I have been reading a lot of posts online, as well as a few books on the subject of marketing. Most are now saying that the free promotions are not as useful as they used to be—that it is counter-productive, that it is saturating the market, that it teaches people to not have to pay for books, etc. That probably is true in the larger picture, and especially for those authors who have already broken the “obscurity barrier”. However, that point of view overlooks several important things.
The obscurity barrier is when a new author is so unknown to potential readers, that it would take a miracle for them to be noticed by anyone who might actually be interested in reading their book. I still fall into that category. For those authors, the best thing in the world is to give away thousands of copies of their book to potential readers in the hopes of getting noticed and therefore establishing a fan base. Many authors view this as throwing away money. I don’t see it that way. If you are so obscure that no one will ever find out that you even wrote a book, then the so called money that you are supposedly “throwing away” never existed to begin with. Giving away free copies of your book is a much better plan than to spend hundreds of dollars on marketing with no guarantee that it will even pay for itself. The free promotion gets your book into readers’ hands; they get the whole book to read in its entirety in order to make up their minds about your style of writing, and it doesn’t cost you a cent. You might even get a few reviews by doing this.
On a personal level, I am very happy to give away free copies of my book to anyone who cares to receive it and read it. To me it is a win/win for both me and the potential reader.
Here is another thing about free books on amazon: I have lived outside of the United States, and I know how difficult it can be to find literature in English to read while abroad. Books in most countries outside of the US are very expensive, even if they are not in English. In South America, books in Spanish can be about three times as expensive as the same book sold in the US. Now, granted a person can theoretically load up their Kindles before they ever leave the states. What about the person who has never set foot in the United States, but enjoys reading literature in English to improve their vocabulary? Whether it is for work or personal pleasure. What about the child of a foreign missionary, or army brat, who not only doesn’t have the option to come to the United States and load up their Kindle, not to mention that they probably can’t afford to buy a Kindle in the first place? By the way, those of you who send care packages to missionaries and the armed services should consider including a Kindle that you can fill up first with a bunch of great books. There are a lot of drm free books out there to choose from; however it does take some time to find them.
The nice thing about free books on amazon.com, is that as long as you sign up with a US address, you can download free books anywhere in the world, without having to enter any sort of payment information. Then you can read them on google chrome in the Amazon Cloud Reader or download one of the many free apps that Amazon offers their readers.
So, say you want to include a filled up Kindle in a care package, here is one idea of how you can do that. Open a new amazon.com account and enter a US address. Purchase a Kindle, either from that account or your personal amazon.com account. After you make the purchase, you can begin to buy books for it. Some Kindles need to have an initial connection within the US borders. So have the Kindle shipped to yourself. When you get the Kindle make sure it is registered to the new amazon.com account to establish the connection. If you entered payment information in order to buy the Kindle, now is a good time to delete that information from the account. At this point, you can ship the Kindle to its final destination, in a care package or however you wish to send it. On the receiving end whoever gets the Kindle can continue to purchase as many free books as they wish, without having to enter any kind of payment information. You can also continue to add free books to that account (as long as no one changes the username and password). Should the recipient wish to buy books that are not free, they can enter their own payment information or someone can send them an amazon gift card, which they can then redeem in books for their Kindle.
Another nice thing is that for those people who are learning or seeking to improve their English, they can download an ebook and then search for the audio version, sometimes also for free. Most of the classics are permanently free for Kindle on amazon.com. There are also many free audio books at librivox. Some people might like to listen to it at the same time as reading it in order to improve their English pronunciation. The same can be done for those learning Spanish; however there are not as many books available in Spanish or other languages. Of course, the Kindle does have a text-to-speech feature that will read the book in a mechanical voice for English books.
One final thought on free books, is that I think it is a great thing for children and teenagers, who don’t have money for buying books, to be able to read for free. Especially, books that are uplifting and inspirational, as well as entertaining. I am very disappointed that most of the Christian Fiction is very expensive. It is not unusual to find that they are about $14.99 dollars at the regular price for the Kindle version. It is almost as if they are purposely trying to keep their books out of the reach of the younger generation, even when the books are categorized in the YA genre. I feel sorry for those authors, because their books are good and definitely deserve to be read, but so many young people can’t afford them. That is one of the reasons that when I find a free promotion, I want to let everyone know about it, and so I post them on my facebook page. It may be the only way that certain people will ever have the chance to read them.
This is one of the reasons why I am so glad to be a self-publisher and have never wished to be published by a publishing company. I, myself, can set the price of my books to whatever I wish and offer many free promotions, as well as being able to give away as many free copies of my books as there are people who wish to read them. Now is the right time to mention that you may send me an email (free at aslauggorbitz.com) anytime to request a free copy of any of my books. Please specify which book and include what format you prefer—Kindle, epub, PDF, etc.