Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

$1.00 Books v. Free Books (or why Authors Should Charge)

spare changeI’ve been a long proponent of authors giving away their content as a way to seed new readers. Publishers tend to agree with this concept giving away free digital books or even masses of free paper books. The idea is that the author’s own words is the best promotion.

One thing I’ve noticed in the recent months is while I’ll download every free book available at Kindle, I rarely read them. Conversely, I also take advantage of the low price specials from Grand Central Publishing and Harlequin and I almost always at least start, if not finish, those books. These books are priced anywhere from less than $1.00 to $1.99.

As I was reading my fifth book this past holiday weekend, I realized that it was a book for which I had paid money even though I had also downloaded three more expensive books that had been priced at zero. I always intend to read the books that I’ve downloaded for free and I do think that giving away books is a great way to seed the backlist and frontlist titles. I’ve been told that this promotional pricing have had success and at least one independent study has evidenced some positive results (the original post has been taken down, presumably because the data is part of a research paper to be made available at a later date).   The fact is, though, I still have not read all 16 books offered by Harlequin as part of its 60th Anniversary celebration.   Alison Kent’s With Extreme Pleasure was available for free last week.   I’ve yet to crack it’s virtual cover.

But time and again, I’ll download these freebies to read at some point while proceeding to read the books I’ve purchased. I believe I choose to read the books I’ve purchased over the free books because I’ve some personal investment in them, no matter how small. I simply can’t let my $.50 or $1.99 go to waste by allowing that book to languish on my iPhone or Sony Reader. I will, at least, start the book that I purchased. I feel the same sort of obligation toward books I get for review. I will, at least, start those books. (I say “start” because I probably read the first chapter of some 50 books in a month but will only finish 15-20).

There is a certain tangible quality about having the physical book sitting on your shelf or nightstand.   It’s constant presence reminds you to read it.   A digital file is somewhat hidden, particularly with the primitive software reading programs which don’t allow you to mark whether a book is read or unread.   Self discovery is much harder for digital files.

So while it might not be in my best interest to suggest this, I think authors and publishers should charge a nominal amount of money for their promotional books. This nominal amount of money will encourage readers to actually read the book instead of merely hoard the free digital file. If the book can be made available at the author’s website, it should be free, particularly if the retailer is charging some amount. This can serve to drive readers directly to the author’s site but also avoids the charge of the author “ripping off” the reader if the retailer is giving the book away for free. At retailers like Amazon, Sony, and BN, however, it makes sense for the retailer to charge some small amount. The reader feels like she is getting a huge deal and she has some incentive to actually try out the book.

I know that every reader is not like me and clearly the free reads have actually been read and resulted in sales. The question is by what proportional rate will downloads decrease because of a nominal charge but actual reading of the material would increase.

What do you readers think? Do you try every free book you can download? Would you be more likely to read the book if you had paid some amount of money for it? What’s the upper end of a “nominal amount” (mine is $1.99)? Authors, how do you feel about the free download?

Note: I use the word “book” in this post and by that I mean full length novel and not novella or short story. Those I think should always be free as a promotional item.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

50 Comments

  1. library addict
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 04:15:55

    I'm inclined to read new-to-me authors when I get free downloads.

    But to be clear I don't download a book just because it's available for free. When I see the freebies advertised I will go and check the blurb. I only download the book if the blurb sounds like something I'd be interested in.

    So, I don't have the number of free downloads it sounds like Jane has – LOL.

    I don't get the free Kindle downloads because I don't have a Kindle and have no intention of ever getting one. And even though I know they've come out with an app to read them on your PC, I haven't bothered to get it. I know I may be missing out on a lot of free reads via Amazon, but oh well.

    Not sure how I'd feel about paying a nominal amount. If I was interested in the author/book and didn't want to risk trying them at full price…maybe. But to be honest I like free. And I have discovered some new-to-me authors via free reads that I enjoyed and now buy their books. So free does work. Not saying I wouldn't ever pay a nominal amount, but I'm much more likely to try an author for free.

    ReplyReply

  2. JessW
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 07:58:38

    I think free books do get me to try new authors. I don’t download every free book I come across now, just ones that sound appealing in the description or by the sample. I read both paid and free books at the same rate, not gravitating to one category or the other. Mainly I am reading on my ipod touch via Kindle or Stanza.

