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To Give or Not to Give...

Updated on January 31, 2012

An interesting question was asked two days ago. I wanted to write about then but thought better to really sit and think on it. It opened up for me the reality of what we, as authors sometimes do not think about. The question asked seemed simple enough but after two days of deliberating, well, the jury is still out on this one.

Do we, as authors, trying to sell our books to people, actually hurt our selves and sales when we offer our books for free? I read a blog that talked about this a little. The blogger wrote that in a market that is hard to sell already, the offer of freebies adds to the loss of sales for other authors.

The reason we sometimes offer books at little or no cost is in the hopes that some will take and read and then pass on the book. After a short period of freebies, the book then has a price-tag on it. Does this strategy work? So far, for this author, it has netted very little. I have as many takers of my books with a price as the one that does not. That doesn't really answer the question but it does say that in some instances, to sell or give away reaps the same end.

I have no doubt that the economy today has had an huge effect on sales and that placing a sign that says free is going to get more looks than a price tag. We are a people that search for bargains and take as many as we can. We will even take things, not yet knowing what in the world we are going to use it for, but taking it because it says "Free." When you see advertising on t.v., everyone is offering a "Second" one free, if you order NOW! Free is definately a draw for most anything that is available but going back to the original question, does giving a book away free hurt the sales of writers trying to market their books? Probably, yes.

I search for marketing stratedgies and will use what seems to be the most likely to sell my novels. There are so many different avenues a writer can use but not all of them net sales. One woman wrote a half dozen novels, saturated the market with them, selling them for nearly nothing. She has sold a record ammount of books this way. I set my 6 novels out and look for sales like every other author. The right look, the right moment and sales are there. The same may be if they were all free except that I am paying bills with my writing and FREE does not pay the bills.

I am reminded of a book signing I was invited to join. It may have in fact answered the question with out my even realizing it. Along with me and my books, the local library was there. They were giving away hundreds of books from a table not 12 feet from me. I watched as people wandered past my books, waiting to be sold, and found their way to the sign that said Free books. I sold books that day but no where even close in volume to those that were given away by the library. Do I think them being there effected my sales? Absolutely!!!! I watched the titles going by and saw suspense novels, ghost stories, thrillers... oh wait, that is exactly what I write and sell. Hmmm???

Printed book sales have suffered hugely since the release of the Kindle and Nook and any other E-reader that is on the market. Moving my novels to the kindle and smashwords and Amazon was a strategic move I deemed absolutely needed if I was to compete in this market. What the magic word is to open the doors to big sales, I have not found yet. I am open to any one that does know. What I do know is that freebies are a two edge sword, both sides sharp and ready. They can both help and hurt the writer today. It really depends on how it effects You, as an individual.

On a foot note, the same question can be asked of bloggers that write short stories or articles of interest. Are we hurting ourselves every time we write fro free? Are we giving away something for free that could be bringing in an income for us. I love to write and I love to be read but still, I do wonder how well sales would be for my short stories I write monthly. Do I post them for free or do I put a price tag on them.? That is a fantastic question I hope to have answered soon.


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    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 6 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      Go to and look at the authors comments on it. They are more involved than I am. The comments I saw were positive on it. They have the types of books you write, maybe you could get with them. Mercedes Lackey is one of the authors that does it. Others that are well known also.

    • Dday50627 profile image

      Darrel Day 6 years ago from Iowa

      Becky, you pose an interesting thought here and yes, I am reading. I see both sides to the issue and now wonder if perhaps I need to have another look at the situation. This is the very reason I do so strongly support Feedback. What a great way to get thoughts and ideas.

      I also see Layla's side of the issue and actually offer the first chapter on most of books free. I have seen sales because of that very action. Apparently, this is something I need to ponder longer.

      I want to thank both of you for reading and for your fabulous responces. They are more appreciated than I can convey to you in typing. Thank you very much. Always, Darrel

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 6 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      The authors that they have interviewed on baen, say that it is the best advertising that they can get. Get someone interested in the first of a series and they have to find out what happens. They do this to advertise the third or fourth in the series.

    • layla81 profile image

      layla81 6 years ago from Texas

      I read in a marketing book that I have that the best business card you can ever hand out is your book. It gets people talking. To me, however, it's not like handing out a free sample..something that took mere minutes or hours to make. A book takes sometimes months or years to perfect...and we are to hand it out for free? Offer short stories or a free chapter, but to me, I just don't want to give my book away like that. Offer a discount on a first book in a series but free? I just don't know.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 6 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      I have a Kindle and I go to to check out their free books. Authors put a book up for free for a limited time. They explained that it is usually a first book of a series that they are trying to get interest going in. I have bought some of their newer books after reading a book that I liked. It gets an author out there without having to pay for the book and I can find out if I like that author. They explain the program and the authors really like it. It is up to the author on whether they put one free or not.

      I have read some really good books on there and some that I was not impressed with. Unfortunately, I am kind of stuck with reading on a Kindle because nerve damage makes it excruciating to hold a book for very long.