To Give Free or Not to Give Free: An Indie Author’s Dilemma

I’m back staring at the same promotional dilemma that seemingly doesn’t have a great answer: is it still worth it for indie authors to offer e-books for free?

Three years ago when I jumped into the indie foray, the answer in my opinion was a  resounding ‘yes!’ But now, I’m not so sure.

My free Kindle days over the past two years have been less frequent, but they have also met with less downloads than I achieved back in the “hey-day” of free – 2013. (At least that was my experience)  With my first and second novels, I’ve received massive amounts of downloads which led to many reviews and even some residual book sales. But my experiences of 2014 and 2015 have altered my thinking.

First off, it must be said that there are fewer and fewer sites which will advertise free books without wanting payment. But even the times that I have  paid for advertising, I haven’t had huge downloads (average amount only) and I’ve noticed no up-tick in sales and no noticeable reviews which I can link to the free downloads.

Second, is there such a glut of free books on the market that readers just  stock their devices with reads most of them  will never get around to reading? I think it’s true. Members of my friends and family are examples of this.

I have run numerous 99 cent sales and they have been met with varying success. Sales definitely pick up and then eventually fall back down again.

Is it now better to build in some perceived value by not offering free books anymore? The book market has certainly been devalued. Of course, no author thinks their writing is worth only 99 cents, but there is not a lot of other tangible options available except for running the occasional sale and trying to hook in new readers.

I haven’t ever tried to run a free book promotion through BookBub (nor would it be assured because of their selective nature), but I’ve read accounts of other authors that in the case of BookBub, it is worth it because of their massive exposure. So is that the answer, only offer free books if accepted through BookBub?

Of course, I have no answers. I’ve read a lot of other blogs on the topic, and opinions vary widely. I’m currently on this policy: I generally raised the prices of my ebooks and work hard  to promote during promotional periods. I have no plans to offer free books again anytime soon, though I won’t rule it out completely.

How about you? Any thoughts or wisdom on the topic you’d like to share? I’m all ears!

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