Today’s topic is a very subjective one, as everyone I’ve met seems to have different opinions on releasing free eBooks. The concept of free-publishing (as I call it) is to get your name out there as an author in a format that everyone loves – free! On the flip side, as authors publishing our intellectual property that we have slaved over for years, we rankle at the idea of giving away our babies without any form of monetary compensation. Thus the debate: is it a good idea to publish a free eBook?
Why it’s a good idea:
People like free stuff. Online piracy is through the roof, with no indication that it’s going down any time soon. Odds are that if you publish a book, a good percentage of your readership will have downloaded it for free anyway. So why not take matters into your own hands and deliver it free of charge from the very start?
No one will buy a book from an unknown author. I’m not talking about indie authors, I mean authors that nobody knows about. So, logically, you need to become a known author before you publish a book. But how do you get known as an author of awesome books if you haven’t published anything? Catch 22, baby. Unless you publish free eBooks. Then you can spread your literary wings and get your name out there. People are far more likely to download something that’s free because, as I’ve already stated, people like free stuff. You don’t even have to write original fiction – several fanfiction authors I know of have had moderate success publishing original fiction using their fanfiction fanbase as a jump off point. So it’s really all about exposure, exposure, exposure.
It’s a great way to hook an audience onto a series. My mother’s rather rich, rather market-savvy friend, suggested that I release the first book in my Imminent Danger series for free. I didn’t listen to her, although perhaps I should have. Her reasoning was that if I can get lots of people to read the first one for free, they’ll be more likely to shell out a few bucks when the sequel drops. If you look at current best-sellers, the vast majority of them are part of a series. Fifty Shades of Grey, Twilight, Harry Potter, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, etc. You lose money at the start, but theoretically you’ll make it up in the long run.
Why it’s a bad idea:
You run the risk of being seen as just another free-eBook author. I don’t know about you, but when I see something offered for free, one of the first things that pops into my head is “What kind of quality can something given away for free really have?” It could be the greatest book in the world, but many people might have a hard time overcoming those sorts of thoughts. And the thought isn’t at all unfounded. Go to a site like Wattpad, where hundreds of thousands of authors post their books for free, and you get a sense of what I’m saying. There are a few real gems hidden there, no doubt, but the vast majority isn’t the greatest literature I’ve ever seen.
You don’t make any money. That sounds kind of haughty, but it’s true. When I was struggling over whether to self-publish with iUniverse or release the book for free, this was one of the main factors in my decision. Here’s my reasoning. Your book is your intellectual property, something you’ve poured your heart and soul into, and you deserve to market and sell it just like any other product. Sell it at a discounted price, because it’s a new book from a new author? Sure. Give free copies as part of giveaways or contests? Absolutely. That’s basic marketing strategy. But give it away for free? This is the same problem that you get when you discuss whether selling an eBook for 99 cents is too cheap. Your book is valuable. It is worth something.
There are other ways to gain fans. You don’t have to give away your book for free to get fans. What about contests and giveaways? What about social media and word of mouth? There are other ways to market yourself.
It ruins your chance for traditional publishing. I don’t know for sure about this one, but logic dictates that it’s true. Self-published authors get taken on by traditional publishers all the time. But what’s the point of a traditional publisher spending all that money releasing your book if you’ve already given it away to the entire world?
Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference.
Both publishing methods have their pros and cons. I myself am considering free-publishing a book I wrote a few years ago. It’s in a completely different universe from my soon-to-be-published Imminent Danger book, and while it’s a light, fun read, I don’t know if it has the staying potential to become a best-seller. It’s tempting to give it a good proof read and release it to the world, but as should be obvious from this post, I’m not sure if that’s such a good idea.
What do you think? Is free-publishing a viable option for self-published authors? Are the pros of free-publishing worth the cons? Have you ever free-published, and if so, was it a good experience? Did it gain you followers and friends that you wouldn’t have reached otherwise?
LMFAO goes Star Wars: