The vast majority of Kindle books have a price tag on them, but there are some that are being given away for free. Should you have a book for free available in Kindle? You can promote your book as free for every 5 days out of ninety as a KDP Select member, or you can attempt to make your book permafree.
You cannot publish your book for free directly to Amazon, but you can publish it on platforms like SmashWords (which publishes the book to Nook and Apple, but Amazon will match the price) or GetFreeBooks as a free book, and then ask Amazon to match the price. While there are no guarantees or time frame when or if Amazon will do this, it is a strategy that has been used by many authors and publishers
So, is it a good idea to give away your book for free, even though you put days (probably months) into writing every word and designing the cover? It can be a good idea under the right circumstances, but it could also be a waste of time. Here are some pros and cons for a free book.
Pro: Mass Appeal
New authors often have a hard time selling their books even at less than $1, but you’ll find that nearly every free book is downloaded hundreds of times, and many even closer to thousands of times. People love free things. It almost doesn’t matter how good your product is (though quality will definitely matter later). The appeal of something free is too good for most people to pass up. This is especially true if you make it a sale. If the book will only be free for five days, then people won’t wait around. They will download it immediately.
If you’re looking to get customers interested in your writing, then making it free will almost guarantee many readers.
Con: Penny Pinchers
So you gave away your first book for free, and now you expect me to spend $1.99 on the next one? Unfortunately, people who get things for free keep expecting the same level of quality for free. While it’s true that some (if you’re lucky or talented, then many) of those free readers will convert into paying customers, it can be hard to get people to pay once if you’ve introduced them to a quality product for free.
Don’t expect all of those free downloads to turn into sales. For example, you might have given away 10,000 books, but you might only sell 50 when you expect people to pay.
Some authors are having success making a trilogy and giving away the first book for free. This allows readers to get used to your style, characters and the plot. If they like it and they want to see what else happens, then they might buy the next two installments. On the one hand, this can turn into massive sales for the second and third books because you gave people a no-risk opportunity to see your first book. On the other hand, this can translate into poor sales because people will expect the other two books to be free.
While there are no guarantees, leading people into a sale can be a great opportunity to make money and gain a following.
Con: Poor Quality
Honesty time: is your book good enough to sell? Does it have the quality the make it a winning product? Yes, people will download anything for free, but a bad product can have devastating consequences. If you introduce them to your writing style and it’s terrible, then people are going to remember that. Those few people who would have been willing to spend money on you will spend them on more qualified authors.
If your book isn’t very good, then all those downloads can irreparably damage your reputation. However, you can avoid this by ensuring that the book is good enough to sell. That means being professionally edited and offering a good story or premise to the reader.
Pro: Powerful Momentum
There’s a momentum to entertainment. People want things now. Did you know that Netflix has experimented with this with their own shows? They have released whole seasons rather than episodes and found that they had more overall viewers. When people see something, they immediately want to see more of it.
If you are going to release a free book, then have a paid book ready for people to segue to. Kindle knows that free books can result in higher sales for paid books. Having your paid book ready ensures that the momentum properly flows into your pocket.
If your book is good enough to convert downloaders, then giving away a book for free can be a great business move if you’re a new or undiscovered author. At the same time, those downloaders may not turn into buyers, and a poor book can hurt your reputation. If you plan it well, then this can be a great way to make money, but only if you do it right.