    With print books, on the other hand, I will read library books before owned books, but that is because I have a return due date.

    ReplyReply

  3. Peggy P
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 08:24:19

    I think the top end of my “nominal” fee is $3 – that’s a few $ less than I can purchase a book for at most places.

    I will vote on the side of free reads as the best intro to an author and it has worked to hook me on some series that weren’t on my radar. I do take an extra long look at free books and am willing to try most of them for the first few chapters though there are some real turkeys for “free”. I’m not aware of reading them any sooner or later – just read them when the mood strikes – as with any book I have.

    I became hooked on Julia Spencer Fleming’s series after the first book was offered for free. Prior to that I was aware of the books but they just didn’t sound like something I’d like – bought every book in the series & loved them. I think that Jeaniene Frost’ s first book was free also on Kindle a few months ago – which started me on that series.

    “Free” is marketing at it’s finest – it stands out in the crowded book market and if the book is good and hooks me – you’ve got a paying customer for a long while.

    ReplyReply

  4. Jessica G.
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 08:43:42

    I think when there is some sort of charge for a book, I get more discretionary about whether I want to buy it or not. If it sounds interesting enough, I’ll buy it and since I’ve thought about it, I’m more likely to read it. If it’s free, I still think about it, but I’m more likely to download it if it sounds even vaguely interesting.

    A couple of cases: I’ve read half of the Lucy Stone Mysteries by Leslie Meier because of a Sony bundle (3 books for $5.69, if you like mysteries check it out, great deal). I’ve also gotten into several series from the Suvudu Free library, including Moning’s Fever series, and Adrian’s Midnight Breed series. For $1 Orbits, I’ve bought a few but only read one (Jennifer Rardin), and have read several of the books in that series. As for the Harlequin 60th books, I downloaded the ones I thought I was most likely to read, and have read all but one. Those books got me hooked on categories.

    Now if you have no life like me, and you pay attention to Sony bestsellers, you’ll notice that not long after a free or near free book shows up for download, and it’s in a series, you’ll see the sequels pop up on the bestseller list. So I would think that both are successful in getting people to try books.

    I think my opinion is, if it’s a standalone title, charge $1 for it. If it’s the first in a series, give it away for free.

    ReplyReply

  5. ms bookjunkie
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 08:55:24

    I just want to point out that for those of us across the ocean, should we even have a Kindle/iPhone with the Kindle app, we pay charges for the ‘free’ Kindle books.

    [price] includes VAT & international wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet

    It’s usually $2.30 or so for ‘free’ Kindle books when I check them out.

    (Note: I don’t know what the deal is for Kindle for PC.)

    Moving away from Amazon… and back to the topic.

    I guess what I’m saying (or trying to at least) is that sometimes it’s too much of a hassle to break out the debit card for a $1 ebook. Especially if it’s a new-to-me site and I don’t really know if I want to go through the hassle of giving them my information, let alone the issue of trusting them with said information. So I’m more likely to skip the cheap ebook than the free one. And while it might take me a while to get to the freebie, when I eventually do, if I like it it might lead to multiple sales.

    Also, at this point in my life I am in the happy situation where I am able to experiment a bit with new-to-me authors. (I also have my own computer to search review sites and internet bookstores.) Not so five years ago. I had a specific list of auto-buy authors and I stuck to that list come hell or high water. It was only when I went abroad and to the UBSs there that I could explore a bit. So to me a free book = much goodwill towards the author, not to mention making me aware that said author exists.

    ReplyReply

  6. cecilia
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 08:57:46

    I also don’t always read the freebies, but I don’t think the “freeness” is the cause of my not being interested in reading something, it just postpones the selectiveness.
    If I have to pay anything for a book, I’m going to be more discriminating at the point of acquiring than if it’s totally free. At some point, however, I’m going to choose to read some books, and reject others.

    So I don’t think the price is the spur to read. If I had any recommendations for a publisher about to give books away, it would be to make sure that the books are good quality. If they’re not, the effect is to make me stay away from the author of the freebie and wary of trying any other new (to me) authors from them.

