If the book is free, is it any good?

I’m giving away free copies of my Kindle e-books Childless by Marriage and Azorean Dreams Oct. 28-31. Sure, I want you to know about it and download copies, but I also want to talk about this freebie phenomenon. It’s a promotion encouraged by Amazon.com, the main perk for being enrolled in their Kindle Select program. The idea, seemingly approved by all who sell e-books, is that getting huge numbers of people to download your books and post favorable reviews will show the world that these books are worthy of note. Ideally, you and your book will go viral, publishers, movie producers and Oprah will notice, and your career will take off. That’s the dream.

To make this work, you publicize the giveaway on the dozens of sites offering free Kindle books. At least dozens. Google “free Kindle ebooks.”  I keep finding more, and I’m exhausted from filling out their forms. This is not writing, not even close. This is giving away my books. But it’s an e-book that didn’t actually cost me anything to publish. I’m a lot more stingy with the printed version.

I’ve got a friend who only reads books on her Kindle now and only downloads books that are free. She’s not the only one. When she and her husband joined me and my brother and his wife for dinner a while back, they shared long lists of free e-book sites.

People don’t want to pay for books anymore, not if there’s a chance they can get them for free. I find myself looking for freebies, too. Out in the world, when I’m selling my paperbacks, I have noticed that all of us independent author/publishers are lowering the prices on our books. In 1998, when my book Stories Grandma Never Told came out, people were tossing $20 bills at me like they were nothing. Now I’ve got customers counting out singles, hoping they can put together $15 for a new book. Why? It’s partially the economy, but it’s also the new mindset of readers that books shouldn’t cost real money.

Or is it just self-published books? Most of the freebies are self-published, and most of them are fiction. Books published by the big corporations cost less than they used to, but you won’t see them being given away. People will buy them without these special promotions.

Perusing the free titles, I get a little queasy. According to http://digitalbooktoday.com, 4,000-5,000 free titles are being offered right now. Yet their subjects don’t appeal to me–heavy on vampires, murders and romance–and the ones I have read often need a little more editing. I suddenly picture the bins of worn paperbacks outside the secondhand store. “Free,” the hand-lettered sign proclaims, but they don’t look like books anyone would want.

Bottom line, I want people to read my books. Lots of people. Money is a secondary concern. So I’ll give them away for four days and see what happens. Let’s consider it my Halloween gift to the world.

What do you think about all this? How much are you willing to pay for an e-book? Paperback? Hardcover? If it’s free or inexpensive, do you automatically assume it’s not as good?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Comments on “If the book is free, is it any good?”

  1. lornamurphy says:

    I read some free books, including classics but also new, presumably self published authors. I’ve seen a couple of authors whose free books I enjoyed begin to start charging. There is a lot of sifting through samples involved – and I do approach free content with the expectation it won’t be great – but it does turn up some gems sometimes.

    • Thanks, Lorna. I read some free books, too. In fact, I just downloaded one that I think will be fun. But I think you do have to sift through a lot of books to find the good ones. So many vampire books!


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