Doesn't it devalue your work?
Why would they buy something if they can get it for free?
Because the purchase has value.
But my work is worth paying for!
Of course. Using free samples will help you sell more.
No one will ever buy books again!
Sales of ebooks are up 38% over the last 2 years (AAP 2014).
All the questions above focus on a sort-of adversarial relationship with your reader. How can I get them to value my work? How can I force them to buy it? Instead, you need to look at this from the reader's perspective: they don't know who you are and they don't know if your work is any good.
I'm very much in the Cory Doctorow school of thought on this:
The problem isn't that people are getting stuff for free ... the problem is they've never heard of you at all.
The Two Jobs of Marketing
*get your book in front of people's eyeballs
*persuade them it will provide value to their lives
How Free Samples Market Your Books - Hook, Line, and Sinker
The thing that best sells your work is... your work. Your writing either provides value (entertainment, inspiration, information) or it doesn't. And the reader often won't know if it has value until your work is actually in their hands (under their eyeballs? In their minds? Something like that). Add in that your work won't have the same value for all readers, and you can see the problem.
But casting a Line (a free sample) out into the world will reel in the people that it does have value for. I call this the Hook, Line, and Sinker approach.
- The Hook—your blurb, cover, price, first chapter "look inside" feature
- The Line—any way that you reach readers (blog posts, ads, amazon algorithms, social media)
- The Sinker—a satisfying reader experience after they've finished the book
Free Samples in Fiction
Fiction is particularly difficult to market because everyone's tastes are different, and it's hard to tell if you'll really enjoy something until you've actually read the whole thing—the blurb/cover/first chapter may look good, but in the end, the story may not deliver. This is why reviews are important for fiction, but also why a free book is so effective.
Free fiction works (complete short stories/novels) do two things: 1) they put a complete story experience in the readers' hands, and 2) they turn readers into fans who will buy your other works.
Caveat: you need to have "other work" for this strategy to translate into sales.
Don't give away your only book!
Example: The first book in my Mindjack series is free! On average, I get about 10% carry over from the free downloads of book #1 to sales of book #2 (or the box set). Carry over from book#2 to book#3 is about 90%—once I've hooked the reader in that series, they not only buy out the series, they often go on to read all my works. The free book is a constant funnel of new readers into my entire backlist. The first episode of my Debt Collector serial is also free ... to entice people to try a new format (serial).
Best Practices for Free Fiction:
- Set the first book in a series free.
- Give away free short stories (or free novels) for newsletter signups.
- Be generous with review copies and giveaways.
Free Samples in Non-Fiction
I'm a fiction writer, but I have one non-fiction title: the Indie Author Survival Guide. I blogged my way through this book and published it when I was done. All the blog posts are still on my blog—which means you can get it for free on my blog!
There are even free webinars on my page as well!
People still buy the book. Why?
1) Discovery—I don't advertise this book, so discovery is strictly by word of mouth and Amazon algorithms. But clearly, many people are discovering the book first and blog second. This is part of why I published the book—the reach of my blog is limited. Once it's up on Amazon, the reach is limitless.
2) Value—With 46 reviews (4.8 out of 5 stars), readers are getting value from the book. You can get it free on my blog (and I've even nicely organized it for you), but the convenience of having it all in one place on your ereader gives added value... and people are willing to pay for that (it helps that I've priced it well). Plus, having it in book format makes it easy for people to recommend.
After I published the book, I left the individual posts on my blog. Why?
- SEO—my blog has good visibility (I've been blogging for over 5 years), so people searching for a particular topic will often find their way to my blog ... and then to the book.
- If readers download the non-fiction title for free, and find value in it, they may find some of my fiction of interest as well... I put a pitch for my fiction at the back of the book.
- I really want this information out there to help my friends—that's why I wrote it in the first place. If I never sold a single copy, I would be fine with that. But I knew that by putting it on Amazon, it would reach (and help) more people.
Guest posts of your non-fiction work are a no brainer. Why?
- Guest blog posts are a great way to spread your digital footprint—these are Lines you are casting out into the blogosphere that have a free sample of your work, i.e. a Hook to convince readers your book has value.
- Unlike fiction, you don't need to read an entire non-fiction work to know if it will have value for you as a reader. In fact, the value of a non-fiction work may come from a single idea I've gleaned from it! It's easy to tell from a small sample (blog post) if a non-fiction author knows her stuff and will provide value to you in a longer work.
This book is for every author who's thinking about indie publishing, or has already taken the leap, and wonders why no one told them about the sharks, the life-sucking social media quicksand, or the best way to avoid sales-checking, yellow-spotted fever. This is a guide for the heart as much as the head.
USING FREE SAMPLES TO INCREASE SALES: FICTION & NON-FICTION by @susankayequinn http://goo.gl/rqeUa8 #TheArtistUnleashed #indieauthor