    ReplyReply

  7. Leslie
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 09:06:14

    One of the best books I have read this year was a freebie: Raising Jake by Charlie Carrillo. If it hadn’t been free, I never would have heard of it or read it, but now, I liked it so much, I’ve recommended it to a ton of people. The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss was also a freebie. It took me eight months to get around to reading it, but once I did, I enjoyed it.

    If I am going to pay money, even a nominal amount (99c or $1.99 or whatever), I have to be at least remotely interested in the book. I’ll download free books just because they are free and in the process of doing so, I have discovered a couple of great “new to me” authors.

    ReplyReply

  8. rosecolette
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 09:07:23

    Like library addict, I only download freebies that sound interesting or ones from writers I’ve been meaning to check out. Most recent example is Kage Baker. Sometime last year Tor.com did a huge download of free ebooks. It took me a year but I finally read In the Garden of Iden, her first book in The Company series. Now I’m buying the back catalog and various other novels. Several of the Harlequin freebies prompted me to check out their contemporary suspense and “sports” lines.

    To me, free has a “I’ll get to it when I get to it” connotation; paying money, any amount of money, adds the guilt of “I should read that since I paid for it.” (My TBR list is, so far, immune to guilt.)

    ReplyReply

  9. DS
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 09:16:08

    At the beginning I downloaded anything that was free, but now I’m also pickier about what I download. There are a lot of Christian press books available for free right now for instance, but my experience with Christian fiction (except for some cozy mysteries) has been unrelentingly negative. I also find I’m unlikely to read books from Harlequin unless I’ve already familiar with the author.

    There have been two authors this year who gave away ebooks that I read and immediately went for the backlist. One book I downloaded for $1.00 caused the same reaction. Other free books this year made the person I share my Kindle account with an instant fan of two other authors– at least she had bought several other books in the two series since reading the first one.

    I don’t think whether or not the book is free or low cost makes as much difference as my mood and whether the book grabs me from the start. I am unlikely to put up with a bad beginning hoping things get better but I’ve noticed that about myself with any book as I get older.

    ETA: The TOR give-aways caused my most frustrating moment when I realized the other books by Cherie Priest were not then available in eBook form. I hope TOR learned a lesson from that, because I remember I was not the only one upset by that.

    ReplyReply

  10. CD
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 09:25:59

    I guess what I'm saying (or trying to at least) is that sometimes it's too much of a hassle to break out the debit card for a $1 ebook. Especially if it's a new-to-me site and I don't really know if I want to go through the hassle of giving them my information, let alone the issue of trusting them with said information. So I'm more likely to skip the cheap ebook than the free one. And while it might take me a while to get to the freebie, when I eventually do, if I like it it might lead to multiple sales.

    I agree with that – it’s more the effort that would deter me than the price as such. If it’s a book that I’m already planning on getting or that I was mildly interested in and was buying other books at the same time, I would do it. But for a completely new to me author? No.

    Looking at the success of Baen with their free downloads, I think free promotional books are definitely the way to go – especially if they are non-DRM. I remember getting a free download of Catherine Asaro’s PRIMARY INVERSIONS there and not only “donating” money for free download because I loved it so much (I love that you can do that on Baen) but buying everything else she has ever written.

    ReplyReply

  11. joanne
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 09:32:10

    I’ve read articles about people who have yard sales and put boxes out marked “free” and no one will go near them; mark the boxes $1 and the boxes are gone in sixty seconds. I don’t know what that means, lol, but I don’t download every free book I see.

    The Harlequins celebration titles that I tried that were out of my usual sub-genre were fun but not an incentive to buy. I didn’t care for the religion-mallet used in the LoveInspired and the Intrigue left me wanting more intrigue. So it was back to buying my ususal lines from that publisher.

    No matter who the author is if it has a plotline or characters that I don’t like it can be free and I still won’t read it so why download it? If it’s $2 and it’s not good for me than it’s deleted. I’m freakeshly tidy when it comes to my electronic devices so I try a chapter and that tells me whether it stays and I continue reading or gets deleted.

    Unless I’m familiar with an author’s work I still judge (and buy and/or download) a book by it’s cover blurb. (Has anyone ever had the time to find out who the hell writes those things because they often are so far off track as to be about a different book?).

