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Why Give Away Your Books?

Discussion in 'Marketing' started by Steerpike, Dec 14, 2012.

  1. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Cory Doctorow answers this question:

    Full answer at: Little Brother » About this book/FAQ
     
  2. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I'm not sure I get the argument that nobody buys just digital copies (If you click the link, the author goes on to explain more of his reasoning on why giving books away is a good thing. One of his points is that it spurs paper sales.).

    1. That's certainly not true for me. While I sometimes enjoy the feel of paper, I had the burden of ownership. Moving boxes of books around, trying to find places to store them, etc. sucks. I also like the concept of having my entire library with me wherever I go.

    2. The author contends that sales are increased when you do a giveaway b/c people use the ebook as a sample and then buy the paper version to read. I think that sales probably increase because your exposure increases.

    3. The author contends that people don't like reading on screens b/c they spend all their time reading screens. Wait. What?

    Not saying that you shouldn't give away your books, I'm just not sure that this guy's reasoning is sound.
     
  3. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

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    BWFoster78,

    Going by the dated comments, this article was published in 2008. That's a long time and much has changed. Thus, I believe the ebook to spur print book sales is less valid of a reason than it was 4-5 years ago. Ebooks and ebook readers are much more common and an acceptable medium to read to a number of readers. That also reflects the reading off screens comment.
     
  4. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Didn't check the date. That would make more sense.
     
  5. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    Some issues with dating...especially since ebooks are really the vehicle that today's self-pubbers want to move and the print editions are more sidekick-y, but I have read current sources referencing that when people get a giveaway they enjoy that they are more likely to purchase either other versions of the giveaway or other titles that you are offering.

    It's kind of like being given something free at a restaurant and then giving the giver a larger tip than normal; that said, many people do still want the dead tree versions bogging them down as well.
     
  6. In general, print sales are continuing to decline while ebooks sales continue to climb. By my estimates of the industry (based on the Association of American Publishers' data from larger publishers plus estimates of the data they don't track), ebooks will probably represent about half of fiction sales in the USA around the turn of the year.

    That is not a trend likely to reverse. While the changeover to ebook will slow now, it's already an enormous part of the market. You simply can't give away the ebook and hope that the print sales will make you money, today. It's unsustainable.

    Instead, writers today often give away ONE book in order to attract new readers who will buy their other five, ten, twenty, or more books. Ideally, if the reader likes the free book and goes to buy your other ten books, you've given away one book but earned $35 from those other sales.
     
    Zero Angel likes this.
  7. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Zero Angel likes this.
  8. JayEmma

    JayEmma Acolyte

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    In light of this. Is it wise to be posting free fiction with ads as your support.
    This is something that I am taking part in right now. I figured it would be good exposure,
    considering I am a part of the demographic that is used to not paying for things. I don't
    find that I mind supplying my story online.

    Tried to make an interactive reading site that is tablet friendly with some "grabbing" content.
     
  9. Addison

    Addison Auror

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    "In a world where 175,000 attend the San Diego Comic Con alone, you've got to figure that most of the people who "like science fiction" (and related geeky stuff like comics, games, Linux, and so on) just don't really buy books." Now that I think about it I haven't seen many sci-fi books (as in dealing with aliens, space exploration and such) in book stores. There's less sci-fi and more fantasy books yet there's more sci-fi and less fantasy comic books.
     
  10. danr62

    danr62 Sage

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    Authors are speculating that some of the E-readers will start to offer free books that are supported by ads, similar to the free games you find on Itunes and Google Play now.
     
  11. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    The value of free is declining rapidly I suspect. There are now so many free books out there, and even giving them away is hard on Select. I tried it once, gave away two thousand copies of Pawn, but got back not a single review, and my sales elsewhere weren't lifted one iota. Apparently I missed the gold rush which probably died four months before that. Unfortunately my experience was far from alone.

    As an author I won't be doing it again, and in fact I'm going to be going through my old books this year, re-editing and producing new covers, and raising my prices. Thanks to Amazon's latest changes to their algorithm, it makes more sense.

    Now the cost to companies of free books is starting to bite. Amazon uses it to sell kindles, thinking that the revenue they lose on the books is made up for by increased sales of their e-readers. But one of the things that happened the moment they brought out Select, was that sales of other books dropped. So the economic cost to them was more than just the lack of royalties from the books they gave away. And at the same time e-readers are everywhere and kindles are competing with all the others, not to mention pads, phones, tablets, laptops and computers. Soon the increased sales of the kindle will start to fall away. I don't expect to see free books on Amazon continue for the rest of the year, or at least not in the way that they have been. They'll be restricted in some way.

    That's my prediction for 2013.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  12. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    I'm not sure free giveaways are all that good of an idea. I downloaded a few free stories onto my new Kindle. In fact I downloaded precisely four free stories. Three novels and one short. The short was Michael Sullivan's the Viscount and the Witch which I downloaded because he posts here and on reddit/writing, but the other three I downloaded through browsing, ranked by price low to high and filtered by 4 stars and above. I looked at a few blurbs and ignored the ones with vampires and anything else that didn't sound like the sort of thing I'm interested in, and picked out three I liked the sound of.

    All have since been deleted, barely read. One had utterly terrible grammar, so bad I could not ignore it. One had one homophone (council/counsel) but other than that began as a boring deathbed discussion between two important nobles about the other important nobles. It didn't pull me in. The third I can't even remember why I deleted. Meanwhile the stuff I have paid for (fiction and non-fiction alike) has been interesting, gripping, exciting, well written and well proofread. So my initial impression is that paying for something is worth my time, and not paying for something means it's not worth either time or money. I can't be the only one who has been given this impression by some of the free stuff available.

