case to giving away books for free, the truth is, the market is constantly changing and growing. While perma-free books used to be a great marketing strategy a few years ago, 99 cent books are the new perma-free books.

Personally, I used to download free books on a daily basis, and I noticed one consistent action. Since I did not pay for the books, I did not associate much value to the books, and I did not end up reading them. There are dozen of books chilling in my Kindle Library that I have no intention of reading, simply because they are free. Additionally, the ones I have read have been a disappointment, and books I would give 3-star ratings to if I did read and review. On occasion, I have found an excellent, entertaining free book, however, it’s like finding a diamond in the rough.

All this being said, how do you grow your readership without giving your books away for free?

From time to time, I do give away books for free, but for the most part, I offer a preview. If they like what they’ve read so far, they can purchase the book. Even though the book sells, I’ve noticed that if I offer a preview, my sales are much higher than if I give the book away for free.

Recently, I did a Black Friday deal where I offered a free book if people bought my Book Bundle. The bundles includes three autographed paperbacks of my fantasy series and goes for $40. People swooped it up without hesitation, which goes to show you, there is still a market for paid books, even if they cost more than $5!

As a final note, don’t get me wrong, free books still have a time and place. Here are some examples where free books still apply: 

  • When you’re working with an advanced review team who will read and review your book when it’s published
  • When you’re working with book bloggers who will read and review your book on their blog
  • When you’re working with beta readers who will help improve your storytelling

Share your thoughts below, have you had success with free books? Do you think indie authors need to charge more for their books?

Dear Indie Authors. Please Stop Giving Away Free Books.

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