    ReplyReply

  12. ‘Too many books, not enough profits’: ‘On the Media’ looks at the book biz, including E | TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 09:55:25

    [...] different countries. In addition, check out Ficbot and Shortcover's observation on free books and DearAuthor's take. Technorati Tags: On the Media Digg us. Slashdot us. Facebook us. Twitter us. Share the [...]

  13. A
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 10:39:31

    Note: I use the word “book” in this post and by that I mean full length novel and not novella or short story. Those I think should always be free as a promotional item.

    In epublishing, short stories and novellas outsell novels, so it would not make sense for epublishers to offer all/most short stories and novellas free for promotional purposes.

    ReplyReply

  14. Mora
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 11:03:00

    I only download a book, free or pay, if I’m interested in reading it. I’ve found a lot of new-to-me authors that I enjoy that way, and I most likely wouldn’t have paid for a book by them even if it was a dollar. I’m on a tight budget where every dollar counts.

    ReplyReply

  15. TerryS
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 11:31:02

    Although it is a marketing tool that does work, I do bypass many free/low cost ebooks simply because they hold no interest me or I know I’ll never get around to reading them. At the same time I have also discovered new authors from other downloaded free/low cost ebooks. I honestly don’t think I have a reading preference between free or low cost. In fact, by the time I read many of them I have long forgotten whether it was a free or low cost book.

    As an aside, to get around the inability to mark if a book has been read or is still unread, I have multiple bookshelves in my ebook software. It is a simple enough matter to move a finished book from the “To Be Read” bookshelf to the all inclusive “Library” or any other category bookshelf. Not a perfect solution but a simple one that works for me.

    ReplyReply

  16. Caligi
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 12:12:42

    @joanne:

    I find your yard sale story interesting. Everyone I know stops at the sight of a “free” box and chucks it in their car after a minimal look at the contents. A popular tradition around here is to put unwanted furniture on the curb, and stuff usually poofs within hours. My house is furnished with an even mix of Ikea, inherited antiques and stuff we found on the side of the road.

    Suffice to say, I download everything free and I read them. I stockpile paid for ebooks at the same rate as the free ones. Soulless has languished since its release date, but I’ve read a few of the free Mills & Boon books and a copy of Sweet Surrender that I won since then.

    The free copy of Price of Passion hooked me on Susan Napier and Presents in general. I’d never read a Presents before, on account of the horrendous titles, and now I buy one or two each month.

    Had that been a $1.00 book, I don’t think I’d have bought it. I’ll drift out of my comfort zone for free, but my prejudices stay in place if my debit card comes out.

    ReplyReply

  17. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 12:21:02

    my prejudices stay in place if my debit card comes out.

    I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I came to this conclusion:

    My prejudices will stay in place if my debit card comes out, but if I can USE PAYPAL, yeah, I’ll fork over a couple of bucks.

    ReplyReply

  18. Kay Sisk
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 13:01:26

    Despite believing that giving away free books is a way to snare an otherwise wary reader, I also think having to pay for something puts value on it. (The yard sale conundrum as opposed to the discarded furniture on the curb issue which is an entirely different animal.)

    My romance reading club occasionally receives print ARCs from publishers. Just because it is free has not changed any of our reading habits. In fact, we are perhaps more willing to quit reading sooner if it is not to our taste than if we had paid for it. While appreciating the opportunity to try something or someone new (and we have picked up new authors this way), we pay much more attention to those books we choose ourselves. And trust me, they are not all keepers.

    ReplyReply

  19. madscientistnz
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 13:36:35

    I’ll download books for free only if I am interested in reading them – so far this year I have discovered Lois McMaster Bujold and Melissa Marr this way. I admit that there are a few files on my computer that I haven’t read yet, but I also have a whole shelf of physical books that I have yet to read!

    One of the problems I have with the books on my computer is that I can’t take them to work to read, and ‘out of sight, out of mind’ – the physical books definitely remind me they are there needing to be read.

    I won’t buy a low priced e-book at all, I’m not in America and my credit card has charges for foreign transactions, also it doesn’t really feel like I own the book without a physical copy.

    When it comes to technology, I ‘m definitely a late adopter, although I would have loved an e-book reader on my recent travels!

    ReplyReply

  20. joanne
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 13:39:58

    @Moriah Jovan:

    My prejudices will stay in place if my debit card comes out, but if I can USE PAYPAL, yeah, I'll fork over a couple of bucks.