    Now maybe I'm being less forgiving because it's free - that is, maybe I feel that once I've paid for something, I'm gonna work through any initial doubts and reservations because I've paid for it and not reading it is a waste of money. But I don't think that is the case. From what is admittedly a very small sample size, I've spotted a key difference in the works being sold and the works being given away: quality.

    So maybe that's the drawback of free: the perception of low quality. The belief that if the author doesn't put a value on it, there isn't much value to be had. So people don't give it the benefit of the doubt. They expect it to be sub-par because that's what they've come across with free stuff already, and thanks to confirmation bias the errors that exist are that much more noticable, because you're expecting them.
     
  13. Addison

    Addison Auror

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    ....while that sounds as if it's helping e-publishers and e-writers, it sounds sucky. People want to read books to read a story, not an ad for....shaving lotion or the newest TuPac song.
     
  14. saellys

    saellys Inkling

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    Too true. So much for total immersion in another world.
     
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Actually, if Tupac was still somehow releasing new songs, I wouldn't mind reading about it. There's a story in there somewhere.
     
    saellys and Kit like this.
  16. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    I was given a Nook for Christmas and finding anything worth reading on that for free seems to be even harder than on Kindle. I beileve I am straddling the generations on those that pay and those that expect free, but is that really a generational thing? Or is it just that kids don't have money to spend on stuff and so seek out free crap?

    Anyway, there's just sooooo much rubbish out there. Gah.

    But still, I am finding "success" (read: better than without) publishing with Kindle and KDP personally (although in nonfiction, not fiction).

    Did Kindle really lose such a large chunk of their revenue? I find that unlikely. Any sources? I would expect people to treat free books like they were free books (i.e. if they were physical they might take them for a year and donate them to a library when they realize they've had them for a year and never read them, but since they're on cloudspace they don't mind downloading). A free book (especially the shorter fare that is becoming the norm for self-pubbers) doesn't replace a book from a bestseller or a favorite author or one that is critically acclaimed or that has been made into a movie.

    Again, I don't think that free books are great for selling *THAT* book, but if it is the first in a series or a tie-in or whatever, then it is a very reasonable marketing plan that I think everyone, self-pubber or not, should take advantage of. My plan, once I have a few more books out, is to get out of KDP Select, and make some shorts and intros available for free permanently.
     
  17. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    I recently read an article about Amazon and Google. Amazon isn't making money like they want to. The CEO told the board that Amazon's current strategy will take years for the payoff. Many people in the financial sector don't want to be patient want wait for Amazon to start turning a profit. Yes, as I am able to recall, Amazon isn't making any money. The biggest sink is the Kindle line and e-books (along with how you can read books for free with a Prime membership and the author still gets paid).

    The article was comparing Amazon's new ad revenue they're trying to bolster, as compared to Google's. It then starting talking about ebooks, tablets, and profitability.
     
  18. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    If someone's relying on piracy to spread their name, they're not helping their career. Piracy might spread your work around a little, but it also impresses upon people that your work isn't worth paying for.

    You can toy with offering your work away from free - I wouldn't advise it for most people, but there's certainly ways to pull it off. But if that's what you want to do, then offer your work for free, and encourage your fans to pass it around. Make it legal, make it fun. Make it part of your brand, not something that undercuts your brand.


    While that's probably true, no trend continues at a constant pace forever. At some point the ebook-to-print sales ratio will stabilize. I don't know where, or how soon, but it's inevitable that the growth of ebooks will hit their ceiling, and print its floor. I wouldn't be surprised if the trend begins to slow relatively soon - fewer people are buying ereaders and tablets for the first time.
     
  19. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I agree with Devor that you don't want to devalue your work.

    On the other hand, if you have a lot of books out, giving away one as a sample, especially the first in a series, can be very effective. A long time ago, I was in Waldenbooks, and they gave me a free sample containing the first 10 chapters of Eye of the World. All these years later, I'm about to buy the last of the series in hardcover as soon as it comes out, as I've done with the rest of them.

    Whenever I find an author that I like, I give consideration to buying anything they've written.
     
  20. Amazon is an odd bird. Bezos has managed to retain control of the company despite the public stock offering, which isn't especially common. Most companies are basically run by their stockholders, which means they HAVE to focus on profits getting to the stockholder. If the stockholders don't make money, the stockholders fire people until they find someone who will make them money.

    Amazon being controlled by Bezos makes it a different bird. Stockholders constantly complain about not making any money from Amazon stocks. Bezos has consistently told them they aren't going to, so stop planning on it (not in precisely those terms, but that's the general feeling). Because Amazon is NOT focused on paying out huge dividends to stockholders, it has an enormous advantage over competitors: it can effectively play at a zero profit margin and still consider itself a success. That's HUGE. None of their competitors can match that margin, because of stockholder demands.

    Effectively, the only company which can in the long run compete well with Amazon is another company controlled from the top, by the owner, so that they can slice margins to the same low level. That has the potential to change the entire structure of American business. Right now, it's focused on large companies which exist only to make their stockholders money; but if that model cannot compete with Amazon's "controlled by the owner" model (and I'm not sure it can), then we could see a massive adjustment in business structure and redistribution of wealth.
     
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