If book marketing is a challenge for you, welcome — it’s a huge challenge for everyone. Of all the many marketing options for books however, “free” causes the biggest confusion.
Authors wonder whether they should enroll their ebooks in KDP Select, so that they’re free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, whether they MUST have freebies to get subscribers onto a mailing list, why “free” no longer seems to work…
Let’s look at the challenges of free ebooks; “free” has become a real tyranny for many authors.
Book marketing and “free”: readers can read free ebooks, forever
Here’s the biggest challenge. Readers no longer need to buy any ebooks. They can read free ebooks forever, even without subscribing to Kindle Unlimited. Check Amazon, and you’ll find free ebooks in every genre of fiction, and in every nonfiction category.
Authors rely far too much on offering freebies, and then they complain that freebies no longer work.
My opinion: free works. Sorta. Kinda.
I’m a huge fan of free as a marketing strategy; I love blogging, and have been offering free stuff since around 2002. For many years, individuals, and companies small and huge, rode the free bandwagon to success, or to disaster.
“Free” has never been a solution. It’s only a strategy. Making stuff free in order to get readers works for some authors, and fails for others.
The secret: when you offer free samples, you need stuff to sell
Let’s say you’ve written a book. For argument’s sake, we’ll say it’s a mystery novel, but it could be anything at all. You enroll your ebook in KDP Select, which automatically makes your ebook free to all Kindle Unlimited subscribers. This also ties you to Amazon: to enroll in Select, you give Amazon an exclusive for three months.
This tactic makes sense. You’re a new author, you only have one book. If you tried to sell it everywhere, on all the book retailers, you’d fail, no matter how much money and time you spent on marketing, because you only have one book. When you enroll your lonely single title in Select, you get paid for Pages Read — you’ll also get the occasional sale.
You’re an author, so you keep writing.
What about books 2, 3, and 4? Should you follow what’s working, and enroll them in Select too?
Forget free: focus on building your platform (readership)
We talked about platform, branding and marketing here.
To get readers your aim is:
- To write more and better books, which sell more via word of mouth — readers who become fans;
- To build your visibility with marketing.
Two things, that’s all. There are endless ways you can market. “Free” is a tool; a strategy. There are many strategies.
If freebies aren’t working for you, for whatever reason, stop offering freebies. Simple. Don’t enroll books 2, 3, and 4 in Select. Go wide with these titles — offer them on every book retailer you can.
Whenever I make this suggestion to authors, some get nervous.
“Yes, but I have a mailing list — I need to have a freebie.”
Freebies aren’t compulsory. Moreover, they can skew your list. Offer a freebie or don’t. Today, there are so many free ebooks it’s unlikely that readers will subscribe just for the freebie.
Consider this. When you offer freebies, many of your subscribers will subscribe for the freebie, and that’s fine. But they’re not buyers of your books. Indeed, they may collect all your freebies, and read none of them. They won’t buy your future releases either — so, although it may give you a warm glow to have thousands of subscribers, if they’re not engaged with your books, they’re not useful to you.
Strange as it may seem, you can write and market your books, and can sell them, without offering anything for free, per se.
That is, you can enroll your first book in Select, making it free on Kindle Unlimited, but offer your other titles widely. Once your other titles are selling, you can remove your first book from Select, because you’re gaining visibility, and readers.
And you are, we hope, finding strategies other than “free” to market your books. 🙂
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