Daily Archives: February 26, 2014

The Power of Free

coins in handsI subscribed to BookBub about a month ago to get emails about free and bargain books. At first, I was willing to pay $0.99 or $1.99 for books that sounded appealing to me. But now? With these emails coming to my inbox every day, I don’t even look at the books that aren’t free unless they’re by an author I know.

That probably sounds harsh. No one understands better than I do that artists need to be paid for their work.

But BookBub is advertising. You make your book available for free or at a discount so you can broaden your reach, not because you’re hoping to make a lot of money from the promotion. The goal is to attract new readers—readers who will love your work and buy the other novels you’ve got for sale. Readers who will tell their friends how much they loved your book.

When you look at the statistics on BookBub’s site, it’s pretty clear that authors aren’t raking in the cash by charging for their books rather than offering them for free. The more you charge for the book, the more it costs to advertise. For women’s fiction, the listing cost is $160 for a free book and $320 for a $0.99 book. Free women’s fiction books average 13,900 downloads, while the paid novels sell about 960 copies on average. At the 35% royalty rate for a $0.99 book, you’d be making about $336. Subtract the advertising cost, and the profit is $16.

But if you take the $160 loss to advertise the free book, and forgo the $16 profit, you reach 12,940 more readers on average vs. charging for the book. Are all the people who download the free book going to read it? No. Most of them probably won’t read it. But they’re far more likely to read the book if it’s on their e-reader than if it isn’t.

Although I write fiction, I’m also a reader. I subscribe to BookBub to discover new authors. When so many are competing for my attention, I choose the ones that offer me the best deal. Authors have to do what makes sense according to their own marketing plan. But I can’t help thinking many are missing out because they don’t understand the power of free.

What do you think? As a reader, are you more likely to download a discounted  book if it’s free than if it’s priced at $0.99 to $2.99? If you’re an author, do you have experience with promotions at different price points? What worked best for you?

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