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Good and Bad Free Books

I do believe there are good and bad free books. When folks mention free books, they usually mean free eBooks. You know the ones. You can’t miss them in your emails, your Facebook feed, your Facebook groups, on Twitter, on Instagram ad infinitum.

To tell you the truth, I’m sick of it! And, I’m not the only one.

A good writer friend of mine, Jack Kregas, recently sent out a series of posts on Facebook to stimulate a debate about the worth or value in authors offering free books. I’m with him. I am dead set against it.

Of course, like many things in life, there are exceptions to the rule. These are examples where in my view it is a legitimate tactic to offer a free book:

  • ARC’s – Advance Review Copies sent to reviewers or book bloggers to garner reviews for a book in advance of publication
  • Offering an eBooklet in order to increase a following through gathering email addresses for an email list

Now I am struggling to think of more good reasons. No doubt you can add to the list.

What I am saying is this – you as an author have toiled over your work. You have put the hours in writing, rewriting and editing. Then you have paid for a book cover design and hopefully professional editing.

Those are the minimum. Add in your time with marketing your book and creating a book buzz throughout social media. Or, you may even spend good money attending a book festival or writers’ conference to promote your book.

It all costs money so why on earth do you want to give it away for free?

Free books get the indie author community a bad name. I mean the plethora or rash of free books. Many are garbage, badly written, badly edited and with disgusting cover designs.

Some do not fall into that category but I fear many authors suffer from vanity. They think by offering a free book, it will bring some love their way. Wrong!

I tell you how you gain love and affection plus loyalty from readers – offer value for money! Write a damn good book and charge for it. Make them want to come back for more.

Before someone accuses me of hypocrisy, yes, I do offer free eBooks. But for good reason. I do not offer my bestselling memoir for free unless there are exceptional circumstances like a reputable book blogger or reviewer asking me for a copy.

The free eBooks I offer fall into two categories. Firstly, over on my Expat In Bacolod blog I offer my How To Drive Like An Idiot eBook free to subscribers to my monthly newsletter. It is also offered free on Instafreebie for the same reason.

Instafreebie is interesting in looking closely at free eBooks. It is a site specializing in free books but the free version they offer has limited features. For example, if you want people who download your book to leave their email address you must pay then $20 per month. Then those email addresses will be automatically added to your Mailchimp list.

In theory that sounds great but my experience was that 50 percent of folks subscribed to download the book then unsubscribed from the list as soon as they received my monthly newsletter. I went back to the free version for that reason.

The second category is the free eBooklet I offer on this site as an incentive for people to sign up. It offers sound advice on social media time management and some extras such as how to grow your Twitter followers.

What I don’t do is offer for free any book I have worked hard on. Not only worked hard, but also exhausted my creative juices. I put my heart and soul into books like that, why should I sell them for zero?

The same applies to my first novel, still a WIP. It is taking time because I want it to be damn good. When I was a trial attorney, or barrister as us Brits know them, I learned the art of courtroom advocacy. I expected to be paid because I was a trained professional. I see no difference with my new career as a writer especially a fiction writer. I study the art like a doctor studies the human body. I want to know what makes a good story and how to tell it. It takes time and a lot of effort so why should I give away the end product?

My friend Jack Kregas also makes this valid point – offering free books creates an expectation among the readership. Many of them have come to expect a free book as the norm. He is right.

I do wonder if insecurity is at the root of this free book disease. Are so many of you scared no one will ever read your book if you put a price on it?

Let’s have the debate – now! Leave your comments and views right here.

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