    Me too. It always ‘feels’ so much better to purchase with Paypal than credit or debit card, particularly on an unknown site.

    And no matter what Paypal says about content, I use them to buy any & all books I purchase from Book Depository so there is a real inconsistency about their policy.

    ReplyReply

  21. Marina
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 13:49:58

    People are truly odd. Free is a very good price point but paying more seems to be directly wired into the concept ‘better’, doesn’t it? So if you agree, it follows that if we want to own a book, we’re willing to pay for it.

    Goofy human psychology aside, forking over a few dollars for a new-to-me e-book is probably a good idea because the author gets some compensation for her/his work. That’s a nice incentive to, you know, write MORE books.

    The publisher is happy for the same reason plus easing the fear of giving away something that cost a whole lot of cash to develop.

    The sticking point is making it easy to hand over the cash and get your book. Unless it’s as easy as the iTunes / Amazon payment and delivery systems, it won’t work.

    ReplyReply

  22. Christina M.
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 14:33:23

    I have downloaded a lot of the free ebooks through Amazon and Sony and I have purchased the monthly specials that Hachette and Orbit have put out. The reason why I tend to read my purchases before some of the free ebooks is because they are new releases and I like to try to keep up with what everyone else is reading. The free ebooks tend to be older releases, but not always, so it’s no big deal to me when I read them. Just as long as I purchase the free or discounted books before they jump up in price is my main goal.

    ReplyReply

  23. Elizabeth
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 14:37:33

    Jane, I’m exactly like you: I get excited about free books, download them all (now that there is a Kindle for PC), but I too have not read either the 16 free books from Harlequin, nor the more recent freebies.

    Even $0.50 would make me feel invested in each book, and I’d be more likely to read them.

    ReplyReply

  24. Shayne Parkinson
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 14:37:54

    It’s fascinating to read the various opinions in this thread; thanks for posting on this subject, Jane. My own experience, for what it’s worth:

    When I first put my e-books on Smashwords, I set the price for each one at $1.99. After a time (and very modest sales), I decided to make the first book free. Since then, downloads of the free book have (of course) rocketed, and are now in the thousands. But at the same time, downloads of the later books are at least three times the rate they were before. The increase in sales started more or less immediately after I made the first one free.

    ReplyReply

  25. willaful
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 14:52:41

    I won’t even download a free book if I have to sign up for some kind of account, so I would never get a book for even a nominal fee, unless it was something incredible. But I’m just not an ebook reader at heart. I do read the free books I get and have been inspired to get at least one author in print that way.

    ReplyReply

  26. Babs
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 15:01:31

    Oh, I love the freebies! They are especially nice because I am currently in a location with no easy access to a public library (no, I’m not in jail — just overseas.) I’ve read most of the Harlequin 60th anniversary titles and while they aren’t all to my taste, it was fun to try something different. Some I would have NEVER purchased.

    I’d go up to $2.50 as a nominal amount before I would start to debate whether I really wanted it or not. One of the things I have found effective are the ebook novellas that are ‘teasers’ or prequels that set up for upcoming books, the Kasey Michaels one (whose title escapes me) that came before How to Tempt a Duke springs to mind. I enjoyed it and purchased the next two because of it.

    Also, this whole debate reminds me of Seth Godin who spoke at a conference I was working. He mentioned that the book that he made the most money off of was the one he offered for free, from his website. He said it drove a huge amount of traffic to his site, brought in new clients for his speeches & bumped up the sales numbers for his other titles… At the time very few people would have even considered offering free content!

    ReplyReply

  27. rebyj
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 15:10:41

    I’m poor as dirt and will download freebies if they look like something I’ll read, and I do read them cuz I run out of new books by the middle of each month. I also take advantage of the discounted books $1 – $2 range. They get read as well. I have the kindle ap on my ipod touch and it gets used daily.

    ReplyReply

  28. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 15:16:25

    I figured that the way I could get around that issue of “free=attractive but ultimately worthless” and “pay=inconvenient but possibly worth it,” was to offer a really good hunk of the book free. If you’re hooked, you won’t mind paying for the rest of the story. If not, you’re not out anything.

    I know that most authors don’t have that option, though.

