Free books are good, but...
Let's not forget that the author pays the price for every free book.
When my fantasy series The Ancestors' Secrets were first published, I was so excited that I ordered about 30 print copies. Then I noticed some formatting errors, so I changed the interior of the book and published it again, but I ended up with 30 books from the first print.
So I took the books to work and gave them away for free. Everyone at work was happy and the books were gone within minutes, except one book that two coworkers fought over because both of them wanted it.
To end the argument I asked them, "Which one of you like to read fantasy stories?"
One said, "I only read steamy romance and vampire stories, but I want this book for my daughter."
The other one replied, "I like movies and I don't read books."
So I told this other woman, "If you're not going to read it, why do you want it?"
She laughed and said, "Because it's free. Free is good, right?"
I didn't ask any of my 30 coworkers if they liked the story or not, but for months they kind of avoided me and only two coworkers out of thirty told me that they read the books and loved the story.
Yes, free is good, but... There are a lot of readers on social sites who attend events and win giveaway books, browse selling sites for promotional giveaways, or bluntly ask the authors for free copies.
Do they read all the free books that are stored on their reading devices?
This interaction with a reader made me doubt that. I did two giveaways when my audio books were published. I gave out free, promotional download codes for honest reviews. A reader won my book in the first giveaway and when I did another one two months later, she was selected as a winner by the random "winner chooser" program. She messaged me for the code and when I reminded her that she had the book already, she replied, "Oh, I forgot LOL." and I never heard from her again. Mind you, these giveaways were a "free copy for an honest review" but she didn't keep her promise to post a review for the free book, she didn't even bother listening to the audio book. It remains a mystery why she wanted the book twice if she wan't interested in listening to it even once.
Moreover, this morning I had an interesting chat with a reader.
She messaged me asking for a free eBook of my children's story, Pico The Pesky Parrot. She explained that the granddaughter of her friend loved the book, and she wanted it for her six years old grandson because she just got the iPad she purchased for him and wanted to give it to him with lots of picture books on it.
I sent her the link to buy it on Amazon, but she replied that $2.99 is too much for an eBook for a young kid.
You know what?
At first I was tempted to give her a free book because it was for a child, but then I thought about it and said no. If she could afford paying $700 for an iPad and finds $2.99 book too highly priced, she has no respect for my work, and she doesn't care that I have to put food on the table from the money I make by selling my books. She doesn't care how many hours I spend writing the book, drawing and painting illustrations, and how much money I spend on editing and publishing.
I made a decision not to give my books away for free anymore.
I rather have three readers who respect my work and pay for my books than one thousand readers who just want a free book because they don't care how much work goes into it.
If interested, take a look at: MY BOOKS page
Erika M Szabo
Author of magical realism, fantasy and children's books, Publishing Coach at
Print & eBook