Often the topic of giving away your book for free comes up in conversation. You might heard about the book from Chris Anderson that talked about this relatively new paradigm in depth (you can still download the entire 7 hour unabridged audio book here).
The question is (or the argument presented), that you can sell more books by giving your book away (online, perhaps as a free download).
Let me make this clear: I do believe the freemium model can be good for authors. But you need to have some strategy behind it, and it’s going to take more effort than just providing a link to download your book for free (which I don’t recommend you do). Unless you are a high paid speaker (like Chris Anderson), giving away your entire book for free may make you famous, but I know a lot of poor famous people.
Take note to what they refer to in the app world as the ‘freemium model.’ Over 1/3 of all downloads from the iTunes app store are free. But I don’t suggest you just give away your entire book for free, because doing so devalues the book itself, and people generally don’t pay attention to something they perceive as little value.
GigaOM posted an insightful post about how the iTunes app developers are leveraging the free apps. I do want you to pay particular notice however that GigaOm itself is using the freemium model themselves: That post I just referred you to is free, but in it, there’s a teaser to read an article that is available by subscription only.
So how can authors adopt the freemium model to sell more books?
- Create mini-versions of your book and post them to several of the 3rd party aggregator sites for free (ie. Scribd, Smashwords, Feedbooks, etc.).
- Strategically implant hyperlinks throughout your free book to your own *website (or directly to your listing on Amazon (Amazon will appreciate that) – offer a relevant compelling download in return for their email address.
- You might try to us an auto-responder that send your prospects a series of carefully planned emails, each of with more reasons to buy your book.
- Create .99 mini versions of your book and put them on Kindle. Amazon will be rolling out ‘Amazon Singles’ soon which are mini-versions of popular books to give readers a taste (a step towards a ‘pay-to-preview’ strategy which Amazon already has patents on).
- Give your readers some ‘exclusive’ content in return for joining your facebook page. Facebook is great because it allows you to interact more and more with your readers.
One of the fears an author/publisher has is the ease file sharing technology allows to share content, which in fact, GigaOM also reported that ebooks (pdfs) are one of the most pirated items. To prevent this from potentially stealing your profits, take a tip from What Color is My Parachute, and Dan Poytner (now up to his 16th edition): release new editions of your book annually… nobody will want last years copy when the find out a new edition is available. The changes each of those title usually makes are minor, but buyers still don’t want the older editions.
*Be sure your site is ‘Kindle Friendly’ website by tailoring it to mobile browsers (use the plug-in for wordpress) or build your site using Google Sites (which incidentally looks really good on the Kindle web browser).