    ReplyReply

  29. Linda Rader
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 15:50:37

    I find when I pay for a book I have gone out of my way to find it. It’s something I am already in the mood for. Free books are choosen by the publisher to offer and I just may not be in the mood for that book. So it ends up on my to do later list.

    It’s not the cost. It’s what my motivation and mood at the moment that determines what I will read when. If you offered me a Nora Roberts for free I would read it immediately.

    ReplyReply

  30. Jesi
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 16:11:48

    Well, as someone without a Kindle or ereader at the moment (Christ, those things are expensive!), I do download the free books that I’ve got available. However. I use a Mac so I’m basically SOL with Amazon. I want the Nook, but on Ebay the prices are boggling for those of us that have other problems like dogs that need neutering above a nifty electronic device. $199 for the Sony I liked is…yeah. Amazon? Not any better. I was hoping they’d have a blowout Black Friday sale, but no luck there.

    I did get a couple free ebooks from Sony earlier this weekend. I started a Harlequin romance and fled like a fleeing thing. The opening made me cringe in an embarrassment squick for the author. That was not a good sign. I haven’t had time to see the others. And Amazon won’t let me see any so my choices are limited. Oh, B&N has this weird “free” sticker that becomes not when you go to purchase the book and it comes up .99.

    ReplyReply

  31. foolserrant
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 17:50:55

    Hmmm…this is an interesting point. I’m one of those people who can’t pass up a free deal, so I tend to download any free book I can find (legally only, of course). In some cases, this is great, like when Mills & Boon offered Silent in the Grave for free — now I’m definitely going to pick up the sequels (as soon as I have two cents to rub together). On the other hand, the books offered by Harlequin for their 60th anniversary made me wonder, “Were these written with the knowledge that they would be free, specifically for this event?” Granted, I’m not much of a category reader, so it may just be the shorter word count that was getting to me (which I’m not used to), but it did seem like some of the writers were phoning it in. So to an extent, if I see “free,” I think, “half-arsed promotional BS,” instead of thinking “good introduction to a potential favorite author.” So free almost works against an author for me. Then again, I’m very cynical when it comes to the “what’s the catch” aspects of life so I might not be the norm.

    Personally, I think that you’re right for most authors — if nothing else, the expectations of something that’s free are far lower than the expectations of something I paid for, even if it was only a few cents (I got an Emma Holly book from the library for fifty cents and I expect that will rock). Also, it depends on the item given away — in the case of Silent in the Grave, I had read the SB review of it and expected it to be just as good as it was. As for the others I’ve downloaded, I haven’t seen any reviews and I know nothing of the author so my expectations are more along the lines of if its free, there must be a catch.

    ReplyReply

  32. Jennifer Estep
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 18:57:00

    Note: I use the word “book” in this post and by that I mean full length novel and not novella or short story. Those I think should always be free as a promotional item.

    I don’t agree that short stories and novellas should always be free promotional items. We pay for short stories and novellas when they are packaged together (the My Big Fat Supernatural books come to mind). I would pay $1 for a short story and a little more for a novella, even if they were being used mainly as promotional items. (And really, isn’t every story/book an author writes promoting all of her other work?)

    After all, it takes the author the same amount of effort to write a story whether she’s getting paid for it or not, whether it’s part of a promotional campaign or not. And it’s not any easier to write a good short story or novella than it is to write a good novel. Length does not determine quality. (And for the record, I’m one of those authors offering a free read as a way to promote my new urban fantasy series.)

    Although I wonder if authors/publishers giving away free and/or cheap reads will become so commonplace that readers won’t care anymore?

    And just as a general thought, why not make all short stories/novellas like songs and just pay/download the ones you want out of a particular book?

    ReplyReply

  33. Joy
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 19:06:41

    I’ve discovered more authors via free reads than cheap reads. I’ve read more of the free reads from Samhain (and purchased loads of books) than the $1 reads from Grand Central Publishing.

    I actually have stopped buying the $1 or $1.99 books but keep downloading the free ones. I know I’ll get to them one day.

    ReplyReply

  34. Jane
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 19:37:13

    @Jennifer Estep: I meant in terms of promotional writing. I think if you are going to offer a short story or a novella as a promotional item, it’s too short to charge unlike a full length novel.

