After reading an interesting blog post recently by Glynis Sym about ‘Freebie Reading’, it started me thinking about the value of publishing free ebooks. While many believe they are useful from a marketing perspective in attracting attention to an author, there are pitfalls with the idea.
When I began publishing, ebooks were yet to hit the market so it meant sending free ARC (Advance Reader Copies) copies to book reviewers and book bloggers. Then when ebooks arrived, this process was superseded by sending ebook files and saved a lot of time and money. But now, this convenience and practicality has extended to authors offering free ebooks to all readers.
At first I was wary, and I suppose I still am, as the idea of giving away my hard work to all and sundry is something I am just not happy about doing. However, I found a compromise that I thought would work. Instead of giving away one of my novels, I gathered together the best of what I had written as ‘The Vandal’ and published ‘Vandalism of Words‘. A collection of short stories, poetry, some better than average blog posts and excerpts from a book of essays I had published previously. All in all a solid volume of around 90,000 words. So, not a bad offering – for free.
While it has proven to be quite popular, now having been downloaded by more than 10,000 people, I have learned to accept that there are those who just cannot resist proving their literary superiority and posting quite nasty reviews. In Glynis’ post she refers to free ebooks as a gift that should be accepted graciously. While most will, and understand that a free ebook offered by an author simply serves the purpose of gaining a taste for a writer’s style, and therefore being able to decide if they may want to read more of their work, there are many who don’t understand this.
They fail to understand that a free ebook is hardly likely to be the author’s best work. I mean, duh, as if an author would give away their best work for free. These ‘reading snobs’ as Glynis so appropriately calls them are unfortunately in abundance on the Internet now, so here is the word of caution if you are contemplating offering a free ebook as a promotional tool.
Be very prepared to receive a lot of bad reviews along with the good and understand that this is the price you will pay for offering your work to the world for free. Of course while most readers will understand it is a gift, there will be many who will not, and take pleasure in writing a venomous review.
The real question is whether it is worth exposing your work in this way. In my situation, I’m really not sure, as my free book has probably worked well in promoting my blog, but as it is so different in substance and style from my other works, I can’t say it has led to an avalanche of book sales.
I would be interested to hear your views on this if you have offered a free ebook of your work, or if you have read some of the free ebooks that are available.