I used to say “yes” – unequivocally. But now I’m not so sure.
After I published my first novel in December 2012, I went the free route a few months later having nothing at all to lose. The results astounded me. I had more than 14,000 downloads over a three day period and the book peaked at #11 on the Amazon free charts. I was ecstatic. Within a matter of days, 14,000 people had my book on their Kindle. There was no greater marketing method around.
But since then, things have changed – for the worse if you’re an independent author. My subsequent free campaigns with my first and second novels never again came close to those numbers. Bloggers have accused Amazon of changing algorithms that affect sales. (That doesn’t exactly make sense to me since Amazon wants to promote sales. But, okay.) New Amazon rules forced affiliates to reduce the amount of free books they promoted lest they be dropped as affiliates. From that point on, it became much more difficult to find websites who would promote your book for free. They still exist, but many of them have moved to asking authors to pay for promotional services, and so the broad avenues of promotion of 2013 have narrowed considerably.
Now as my third novel will be reaching it’s one year anniversary of release within the next couple of months, I have to decide how to continue to market it. I have never offered “The Reach of the Banyan Tree” for free. I have had several sales promotions at $0.99 and they have been successful to varying degrees, but the number of books that I have gotten into the hands of readers is significantly less when compared with my first novel.
It must also be pointed out that putting a book on someone’s Kindle does not mean that they will ever read it. My wife is a great example of this. She still has 100+ free books on her Kindle which she may or may not ever get around to reading. What benefit does an author have when a book is deadended on a Kindle? Not much.
On the other hand, a large number of downloads can lead to some traction. My first novel ended up garnering 85 reviews, many of those came from the free downloads. My second and third books have definitely lagged behind in reviews, even though the reviews they have received are better than my first book.
Now it’s decision time. Should I offer “The Reach of the Banyan Tree” for free one time only prior to releasing my new novel?
Or should I continue with periodical $0.99 cent promotions?
I’m open to advice.