    ReplyReply

  35. Tae
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 19:40:39

    I vote with what Leslie said. I downloaded all 16 books from Harlequin. Every week I check the Sony site for free books. Even if the books were $1 I wouldn’t buy them unless I was somewhat interested in them,but if they’re free I take them all and then try them out. Maybe I just don’t buy as many books as Jane though, so I don’t have a huge list of books I could be reading. I think of the “free” books like I did my library. Read them, love it then buy it. Not like it, oh well then no real investment except my time.

    I have considered buying a Kindle for just all the free books available! Though now I think I may look at an ipod Touch instead on top of the Sony PRS I already have.

    ReplyReply

  36. Heather Massey
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 19:51:32

    Like library addict, I only download freebies that sound interesting or ones from writers I've been meaning to check out. Most recent example is Kage Baker. Sometime last year Tor.com did a huge download of free ebooks. It took me a year but I finally read In the Garden of Iden, her first book in The Company series

    D’oh! I snagged a copy of that last year, too. I need to get crackin’.

    I like freebies but I’ll only download the story if it’s either something I know for a fact I’ll like, or the work of an author I’ve been meaning to try. Otherwise, the guilt of it languishing away on my hard drive would eat away at me (thanks a lot, Irish Roman Catholic upbringing :P).

    My husband, however, downloads freebies like there’s no tomorrow. When I ask if we really needed/wanted a particular item, he just flashes me this goofy grin and exclaims, “It was free!”

    Mostly I figure I’ll get a few free books here and there, and expect to pay for the others I want. I read them all, eventually, although which I choose has less to do with what I paid–or didn’t pay–than what I’m in the mood for.

    ReplyReply

  37. Jennifer Estep
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 20:21:49

    @Jane

    I would still disagree.

    ReplyReply

  38. Jane
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 20:30:20

    @Jennifer Estep: Promotional pricing isn’t about the value of an item, though. Of course it takes time and effort to create a short story or novella. There is a definite skill that not all authors have. But in terms of creating the idea in the reader’s mind that they are actually getting a promotional item, charging half of what it normally costs doesn’t seem to equal nominal charge to me.

    ReplyReply

  39. Jennifer Estep
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 21:37:37

    @Jane:

    Of course, I’m no sales or promotion expert, and I realize that the point of free/cheap reads is to introduce folks to new authors and hopefully get them to try/buy that author’s other books farther down the line.

    But most short stories are what, at least 3,000 words? I’d consider paying $1 for a short story that long to be a pretty good bargain. At that price, you’re getting a lot of words for less than a penny apiece. And a 10,000-word (or however long) novella would be an even bigger bargain at $1 or $2 (as of course would a full-length novel). I wouldn’t mind paying $3 or $4 for a full-length novel. That’s still half-price for a paperback. Fifty percent off is enough to tempt me to take a chance on an unknown author.

    I guess my point is that even shorter works have (or should have) some sort of value, even if their primary purpose is promotional.

    ReplyReply

  40. EC Sheedy
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 01:23:37

    @Moriah Jovan: The idea of giving away most of the book–sometimes up to 70-80 %–is common in China. If you want the ending, you pay. Apparently it works, because the publishers have been doing it for awhile now.

    ReplyReply

  41. Joy
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 13:00:08

    I would download a book I find interesting that is free, and read it. My bar for “interesting” would be a bit lower than it would be if I had to be more selective (i.e. pay), since the limited amount of money forces the higher selectivism. This is also true for library checkouts–a great way to sample new authors, but sometimes you don’t get around to a book or 2, and no guilt necessary.

    I have books I bought that I haven’t read (for years). I keep them and eventually my mood will roll around to read them. I’ve also bought books that I didn’t like the opening of and I quit reading them. I imagine it would be the same with e-books, free or not.

    As a reader I find the most compelling freebies to be free sample chapters (like chap. 1-5 of a book). That way you’re well into it by the time you are done and if you like it you have to rush out and get the whole book to finish it. It’s kind of like a compulsion.

    ReplyReply

  42. Suki
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 13:35:20

    I only download the freebies I’m interested in. If I start to read it and don’t like it, I delete it.

    For a person like me, freebies are excellent marketing – especially if the book is the first in a series. Once my attention is caught by an author or a series I am compelled to purchase the entire backlist because I want to know what happens next. Other than book review sites like this one, sampling free books is the predominant way I purchase books by new authors.

