Should Authors Give Away Their Novels For Free

By Jamie McSloy / April 19, 2018

On Giving Away Free Novels

Check out this guy:

 

Let’s not beat a dead horse here: This is a stupid idea and if you’ve read more than three articles on this blog it’s statistically impossible for you to not understand my opinion is don’t work for free.

Yet this whole “Give away freebies” persists.

For authors, it’s particularly damaging. Let’s find out why, and then talk about when you can give away a novel for free.

Why Authors Shouldn’t Give Away Books For Free

In the business world, people give away books for free or at a reduced cost.

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The other day, I got a book from an expert in global finance for £2. That’s a great deal when you think that the information in it could save someone thousands over the long run.

So why did the author give the book away for £2?

Simple…

He doesn’t care about £2.

He cares about getting his name out there because he charges £5000+ for consulting clients.

The £2 is just a barrier to entry for poor people who wouldn’t ever pay for the consulting. Otherwise, he’s giving away a freebie because it results in more big wins down the road.

This is commonplace in industries where the cost of acquiring a customer is high and the lifetime value of a client is higher.

So take this blog for instance: I give away a ton of free information, and every so often somebody pops up to give me hundreds of dollars  or more at a time.

This is not true for authors.

If you’re an author, your main trade is in a product where you get maybe $10 a sale on the high-end.

Unless you’re ahead of the curve and offering limited editions or other products, your lifetime value of a customer is quite low.

There is no upsell. You can’t give away $10 to get $500 in most cases.

The Only Time I’d Give Away A Novel

The only time I’d give away a novel is when you’re working an upsell, and even then I’d be very careful about offering it to a small test group first.

Something like, “There are ten books in this series, so here’s the first free.”

Even then, I’d lean more on the side of bundling the whole series at a reduced rate.

That way, instead of giving away a free book, you’re saying, “Get my ten book set for $50 instead of $100.”

You’ve massively discounted the books, sure, but at the end of the day you’re making $50 on a purchase as opposed to nothing on a freebie.

Again, another thing you might try is “free book for every Patreon subscriber” but I wouldn’t consider that free either, because they’re paying for it, just in a different way.

All of these amount to what basically is a marketing trick that looks like “free.”

Should You Give Stuff Away?

Giving stuff away is bad for fiction authors in general.

Giving free stuff away should only be done by businesses in order to catch fish for bigger sales later. As I said above, you can’t do that with fiction so much unless you have other back-end offers that aren’t novels.

I know there’ll be people who think, “But Jamie… what about exposure?”

Those people are basically idiots.

There’s no business sense in exposing your business to people who don’t want to pay for your work.

When you give stuff away for free, you attract people who want free stuff. This is entirely counter-productive, and that’s without giving yourself the label of “Dude whose stuff isn’t work paying for.”

Don’t work for exposure. It’s bad for you and doesn’t pay the bills.

Sermon over.

  • Al says:

    When you give stuff away for free, you attract people who want free stuff. This is entirely counter-productive, and that’s without giving yourself the label of “Dude whose stuff isn’t work paying for.”

    Your quote above is the exact reason why I’m afraid to go all-in on an authority site. Giving away hundreds of articles for free and then try to make money of ebooks later on doesn’t seem like a great strategy.

    I currently have am authority blog about a particular video game (very very small niche). The content on both the blog and the YouTube channel is all free. I eventually wrote two books for the site and made a little money. However, I had several of my readers get upset that I was selling books. Again, going back to your quote, my reader expectation was “free, free, free”.

    All of this is what’s tempting me to go the “niche site” route as the reader intent for this is to buy something.

    • Jamie McSloy says:

      Hey Al,

      I have a plan to write about authority sites in more detail over the coming weeks – and after your question the other day, realised I should probably do a bigger, better round up of business models, their drawbacks and strengths at some point in the near future.

      There’s a big misconception in your comment.

      “Giving away hundreds of articles for free and then try to make money of ebooks later on doesn’t seem like a great strategy.”

      This is a mistake – remember articles are lead generators and ebooks aren’t so great at making money from because they’re ultimately lead generators in and of themselves. If you have an authority site, the goal should be something bigger and more expensive than a $10 book ultimately.

      So far as your niche site audience… forget the people who complain. Think of them as free marketing and nothing more. If they aren’t buying, they aren’t a customer.

      Anyway, like I say, more on this in the future. Will have to plan something more comprehensive out, but it fits nicely into the direction I’ll be taking over the coming months.

      Jamie


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