On Giving Away Books for Free

Last week, I read this fascinating article from Curiosity Quills Press about giving away books for free. The author’s strategy is to offer her books for free for the first 12 months of their release. Her reasons for doing so, including much higher reading rates and establishing a fan base for later books, are pretty compelling.

As I plan to release my first self-published ebook, the article gave me a lot of food for thought. I plan to go with Kindle Direct publishing, which means that I can only offer the book for free via Amazon for a limited amount of time. However, I plan to price it very low after that — around 99 cents — for several reasons.

  1. The book isn’t very long — about 26,500 words. Small book, small pricetag.
  2. The price is low enough for people to take a chance on it, or make impulse purchases.
  3. It’s still more than the book is earning sitting on my hard drive.

My decision to self-publish as an ebook is actually tied quite strongly to the book’s “inbetween” length — too long for short story markets, too short for novel markets, but “just right” for an ebook. Add to that some questionable practices amongst ebook imprints even with the big-name publishers, and going solo just seems to make the most sense.

And I think I might try Lizzy Ford’s strategy of getting the book into as many people’s hands for free as possible. Back when I wrote Aladdin and Gargoyles fan-fiction, I didn’t know a thing about marketing my work — all I did was write it, and push it out there for the world to see. My fan-fiction won me a lot of fans and admirers, including other authors who wanted to write fan-fic that included characters I introduced. I spent hours writing the stories and posting them, all completely for free. But the reward of being read was thanks enough. And, of course, the reward of creatively expressing myself.

At my heart, I’m still a writer who longs to share my stories. The main reason I’d like to earn money with my writing is so I could spend more time doing it, and less time doing other things to earn money. But a wider readership, even without a price tag attached, is still more than I can accomplish by keeping my stories in my own head and in my own house.