What is the marketing rationale for providing free e-books?  It looks like there are thousands out there.  If I do free work as an attorney, usually the only thing that gets me is more people wanting me to work for free.  

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Have to agree with all those who say it's the exposure. I was selling about 10 books a month of my two Kindle books at $1.49. Then the freebie KDP offer came along and I put one book on the freebie list for 5 days. It 'sold' almost 7000 copies. Then, after the free period ended, it continued to sell in real numbers, as did the second book in the series. I sold 1200 copies in that month and now - a month after the free period ended - I've sold 23 copies in the first 10 days of August. It helped that the first book got to No. 1 in the 'hard-boiled' category in Amazon and then entered the top 100 books in the real sales list afterwards. It's almost as though a residual 'halo' of sales lingers around the books. I only got one review out of it, but it was a good one, and that may have helped too.

I don't buy that I 'lost' sales with the freebies because no one was buying them anyway. Instead I've multipled sales a hundred-fold, got some exposure, took lots of hope from the process and encouragement for my writing.

I agree, Keith. I've had similar experiences. And I'll add a tip that I got from somewhere or other. When you say you got to No. 1 in the hard-boiled category, I assume you mean the Ranking. However, there is also another groovy list on Amazon: the Popular ranking. The categories are thesame. To see it, go to your kindle book page and click on the link Kindle Store at top left below where it says Shop by Department. This gets you to the Popular rankings. Scroll down left column till you come to Categories and click Mystery & Thriller. I have found that my books stay on the Pop list MUCH longer than the regular Ranking list. And this accounts for sales too, because people look for books that way. Check yours out and see if they're there.

Cheers!  Susan

Hi Susan

I think I'm too low down the rankings now to show there! But thanks for the tip. It kind of explains how the 'hard-boiled' category showed through 2 routes - let's say it would show through Crime/Mystery & Thrillers/Detective/Hard-boiled and through Crime/Mystery & Thrillers/Hard-boiled. I'm not really sure how that worked but it seemed to.

If you begin as an attorney and do a few high-profile pro-deo cases to increase your exposure so people actually know you exist, you can set your price later.

With 400,000 publications annually, the main problem with getting noticed is the lack of exposure. To increase your exposure, it's common sense to have a sample of your writing available as free download as loss leaders to get people acquainted with your work.

I publish short stories with teaser chapters of the novels for free, with the aim to draw people into the Amsterdam Assassin Series. The quality of my writing notwithstanding, if I fail to get noticed, I won't sell any books. For the same reason, I published my second novel just before the Christmas rush and lowered the price of my first novel temporarily from 4.99 to 2.99 so people who look for discounts will snap it up before the price goes up again.

The main problem with 'free' is that lots of e-reader owners will 'buy' the free book, but it will sink in their ever growing TBR list until someone reminds them to dig it up and read it. Studies show that people need to be reminded three times by a variety of sources to actually buy something. That's how huge sales of books like 50 shades happen - the author manages to tap into the collective desire, and people talk about the book, so people buy it in order not to be 'left out' and unable to participate in discussions about the book.

And I thought it was the rampant sex in FIFTY SHADES.  Silly me.

People act like the writer of Fifty Shades invented sex scenes. She didn't. Nor was she the first to put BDSM in her books. The books are mainly hype, and only people who rarely read 'raunchy' books were surprised by the bdsm/sex scenes in Fifty Shades. In short, FS has been done, and better, but the writer had good PR skills.

Don't understand the abbreviations.  Nobody said she invented sex scenes.  The books appeal to female readers, a whole new contingent in the e-book market.  Women have increasingly enjoyed graphic sex in romance novels.  Clearly there was a market for books that contain little beyond sex (porn) and can be downloaded anonymously.

I think a temporary price reduction is a much more effective way to entice readers. They haven't invested a lot of money so they're willing to take a chance on a book by an author they've never read but they have spent some money so, in my opinion, they're more likely to read your book and, if they like it, to pay regular price for other books you've written. I agree with I.J. that people may download freebies but they usually don't get around to reading them.

This may be true for some, but I've downloaded a couple of free books that were very good, totally engrossing and well written. However, I do agree that the sheer volume of free books being offered these days is overwhelming. I get newsletters telling me about all the freebees, but only pick one up now and then.

Martyn makes some good points, but I'm inclined to agree with Patricia.  If I take a legal case on pro bono, I usually don't share that with the client until the case is over even if it's a high profile matter.  There are two reasons for this.  The first is practical.  If clients think they are paying for your time, they are a lot less likely to telephone all the time and send you on wild goose chases.  Second, at some level, clients tend to think the services are sublevel if they are free.  If the client is poor and it's a high profile case, you don't say in the press you're handling pro bono.  You simply say the client will never be able to pay the legal fees and the public will conclude you're handling it on a pro bono basis and you'll get stars with the public for that.

Book selling isn't exactly analogous to practicing law, but I wonder whether people don't read and review freebies because of the thought that because the books are free, they must not be very good.

Yes, that seems to be the perception.  It can result in bad reviews.

The only problem I have with free is that people tend to download without reading, so they become Kindle filler. Which is why I only have two short stories (with teaser chapters) available for free, the novels are 3.99-4.99 [Reprobate is 2.99 until January, then it will revert to 3.99].

When I published my second short story for 99c, I got 6 downloads. When I managed to get Amazon to price-match with Kobo and set the story to free, I'm currently at 280 downloads. Since the short stories have to give me more exposure, free works better than 99c. I won't price a novel under 2.99, because 2.99 is also the bottom price for the 70% royalty.

My idea: Book 1 is 4.99 until book 2 is published. Book 2 is 4.99, book 1 is 2.99 for a limited time and reverts to 3.99. When book 3 is published, Book 1 will become 2.99 permanently, Book 2 will be 2.99 for one month and revert to 3.99 and Book 3 will be 4.99. Short stories will be 99c, until I have six short stories, which I will collect and sell for 2.99.

Something like that.

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