Every day hundreds of thousands of books are given away free on Amazon in Amazon's ebook programme, Kindle Select. There's a lot of buzz surrounding this programme since it was introduced in August 2011 Amazon announced KDP Select, both positive and negative.
Why are authors, and in some cases even publishers, giving their books away for free?
Isn’t the goal of most authors - indies or otherwise - to make enough money selling books so we can give up the day job and focus on writing full-time? Although we’re quite aware that’s only attainable to a handful of us - think E.L. James - we’re still satisfied with that extra pocket money that will take the family to Euro Disney during the off season.
It is a revolutionary thought to offer your slave work for free. Since writing became a profession, we have all been hack writers living on Grub Street. Our collective consciousness consisted of the following steps: write the best book you can, pay for editing if you can, find the best cover and write the neatest blurb, upload, write another and yet another and get lucky. Some succeeded, most plodded on with just a few sales to their names and hardly any visibility amidst the millions of competitors.
And now 20,000 free downloads is enough to get your book into the top 100 free all ebooks on Amazon! Sudden, immense visibility, perhaps the tool to get you out of Grab Street for good?
But there remains that tinge, that strange taste in my mouth. What about my hard work thrown on the cobbled streets of Kindle Mania for all to devour? Will there still be respect for my craft and - more importantly – will it increase my sales after the free promotion is closed?
A while ago I had a discussion on Twitter with my UK writer friend Viv Tuffnell about the pros and cons of “giving your books away” on Amazon for promotional purposes. Viv is very much against this common practice among Indie authors as she’s adamant offering your books for free is equal to killing the business.
My publisher Taylor Street Books makes our books free for two days per month. I have no say in it. As I’m new to the published world, I rely on my publisher for following the right promotional routes. Still, from the start I have had mixed feelings about my book When The Ink Dries being offered for free. Excited about seeing it climb the ranks of Freebies and sad that all these downloads would not be translated into cash. The first months I eagerly awaited more reactions from readers and more reviews but nothing showed up and soon after the free days my book sank down in the paid ranks and disappeared in obscurity again.
Now is the relaunch on my debut novel a thing in itself – it was first published under the title Casablanca, My Heart and still available as such, so maybe I’m not a good example - more about this soon! However, Viv’s firm standpoint made me decide to hold a modest poll on my FB Author page to find out what my friends think of Kindle Select. Here are the results:
It gets my name out there 20 votes
It doesn’t give me more reads or reviews 13 votes
It’s an excellent promotional tool 6 votes
I won’t do it 5 votes
It’s killing the business 5 votes
Each time I’ve run my 2 Select books free my other books have seen great sales 2 votes
People only go for the freebies these days, they hardly buy a book anymore 4 votes
So does it work?
I’m not convinced, not so anti either, but certainly not convinced. Maybe it's too soon to have a solid opinion?