PUBLISHING A FREE EBOOK—MY EXPERIENCE AFTER THREE WEEKS

I’m a relatively fresh self-published author; my debut novel has been out for less than a year. Not many people know who I am or what I write. I’m looking for ways to increase my visibility, so when I published my second novel at the end of May, I made the ebook free on all its retailers.

 

It’s free and there’s sex in it! Kind of a lot.

 

This is the first time I’ve made an ebook free. My other published book, His Hostage, has always had a price tag on it, so I had no idea what would happen.

 

FIRST OFF, HOW TO MAKE AN EBOOK FREE

 

Amazon is by far my most important marketplace. Making an ebook permafree on Amazon is a pain in the butt, however, because Amazon doesn’t allow it by default. The traditional way to go about it is to make the book permafree on another retailer and asking Amazon to price match. Amazon does this only grudgingly (or so I’ve heard), and it can take a while. Hours or even days.

I was able to avoid the Amazon price matching hassle because I published Hers, Untamed through Pronoun:

 

Click on the image to check out Pronoun!

 

This is a very cool site that every self-publishing author should take a look at. It’s a solid alternative to Smashwords, Draft2Digital and Kindle Direct Publishing. I learned about Pronoun through the romance author Nicole R. Locker‘s very informative blog post on the Navigating Indieworld website. A recommended read!

When you publish through Pronoun, you can distribute to Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Bibliotheca and Overdrive. You can set the price to whatever you want, and you can also make the book free (with the exception of the library portals Bibliotheca and Overdrive—the lowest possible price for these two is 0.99 USD).

 

I love this!

 

I was able to set the price to 0.00 directly from the beginning of the preorder period.

 

PROS OF A FREE BOOK

 

The most prominent thing I discovered is that a free book can move completely different kinds of numbers than a paid book. My first book, His Hostage (published through KDP Select), has done pretty well despite the fact that I made the typical self-publishing newbie error and published it into a void. It was a miracle the book didn’t sink like a rock on day one.

But Hers, Untamed has done a lot better. In fact, Hers, Untamed had more “sales” in a week than His Hostage in eleven months. I haven’t even done any paid promotions yet. I think it’s safe to say that if you want to reach a lot of new readers quickly, a free book is a good way to go about it.

 

CONS OF A FREE BOOK

 

1. The obvious downside is that you’re not making any money. Your only hope is getting the readers interested in reading your other works, but it’s too early to say whether I’ve succeeded in this. I can tell you that financially Hers, Untamed has only made a big minus so far.

2. It took Hers, Untamed less than a week to land a one-star review.

 

My first ever one-star review! This almost feels like a cause for celebration.

 

His Hostage—the book with a price tag—hasn’t scored anything lower than two stars to date, and it’s been out for almost a year at the time of writing this.

My theory is that when you make an ebook free, all kinds of readers pick it up. When the book costs money, the readers are more careful. They make sure the book is something they’re interested in before spending money on it. At least this is what I do as a reader. For a free book, the threshold is lower, and the reader might realize only afterward that this wasn’t their kind of book.

So if you make your book free, don’t be surprised if it gets lower ratings than your other works, even when it’s better written.

Also, the sheer numbers count. Hers, Untamed has had over 1,400 downloads that I know of (B&N doesn’t report free downloads, so I have no idea what’s happening there, it’s like publishing in a black hole). It’s understandable that there are a few people among those 1,400 who don’t like it. I personally don’t mind. I’m actually freaking thrilled about every single person who has read my book and formed an opinion! (still waiting for the day when 1,400 people have read His Hostage…)

 

OVERALL

 

So far I’m immensely pleased with my free ebook experiment. I wanted more visibility, and so far it seems to be working. A whole bunch of new readers have picked up Hers, Untamed and I’m blown away by the feedback because majority of it has been so positive. In July, I plan to make Hers, Untamed available on InstaFreebie. I have no idea yet if it pays off to keep the book free in the long run, or if I should after all give it a price tag. We’ll see. I’ll definitely write another blog post on this topic later.

 

Have you published a free ebook? Or are you planning to? What do you think about authors giving books for free? Let me know in the comments!

 

12 thoughts on “PUBLISHING A FREE EBOOK—MY EXPERIENCE AFTER THREE WEEKS

  1. I loveeeeed HERS, UNTAMED. My uneducated opinion is that you shouldn’t keep it free forever, because it’s worth cold hard cash. I would happily pay the standard £2.99 for it. In fact, if it ever comes with a price tag, I will buy a new copy because I think you deserve to be paid for it.

