Why you should offer free ebooks for Kindle as part of your marketing plan
The issue of whether you should offer free ebooks for Kindle seems to have many authors scratching their heads. Yes or no? But with 59 million Google search results for free Kindle ebooks, there is definitely a reading market out there for you to leverage.
While I have read many times that some authors are worried about giving away their work for nothing, it is worth remembering that free books are not a new idea at all.
In fact, it is a very old marketing ploy and one that the book publishing industry has been using for almost ever and a day.
In my work as an English teacher, I am offered free textbooks by the dozens every year. When I was a teacher trainer, it was by the hundreds each year. Getting the right people to use or recommend them is what drives textbook sales.
Hence, teachers, principals, school owners and public servants in the education sector are all targets for free books, as they are all in a position to recommend that students buy these books.
In other words, give free copies to people that can influence book sales.
It is not dissimilar for fiction publishers. Thousands of copies are sent out to advance readers, newspapers, television stations, radio stations, or in fact, anywhere a little promotion or influence can be garnered.
Advance copies are also sent out to newspapers to try to get the reviews that you see printed on the back of many mainstream published novels.
So what about self-publishers?
The opportunity Amazon gave to self-published authors with KDP Select was a very logical initiative. Five days during every ninety days are available for free ebook promotion. So, why not use it and do what publishers have been doing forever to promote your books? But of course, you have to grant Amazon exclusivity, which many self-publishing authors resist.
If you are not in KDP Select and open publish, there is very little restriction on how you can use free ebooks. Both Smashwords and Draft2Digital allow you to set your selling price to $0.00, and unlike Amazon, do not restrict the period you can do this. In fact, you can make an ebook permanently free. This is particularly useful for series starter ebooks.
Remember, this should be viewed in perspective. Yes, there are those readers who will crawl over broken glass for anything free, but with millions of people owning Kindle e-readers now, a few hundred ebooks given away is not very many.
Take note, though, that when you make an ebook free through Smashwords or Draft2Digital that your ebook will not be available for free on Kindle. The only way to offer free ebooks on Kindle is by enrolling in KDP Select and granting exclusivity for your ebook to Amazon.
But are there the same influencers for self-published authors by this means?
Yes, but not as directly as for mainstream publishers. By offering free ebooks on Kindle, or through Smashwords or Draft2Digital, you are hoping to get your ebook into the hands of book bloggers, book reviewers and readers who may post a review of your book on either their blogs or if you are lucky, on Amazon directly.
Gaining some new readers is all well and good but isn’t finding influencers better?
If you think about this, next time you plan on offering your ebooks for free, wouldn’t it be a better idea to notify some of these influencers in advance?
By leveraging social media, you can do this. Try to connect with as many book bloggers, book reviewers, avid readers and small press publishers on social media as you can. Then build a list of those you can notify just before you have a free ebook offer.
So does free ebook promotion work, whether on Kindle, Kobo, Apple or B&N?
What free promotion does is help in building name recognition. “Oh him? Yes, I just read one of his books.” It doesn’t matter how the reader got the book, word of mouth is gold.
Think also about how you acquire books to read. It’s not just books you buy that you read. Perhaps a book borrowed from someone or a library. A book you found at work. A book you found in your attic or in a second-hand bookstore, or perhaps, a free book from the Kindle Store.
I can only relate my experience over the years of using both KDP Select and open publishing to offer free ebooks. Yes, free ebooks do help boost visibility, name recognition, attracting new readers and of course, helping gain reviews and real sales.
Series starters offered for free are by far the most productive, and profitable, and can often be left permanently free.
As with all things, however, moderation is the key. In the end, you want real sales, so don’t get carried away with offering free ebooks for extended periods of time without having a clear idea or plan of what you want to achieve.