    Knowing the book is free, I am more likely to give different genres and styles a try. Lynne Conolly is the predominant author that comes to mind. Her Richard and Rose novel was free for a short period of time. It’s written in 1st person which I HATE. But the book grabbed my attention and I ended up buying the rest of the series. Then re-reading them.

    ReplyReply

  43. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 13:49:10

    @EC Sheedy:

    That’s interesting. I haven’t seen that done a lot here and I made my decision based on what I’d like as a reader/consumer. Too many times a short excerpt (usually from the middle of the book) either doesn’t do the book justice (and I might have missed something awesome), or is the best piece of writing in the book and the rest is a let-down (making me feel a bit deceived).

    Believe me, I’d buy a lot more books if I got through 1/4 to 1/3 of the book and had that “gotta know how it ends” urgency.

    ReplyReply

  44. Caligi
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 14:04:13

    I wish more authors/publishers made multiple chapters of a book available. The couple times I’ve seen that, I’ve gotten totally sucked in and ended up counting down the minutes until I had my own copy.

    Short excerpts rarely do a book justice, and I don’t see why internet shoppers are stuck with them. After all, if I went to a bookstore, I could read as much of the book as I pleased before buying it.

    ReplyReply

  45. EC Sheedy
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 14:24:24

    @Moriah Jovan: I really thing having multiple chapters (sequential) available with an option to buy is a better way to go than totally free books.

    Maybe it’s going to have to go this way . . . with so many more writers going the self-published route, many with no editing. I’d *try* some self-pubbed work, but I’d have to read a fair bit of the book first.

    ReplyReply

  46. EC Sheedy
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 14:26:04

    @Caligi: Just yes! That’s the lure of the bookstore, being able to have a thorough look at the book before buying.

    ReplyReply

  47. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 14:33:47

    @EC Sheedy:

    with so many more writers going the self-published route, many with no editing. I'd *try* some self-pubbed work, but I'd have to read a fair bit of the book first.

    I totally agree with that. Many times I get frustrated with the fact that though “30%” of the book is available, most of it’s front matter. I still don’t get a good idea of what I’m getting into–but I find that’s a flaw across the board (self, NY, digipub).

    I’m getting far more selective about all the other publishers’ offerings, too, because I’ve been burned too many times with, say, the first (possibly second) chapter that’s supposed to hook you (and it does!) and then it falls flat.

    I’ve simply stopped all the digital hoarding of free books. I don’t have time to store, organize, or read them all. Most books I get (free or not), once I’ve downloaded them, I don’t remember why I downloaded them because there is no “back blurb” at the beginning to remind me.

    ReplyReply

  48. EC Sheedy
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 14:57:07

    @Moriah Jovan: “I’ve simply stopped all the digital hoarding of free books. I don’t have time to store, organize, or read them all. Most books I get (free or not), once I’ve downloaded them, I don’t remember why I downloaded them because there is no “back blurb” at the beginning to remind me.”

    Another, yes! I’m new to ereading. Got my reader for my birthday just over a month ago. It’s a Sony Touch, and I love it. But I’ve already started being very selective about what I download. I’ve got two freebies on there–because they were free!–and I haven’t read them yet. Then I went on a mad book-buying spree, so now when I see what I’ve bought, and yet have to read, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by the list aspect of it. And I so miss those blurbs. Strange, too, that I’ve always been surrounded by books, and it’s never bothered me, but in some weird way, the *list* on my Sony does.

    Not that I won’t get over my trepidation–they are books, after all! LOL

    ReplyReply

  49. Nonny
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 04:16:57

    @Jennifer Estep:

    When 20k+ novellas from established e-publishers are in the $3-5 range ……. no, paying $1-2 for a 3k long short story is not a great deal.

    ReplyReply

  50. Thursday News: BN Is Selling Off Assets, Trad Regency Book Deals | Dear Author
    Jan 05, 2012 @ 10:46:34

    [...] I think consumer expectations will settle) is sustainable. Valve co founder Gabe Newell sat down to talk about Steam, the cloud based video gaming platform.  Newell argues that piracy is not a pricing issue but a [...]

Leave a Reply


1 + = 9

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

%d bloggers like this: