Why buy it if you can get if for free?

cow and book

You’ve heard the old saying, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”

Generally, it’s used as a metaphor to argue for abstinence before marriage–something along the lines of, “if a boy is getting sex from you, then why would he marry you?” If that’s the subject you’re interested in, then you need to join the thousands of people who read Beth Steury’s blog about abstinence and renewed abstinence because sex is not what I’m here to talk about today. Nor cows. Nor milk.

I’m talking about books.

So far in 2015, I have “bought” 80 free books. Seriously. I went through my Amazon account and counted. I have so many unread books on my kindle (321), that I just dump them in my cloud reader for a rainy day. Or a day when people actually start making me buy books.

Ebooks are either free or so cheap that we all have huge TBR (to be read) piles. What started as a promotional tool has become common place. It’s gotten so bad that we can’t even give books away for free anymore. It’s no wonder that when I host giveaways on my blog, I get so few responses. What is the enticement? And yet authors are still doing it…

If this is you, if you’re giving away your books for free and hoping for readership or reviews, then stop the madness. Or at least market responsibly. Here are my suggestions:

  1. It’s okay to give away the first book in a series (and two books does NOT count as a series). This makes sense. If I read your first book and like it, I’ll buy the rest and read them too.
  2. Instead of offering your book for free, offer it for a discount. That way you still make money. And, to be honest, I’m more likely to read something I’ve purchased than something I’ve gotten for free. It has more perceived value.
  3. If you want to spark interest in your book, do a Goodreads giveaway. Go ahead and give your book away…to 1 or 2 people at a time. Let people put it on their wish lists. Let them see if over and over again and be interested in it. They’ll eventually purchase it. And they’re more likely to read a book that they’ve purchased. (See #2).
  4. If you want to get more reviews, create a street team/reader group. Make those free copies count. Invest in people. Connect with readers who will actually read your book. Connect with other authors that write similar things. Don’t blast the masses. And when you do give that book away, ask for a review in exchange.
  5. And don’t make every one of your tweets be about you or your book. That’s just plain annoying. This suggestion has nothing to do with our topic, but my advice is also free. 😉

Supply and demand, folks. It’s simple economics.

HERE’S WHAT I WANT TO KNOW FROM YOU: How many books are in your TBR pile? How much do you spend on books each month? Are you more likely to read something that you purchased or got for free? What would you add or take away from my list?

Lisa Godfrees

Lisa Godfrees