There’s an ongoing debate amongst self-published authors (potentially all authors but I can only speak for Indies) about the merits of making an ebook cheap or even free for a short period of time.
For an unknown author, making use of something like the KDP Select Program, with its five free days every three months, can be a great way to get your name out there.
Even if no one reads your book after they’ve downloaded it for free – and I’m sure the majority don’t (I only ready about 10% of those I download for free) – the giveaways increase your Amazon rankings and make you appear in the ‘also bought’ section at the bottom.
Whether this gives you sales you wouldn’t have achieved anyway, with self-belief and patience (not traits I have in abundance), is possibly debatable, but I know I wouldn’t have sold 7 copies in Germany this month if I hadn’t appeared on some German website during my last free promo. Dragon Wraiths reached No 1 in Fantasy during the three-day promotional period and it boosted sales tremendously, if only for a short time.
The effect of the other element – pricing cheaply – is harder to grasp. Authors like Amanda Hocking have made their fortune with a 99c price point, but only through lots and lots of hard work, promotion and through writing lots of books.
Equally I have heard compelling arguments to say pricing too cheap can affect people’s perspective of your credibility as an author. It’s hard to utilise free alongside low pricing, as the KDP Select Program prevents you from pricing as low as 99c, so I have little direct experience of a low price point.
Therefore these are not questions I have answers to. Catherine, Caffeinated has a great post on why Indie authors need to price low, even though she also wrote the post above about why you should charge as much as you can. If she does’t know the answer, with her wealth of experience, I’m certainly unlikely to figure it out. I imagine it is different for every author, book and personality type (ie how much patience is on offer).
The reason it popped into my head today was due to a trip to our local village fete. The kids wanted to go on the bouncy castle and the inflatable slide. The castle was £2 for as long as they liked. The slide was £1.50 for three goes.
Most parents and kids came away from the busy bouncy castle feeling happy that they’d received value for money. We all came away from the half-empty inflatable slide, and the miserable lady ushering the kids off after their three goes, feeling grumpy and hard done by.
Just because the castle man was giving away more, it didn’t devalue the experience. I suspect he made more money even though the kids were on the castle for ages for their two quid: there’s nothing like a castle full of giggling bouncing children to entice others to have a go. No one went on the inflatable slide twice, they just went elsewhere.
Part of being an author is about building a brand. If you give your book for free, so what? It means people have a chance to read your book who probably wouldn’t otherwise. If people like what they read they’ll come back for more, even if it isn’t free. If they don’t like it, you’ve lost nothing. Yes you get bad reviews but you get those anyway (or I certainly do)!
Anyway, these are just my thoughts! What are your views on cheap and free? Does it make you think the book won’t be worth reading, or does it encourage you to discover new authors?
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
It surprised Claire how much more fun it was wandering around a museum with someone else, particularly someone knowledgeable who also had a sense of humour. Bethan proved herself well versed in the history of the country and the Maoris, adding snippets of information and reducing the amount of sign-reading Claire had to do.
The Te Papa museum was vast, with everything from Maori dancing to space exploration. Claire’s feet throbbed and her mind swirled with the myriad of information crammed into it. And it was free! When she thought about the money she’d spent on tours and experiences since arriving in the country, and here was this amazing facility at no cost. Even so, it was definitely time for a break, before her legs dropped off.
“Enough! Don’t you ever stop?” Claire stood with her hands on her hips as Bethan tried to drag her outside to see the ponds.
“We’ve only seen about half. Come on, wus, don’t stop now. What else is there to do? It’s tipping it down outside.”
Claire smiled at the strangely English colloquialisms coming from the Asian face in an America accent. Bethan’s history intrigued her, not least because she hadn’t shared a single thing about herself apart from the stay in the States.
“A coffee, please? Just a coffee break. I need caffeine.”
“It’s not good for you, you know? Much better to drink fruit juice or, better still, water.”
Claire pulled a face. “I wouldn’t live longer, it would just feel like it. Okay, I’ll have a latte and you can drink green tea.”
It was her turn to drag Bethan, as she towed the girl towards the coffee shop. It was crowded, like the whole museum, and Claire sincerely hoped they would find a seat.
Trust me to be in the capital on a bank holiday weekend. Why couldn’t I have been in river valley or somewhere else devoid of people? Rain or no rain, I might have to brave the Cook Strait crossing tomorrow.
As if reading her mind, it was Bethan’s first question when they eventually found a seat. ”When will you get back on the bus? Are you taking the ferry or flying to the South Island?”
“Ferry, I guess. Whichever is cheaper.”
“I wouldn’t fancy flying in this weather. It’s a nasty crossing on a good day.”
“You sound like you’ve done it before?” Claire sipped at her coffee and felt the warmth and caffeine spread through her body.
“I have. This is my second tour of the country. I did it all too quickly the first time round.” She blushed and Claire wondered what the story was. She raised an eyebrow, inviting confidences, but Bethan only shook her head and laughed.
“Are you staying in Wellington for a while?”
Bethan smiled, seemingly glad of the change of subject. “I should. I need to work. Funds are running low again, and it will be easier to find a job here in the city.” She frowned. “I’d rather not, though. One city is pretty much the same as another after a while. I miss the mountains.”
Remembering something Mitch had said, Claire asked, “Couldn’t you get work at one of the ski resorts, or down in Queenstown?”
Bethan shook her head. “I don’t ski. Besides …” She hesitated and Claire again suspected there was a story there.
Maybe she’ll feel able to tell me later.
It felt good to have some female company, to gossip – even if it was a bit one sided. Claire had told Bethan about Carl and Michael, work and Kim. Something about the way the girl actively listened made Claire share her life history with her.
Sitting with Bethan, laughing at silly things that they had seen or done during the morning, Claire felt a pang of sadness. It felt like old times with Kim. She wondered if she would ever have them again.