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
Where do you sell your books?
I've been asked this question many times.
Because they can't find my books in bookstores, or forgot the title of the book, or want to find out where they can find my books at a best price.
By author friends:
Because book sales are down and they're looking for new markets to sell their own books.
My marketing and book promotion budget is very small.
I can't afford paying about $2,000 a month to hire a book publicist. I can't even afford getting my books on a popular newsletter list. Therefore, I have to stretch the few dollars and find the best places to promote and sell my books on the budget I can afford. The majority of my author friends are in the same shoes as well.
What doesn't work for me:
Hiring a book publicist:
It is out of the question on my budget. Who can afford to pay $1,000-2,000 a month?
To get my books on the best newsletter lists cost around $200-400/book. If I could get my investment back from the sales, it would be wort it to pay that much. But, in order to sell around 100 books (as the site estimates for fantasy books average sales) I have to lower the book price to 99 cents. So, I would have to pay $300 to put my book on the list and from 100 sales (if I get lucky to sell 100 books) my royalty payment would be around $33
Promote my books on social sites:
Facebook groups are loaded with book promo posts, but the readers seem to be interested only in finding free books, so it's not worth the time. Twitter posts are close to worthless when it comes to selling books. Again, readers on Twitter are looking for free books. Authors constantly tweet and retweet, but they get very few sales. The only result is that they get a sense of false security because they see their posts retweeted, but most likely other authors are retweeting their posts and expecting a retweet of their posts.
Pay for Facebook or Google ads:
Tried it, and found out that it doesn't work. They show the ad to thousands of people, but when I look at the stats, out of 1500 views maybe 1 or 2 people click on the buying link.
Wait for selling sites to sell books for me:
Amazon sold about 10 eBooks for me since January, but only when I lowered the price to 99 cents, and they didn't sell a single paperback all year. However, in August, since I have an author page on my publisher website, the sales picked up. B&N didn't sell any eBooks until August, but sold a few paperbacks that Ingram published on their site. I had only a few eBook sales on Kobo and iBooks from Smashwords, again, until August when the sales picked up.
What works for me:
Ingram charges $60/book to include books in the newsletter to retailers and libraries. It was worth investing the money, but I yet to break even because they pay very low royalty.
My own BOOKSTORE:
I sold a few signed copies to US readers. To mail the books to other countries is so expensive that it's not worth it.
My Featured Author page http://www.goldenboxbooks.com/erika-m-szabo.html on my publisher website:
Since the beginning of August when the page was created, there are a lot of outgoing traffic to selling sites and both eBook and print sales picked up.
Signed books page on my publisher website http://www.goldenboxbooks.com/signed-books
So far I had 4 sales in August. The easy click Paypal link is connected to my PayPal account and it is a lot easier and faster than ordering books from Amazon or other sites.
Recommended books page http://www.goldenboxbooks.com/recommended-books
I suspect that those Amazon eBook sales were directed from this page where the readers can read a review, because prior to adding my books to this page, Amazon sales were close to nonexistent.
Check out the promo options on the link below
Erika M Szabo
Author of magical realism, fantasy and children's books, Publishing Coach at
Print & eBook