I want to clear something up right away. Giving a book away is NOT losing a sale—it’s gaining the opportunity to obtain a lifelong reader. It’s getting your work in front of someone who’s unsure if they want to risk $2.99 on an author they’ve never heard of. It’s a chance to hook them so they buy your other books. Most of my sales have been directly attributed to making the first book of the series free.
Free book giveaways are most effective when done in a series. As soon as it’s complete, you should immediately drop the price of book #1 down to free and publish it in online reading communities and on other publishing platforms. Make sure readers know that it’s book 1 and where they can find the next book.
In the business world, this strategy is called using a loss leader. Nearly every major corporation uses one or more to get customers hooked and convince them to buy other products from them. Even drug dealers use this strategy! 😛
Giving books away for free has many benefits:
- More exposure. For someone who is just starting out, having thousands of people reading your book is pretty cool and useful. Out of those people, some will buy the entire series. Some will tell their friends about the free book, and then they too might buy the series. Those people might then go on to read your other stories.
- Gaining a Follower. Readers like free things. A lot of the people that have followed me over the years have done so because I enticed them with the second book in the series for free. Learn more about growing your author following.
- Reviews. Some of these free readers will stand out to you by either leaving a stellar review or reaching out to you and telling you how much they loved your book. Respond to them and offer another book for free in exchange for an honest review. Many of these people will become regular reviewers.
Getting your book permanently free on Amazon
Unfortunately, Amazon does not allow you to manually set your book’s price to free permanently so you’ll have to force their hand. In order for your books to be listed for free permanently on Amazon, you need to price match it down. That involves publishing your book for free on other sites such as Google Play, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords or Draft2Digital.
Once your book is live on all of those sites, go to your book’s page on Amazon.com and scroll down to the Product Details section. There will be a tell us about a lower price link that you can click that allows you to supply links to where your book is currently listed for free.
If your book isn’t free on Amazon within a few days, you can Contact Amazon from your author dashboard and see if you get someone willing to do it for you. Make sure you supply your book’s ASIN, title, author, and links to where they can verify that the book is free on other websites. If you’re nice enough, they will often do it for you this way.
However, as you probably already know, Amazon can be pretty difficult sometimes. If they still won’t give your book away for free, get some friends to report the price to them. The more that do, the greater your chances of success. Some good places to find people willing to help with that are Goodreads Indie Author Collective and kboards. Just make sure to help out a bunch of other authors first. This only works if we work together. 🙂
Another helpful tip for those interested is that the only way to get a book published for free on B&N is to go through Smashwords and/or Draft2Digital. Set the price as free there, then allow them to distribute it to the B&N store. Note that this is accurate from the last I heard, but I’m Canadian so I can’t verify this myself since B&N doesn’t let me publish directly with them.
Free Readers (Legal and Illegal)
On the note of freebies, don’t fall into the trap of hating those who don’t pay for your work. No matter what, you’re not going to make money off of them directly because they simply don’t want to spend money on books. Instead, focus on ways to use the power this mass of people possesses. The best way to do this is to get them into your following then go from there. They might not be willing to hand over money, but many of them are willing to supply time helping you promote.
These “illegal” readers can be a fantastic marketing army. I’ve had people read my free books, tell their friends about how great it was, only to have their friend become a paid fan leaving glowing reviews. Thanks to that “illegal” reader, I just made money that I never would have otherwise.
“But they’re stealing!” Is something I’ve heard from so many different authors. Convince yourself that it doesn’t matter. You put in no extra effort to supply them with that book. It’s not like a store with physical items where stealing costs you money. Focus your time and energy into writing a new story that you can sell to those interested in paying rather than issuing DCMA notices that might keep your book down for a few days before you need to do it all over again. It’s a time drain trying to fight this battle. This is all about using your time in the most effective way possible.
On that note…
Should authors be using DRM on their ebooks?
DRM is the latest attempt at protecting a digital file (such as music or an eBook) from piracy. Enabling DRM is only hurting your paying readers. It puts unnecessary restrictions on an eBook that prevent your readers from enjoying it to their fullest extent, such as limiting it to only one device. So, for example, if their Kindle breaks and they want to buy a Nook, they need to buy the book again if it was protected by DRM. That’s no way to treat a fan!
DRM also fails miserably at protecting your work from pirates. It’s incredibly easy to strip from a book file. In fact, DRM on ebooks is such a common complaint from readers that lifehacker even created an article aimed at stripping the DRM from eBooks so that readers can make backups of their book collection.
Despite their attempts, I’ve witnessed multiple authors complain that their DRM-enabled book ended up on a file sharing website. It simply doesn’t protect your book enough to make using it beneficial.
In short, forget about DRM. It’s not preventing pirates from stealing and it’s only harming your paid readers (the ones you want to keep happy).