Say you are browsing the Top Free category on Amazon and stumble across a couple of books that look good, but you wonder if they really are. Because if so, why would they be free? You take a peek at some reviews, decide to grab the first book in a series, read it and actually ENJOY it. But then you find out the next book in the series isn’t free, it’s $3.99. And the third book is also $3.99. In fact, all the books after the initial one actually cost money. WTF?! You feel cheated. Sort of like the author scammed you. How dare they write a book that caught your interest, offer if for nothing, then expect you to pay for the rest?! It’s not fair! WHY would they do this?
Today I’m going to explain why authors do this. And don’t worry, I’ll be nice about it. *wink*
I have two perma-frees (the first book in a series that is free everywhere, all the time, and will be unless Amazon accidentally bumps the price up or I decide to change my mind).
I HOPE YOU FIND ME is free – and clearly listed in the sales title that it is the first book in a series. I know not everyone likes series. That’s totally okay. That’s why I have it listed in the title, as said before, so it’s pretty much impossible to miss. But some readers do like to keep reading! And as the author, there are obvious benefits to having more than one book out there with the same characters.
And DYING to FORGET is also free. Not only does the title mention it’s the first book of a series, but it’s on the cover too. Like the above mentioned book, it’s really hard to miss that this is the FIRST book from a SERIES. There should be no surprises for the reader here. Can you see it – the little text at the top of the cover? “The Station Series, Book 1” – nice and straight-forward, right?
I posted those two books as examples, not necessarily as plugs. And the covers link back to their Amazon pages. Take a peek at the reviews (the lower rated ones that I’d rather avoid, lol) and I bet you’ll find a comment or two about how the book was free, and the reader still “paid too much” or felt “cheated”. Those are the most confusing reviews for me, as the author. And when people complain about having to pay for the follow ups, it confuses me even more. So, let me explain the reasons why I offer these two books to readers for FREE.
I’m relatively unknown in the book world outside my own dedicated following of readers. So, for me, offering up a free book is a great way to attract new readers to my brand and that book series. There’s nothing nefarious about this marketing tactic – and many companies give things away for free simply for exposure to new clients and customers. Book authors should be allowed to do the same thing, no? Having a perma-free book is the best way to do this – on top of paid ad’s for marketing the book/series.
Now, please don’t lick your Kindles or eBook readers, people…that’s not the kind of ‘taste’ I’m talking about. With SO many book titles available now on Amazon alone, how does one book series stand out above the rest? Great cover, editing, etc…all those things matter, but let’s be honest, so does price. Which are you most likely to download if you’re looking for a new series to get into – the FREE title, or the one listed at $4.99? If both series are previously unknown (NOT The Hunger Games, for example), and you have nothing but price to help you decide, chances are high you will go for that free book first. I’ve done it and I know a ton of others who have as well. The Taste Test is my way of putting a book out there for readers to have, free of charge, to see if they want to continue on with the series. In both of my perma-frees, the titles are an appropriate length version for their genre and match the rest of the series’ word counts. So, the reader is getting the whole first part of the story for free, to see if they want to continue on. It’s a great way to save the reader some money before they choose to invest in the whole series. That’s money in the reader’s pocket! *KA-CHING*
Obviously, I don’t publish books just for myself. I write them for me – because I want to, I have to, I need to. But I publish them for the readers. However, the time that goes into constantly thinking about the plot, fighting with the muse and characters in your head over the twist or close of a story, the actual hundreds of hours it takes to write, edit, market, design covers, or outsource…all of that is time working. Being an author is my career choice. This is my job, and even though I love it and this is my dream job, I have bills to pay just like my readers. It would be awesome to give all my books away for free, but um, that’s never going to happen because my books are my income. It actually does cost money to write a book, believe me. Even if you are one of the lucky ones (and I’ve been blessed, I admit) to have friends or family to help you with the things you can’t do, it still costs money. And I have to make that money back, as well as extra to live. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but I’ve read complaints more than once, from readers who seem to be genuinely upset that ALL of a series is not free when the first book is. Here’s the thing – to offer up that free book, I’m taking a gamble and yes, I’m losing sales for that particular title. I need to make enough money back from the rest of the series to make that freebie worth it, and people are more likely to buy book #2 if they didn’t have to pay for book #1. So yes, this can be a marketing score for authors. It helps propel a series forward with sales, especially after advertising the first book as free with big (and expensive) places like BookBub. But just because we have a perma-free doesn’t mean we will get sales for the second, third, fourth or tenth books in a series. Because readers want to stay entertained and happy with the work – so quality is still really important here. You can’t just throw a free book out there and expect readers to return to the rest if it’s crap. Just like anything else in the world – quality matters.
Exposure, Taste-Testing and Sales are MY main reasons for making the two books I have free on a permanent basis. They may not be the same reasons for every author who chooses to do this, but I know they meet the criteria for many of my writer friends because we talk about this often. There’s nothing sneaky about this. I’m not trying to trick readers – I’m trying to share stories that readers will fall in love with. Which is what all of us authors truly want.
So, please, if you grab up a free book, and discover the rest in the series are NOT free, keep in mind that there are multiple reasons for this, from the author’s perspective, and that spending $10 on five books is still a ridiculously GREAT deal for you. We live in the time of ‘I want it now, and I want it for free!’ But literature is still a form of entertainment, which means us authors are artists – most struggling to get by in this life just as the reader is. Even those that are lucky enough to make it ‘big’ have taxes and employees to pay, work-related travel to schedule and budget for, therapy to deal with the one star reviews on their work (just kidding…lol) and everything else that comes with life.
Be kind to authors. Enjoy their work. Remember that reading is a form of pleasure, not a platform for spewing negativity. And appreciate those free books, y’all. *double wink*