On last week’s IndieChat event, hosted every Tuesday night on Twitter by publishing solutions company BiblioCrunch, the guest speaker was from a new tool, InstaFreebie. This platform allows authors to easily create a free version of their books–with or without DRM and reader watermarking, as they choose–in order to share them with readers. I happened to mention that I used the platform in March and between InstaFreebie and KDP Select gave away over 200 copies of my books in March alone.
The response was immediate: “Aren’t you worried about those lost sales?”
At this year’s London Book Fair, taking place now, self-publishing success story Hugh Howey spoke on a panel with the UK head of Kobo Writing Life, one of the top three major self-publishing platforms. Howey, who has openly stated in the past that his story is not typical for indie authors, explained the purpose and the benefits to giving away free books as a reader engagement tool.
Many publishing industry professionals caution against giving away free content, as they feel it reduces the value in the eyes of the reader. Likewise, surveys have shown that low price points for books make readers respond negatively, as if thinking to themselves, “How good can it be? Even the author didn’t think it was worth a whole dollar.”
But Howey’s point is that only truly undervalued books are the ones that no one reads because they can’t find them. In this time of difficulty for book discovery, offering your content–especially backlist content–to readers is a way to entice them into getting to know the rest of your list.
Howey went on to expand on his fear that the current climate of self-publishing will continue to perpetuate the model that traditional publishing has always experienced, namely that there will be a limited number of bestselling and successful authors at the top, followed by the remaining “unknowns.” He explained that the self-publishing market should be a place where every author can find his audience, and enjoy some measure of success, regardless of how that success manifests itself.