Wordpreneur Notebook • June 14, 2020

You’re NOT giving your books away for free!

Browsing indie author discussion forums on social media makes me sad sometimes. Particularly when folks who have zero marketing sense (and hence, no experience worth talking about) give indie author newbies marketing “advice.” Usually witty enough (they’re writers, after all), the damage these can cause on impressionable, insecure minds borders on totally irresponsible.

The bit I’m focusing on now, since I just saw it yet again a few moments ago, revolves around the recurring discussion and argument over giving your books away for free. Almost always, it’s about the Kindle Select feature that lets you give your Kindle book away totally free for a few days.

The usual trying-hard-to-be-witty retorts from some “veterans” are along the lines of, “I don’t work for free; my work has value and I expect a fair price for my books.” Sounds like sensible wisdom doesn’t it? Principled too! And it’s bullcrap.

I’ve long learned not to participate in these kinds of discussions on the forums. Not that I lose them; I’m impatient and quite caustic with the arrogant, which often turn out to be the “vets” holding court (instead of actually writing) over their little online fiefdoms. Burning bridges all over the fracking place when I do that. Not that I care much about the pretenders on the thrones; all the silent lurkers now scared away, those are the real losses with uncomfortable socmed behavior. Keep that in mind whenever you’re about to embark on some inadvisable impulsive socmed activity. (Hey, that’s a sidetip right there!)

So now I mainly just monitor these author and writer forums quietly, only replying and participating periodically, usually to answer some technical question. Not that it’s easy to stay quiet; it does take a lot not to jump in when seeing this kind of misguiding arrogance in a fairly important discussion on the “to free or not to free” conundrum.

In this case, it’s a constant battle to fight the urge to reply with, “So, how’s that working out for you? How are sales? Oh, never mind, I can see that clearly for myself on Amazon.” The implication, of course, is that they typically have no sales worth talking about, and with Amazon’s public rankings (not to mention review counts), it isn’t something that can be hidden easily either. Many even sport crappy homemade book covers. Surprise!

Not that there aren’t any successful indie authors who moderate and/or participate in those forums. There sure are. But they’re also usually the ones who stay quiet in threads covering these types of topics. That should tell us something, huh?

OK, enough of that. Here’s the point: Giving books away via Kindle Select is no different from paying money for advertising. Zero to do with readers needing to “pay you for your work” on that book.

It’s an expense. It’s a marketing tool. It may even prove to be cost:benefit cheaper than straight up paying for advertising (especially if you don’t know what you’re doing in that arena either). And it most certainly is one of the very few marketing tools available to you with the potential for good to high returns if you have no cash to spend on book marketing.

That some of these vocal indie author “veterans” don’t comprehend that very basic business principle, well, that’s quite a reveal of what they really know and have actually done, isn’t it?

So, that means you should go right ahead and start giving your book away via Kindle Select, right?

Nonononono. And one more no for good measure. Just like everything else, you’ve got to do it right to reap its benefits. Or things can go south, really fast.

For one thing, it’s no magic pill. If no one knows your book exists and is on sale on Amazon, making it suddenly free for a few days won’t change that. They still won’t know it exists, which puts one heck of a damper on that getting them to download it for free thing. If you’ve already got a fragile ego, I’m not sure you really want a “no one wants it even if it’s free” punch to your ego’s throat. You’ve still got to promote it, get the word out that it’s free on those days.

Even if you do manage to get the word out and a good number of folks pick it up while it’s free, that doesn’t mean you’ll see a significant uptick in your sales numbers once it goes back to regular price, assuming you even get any upticks from what’s normal for your title.

Let’s plan to revisit these Kindle Select freebies in one or more future posts. Maybe, however, it’s enough for you to know and start wrapping your mind around the fact that giving your book away as part of a well-thought out book marketing plan can work, and work very well.

So, if you do manage to come across one of these “veterans” online spouting those silly soundbites, just chuckle and move on. You’ve got way more important things to do with your time, which, if you haven’t noticed, you really don’t have too much of to get where you want to go. None of us really do. 😉

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