One of the major issues in the kindle community right now is the fact that if you take part in the Kindle Select project, you can give away your book for up to five days in every opt in period of 90 days.
While extolling or decrying the virtues of this, though, people are talking about it like it’s an entirely new thing.
Except it’s not. Bear with me a second
They’re called L-I-B-R-A-R-I-E-S
One of the things that people seem to be entirely overlooking is the fan factor that libraries create. Not sure if you’re going to like the author you’re being raved at about? Money too tight for books (it sucks, but it happens!) – head on over to the Library, and see if they’ve got the book.
Like it? you’ll probably buy one of them at some point. Indifferent – for now? you might read another. Totally don’t care? You’ve wasted nothing but a little bit of your time.
So, are free download books, as part of KDPS or other freebie projects the same?
The problem with freebies is that if you’re not careful, that’s the only time you’ll shift your books. One horrible realisation hit me recently, when a friend said ‘oh I don’t buy indie books, I just wait for the author to use their five days. It’s not as if I’m exactly hurting for something to read, now is it?’ She even continued that ‘I won’t even buy yours, hon. I know you’re a good writer, but if [email protected] going to spend money on an e-reader, I don’t want to spend, even a couple of dollars on a book till I’m sure i’ll love it. And I don’t know till I’ve got the freebie, now do I?’
Other readers view it much the same way – while some authors are quite similar – they’ll only buy books from people who are ‘verified buyers’ of theirs – whether their book is several times the cost of the other author’s book or not. On a private chat, I saw someone saying ‘well yes, you buy my book for $10, and of course, I’ll buy yours, as long as it’s no more than $3.”
On the other hand, there are some really touching stories – indies that will only buy from other indies – indies that would rather spend their book budget (which can be small or quite large) on other writers and reviewers that only work with indie books. But the idea that we give to get is proving to be difficult for some – especially when one person sees another outperforming them on the same free days. It’s also proving to be quite frustrating for those that just can’t get traction.
The imbalance is startling though, because while it’s true that people do this sort of thing, going ‘free’ is the single easiest way to get fans. If you can afford it. For some indies, they just can’t. And eventually, as a tactic, it’s not going to work. There are thousands of free books, every day. Without standing out on places like Pixel of Ink and other sites, you may find it very difficult to leverage that.
Whether the bump in stats is worth it also remains to be seen. There are no side by side studies of two books, by two authors – one running the same amount of promotion with their free book, one running it without putting their book free. With all the variables, studies like that might be nigh on impossible to work through, even on an anecdotal level.
So, it is a bit like the library – with one crucial difference – the readers don’t have to return your books, and there is no queue to get it.