    My ever-so-slightly-educated opinion, from what other self-publishers say, is that freebies work best when you have multiple other books available for sale. I haven’t bought HIS HOSTAGE because I find the premise uncomfortable (although seeing how you handled consent in HU makes me rethink that…) but if you had others available, I definitely would have bought them already.

    1. Anna, you’re awesome! 😀 Thank you for your super nice words. I agree that the book is worth money and it’ll be interesting to see how long I feel like keeping it free.

      I also agree with your second point, I’ve heard the same advice that freebies work best when you have several books out, and especially when the freebie is the first book in a series. I haven’t mastered series-writing yet, but I’m working on it. 😉

      As for His Hostage, I have to admit it has some red flags. Your gut instinct is probably right about it. I think it shows that it’s my first book, and all my long-term betas said Hers, Untamed is the better of the two.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! I really want to hug you right now. 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing how your experiment is going! I’m always fascinated reading about how different methods work for different people.

    I’ve heard great things about Instafreebie. I was talking to a woman on Twitter recently who said putting her book on it had grown her mailing list to heights that made me more than a little envious. If you’re giving your book away anyway Instafreebie might vastly extend your reach.

    1. I’m glad you find it interesting! 😀 Me too, I love reading about people’s experiences with different writing, publishing and marketing methods, which is why I hope my experiences are useful to someone in return.

      Yeah, apparently InstaFreebie is great, one of my author friends pointed me to it after it worked miracles on his newsletter. I look forward to seeing what happens once I get to test it. I’ll write a report on that too. 🙂

  3. Yeah, that’s about my experience with putting a book free. In my case, a first in series. I found I moved larger number of sequels when I made people pay for book 1. Not kidding. Not to mention got better reviews. However, it was nice to bump up my verified review numbers with the free run.

    Would I do it again? At this point, no, probably not. My series does better when people pay. In fact, my series does better when I make readers pay more money. Guess my audience isn’t the people who gulp down books, but those who space their reads more and therefore are willing to pay more per pop. This makes visibility more difficult, which is really annoying, but I’m happy to have figured that out, and my free run helped me do that.

    I wouldn’t keep it free forever while you only have one other book out. The whole point is to make money, after all, and you’ve only got one other title to move them to. Plus, it’s not like you’re getting KU page reads. While it’s still hot, I’d move your book to paid and make a little cash. It can always have another free run later!

    1. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Hunter! 😀 That’s really interesting. Amazing to hear your books do better when they’re priced higher. I guess that shows we authors shouldn’t undervalue our works. Good that you’ve found a system that works for you and your books! I’m still in the process of figuring out what might work and what doesn’t. KU definitely works for my other book, so I think I’ll be putting most of my future titles on KDP Select. I don’t know yet what I’ll do with Hers, Untamed, but you’re right, I can always make the book free again later if I feel like it. 🙂

  4. I’m trying a similar tactic. I’ve written 3 novels so far, 2 in a series and 1 that is a solo title.
    At the beginning of June I decided to switch up my strategy and I made the first book in my series (I won’t be rude and give the title here) free, with the second book in the series 99c. So far I have had over 900 downloads of the first book and steady pre-orders of the second book (mostly in the UK) exact numbers are uncertain because they haven’t been reported yet.
    My initial feeling is that this experiment is working, but how long I will keep going with it, I don’t know.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Alex! 😀 Congratulations on those downloads, that’s an impressive number! I’m glad to hear the free book seems to be working for you. I hope the second book in the series does well as a result, it sounds promising so far. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!

  5. I found this really interesting, because I’ve always planned on putting my books up for free, at least for awhile. And I’ve definitely noticed that free books tend to get slammed with negative reviews. It can be useful, I tend to use them to see if there’s a reason I might not like the book, but sometimes they are ridiculous and I just feel for the author.

    I’m glad things are going well for you!

    1. Hi Lydia, thanks for stopping by and commenting! 😀 I’m glad you found this post interesting, I definitely want to share more about my marketing experiments in the future. I know what you mean about negative reviews. I always read those first when I’m deciding whether or not to buy a book. Sometimes they have solid information about the book’s shortcomings, other times they’re just whatever. I often end up buying the book despite the negative reviews, if they don’t describe anything too serious and I’m interested in the book’s premise. So I think there’s no need to fear bad reviews. The readers know how to draw their own conclusions. 🙂

      I hope everything goes wonderfully with your books, how ever you decide to market them! 🙂

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