Are free eBooks sending the wrong message?

I recently stumbled across an interesting article that talked about the dangers of free eBooks and it got me to wondering if free promotions might do more harm than good by training (for lack of a better word) readers to expect free reads.

Many indie authors have already noticed the discrepancy in pricing and how it has set the bar low for many people that regularly give their eReader a workout. My short story, Dead Man Walking, is priced at 99 cents, but it’s setting on the digital bookshelves right next to full-length novels that are also priced at 99 cents. Does this mean short stories should be priced for free? Should novels be priced higher than the rock-bottom price that’s available to use?

The great thing about being your own publisher is that those questions don’t have carved-in-stone rules and the author is free to do as he chooses. But should something be done just because it can be done? That’s a question that has to be answered by the author as an individual, and there really is no right or wrong answer at the moment.

Along the same lines, there are free promotions that are regularly done to boost interest in titles. Initially, it doesn’t seem like a bad idea, but I’m wondering if free promos will eventually do more harm than good for sales.

Imagine this scenario – you release Book 1 and eventually set the price for free, then you release Book 2 and eventually set the price for free, again. When Book 3 comes out, will readers that follow you scoop up your latest hit or will they wait for it to go free, because that’s what you’ve done with your previous titles.

We’ve all felt frustration after flipping open a store advertisement and seeing something priced at 50% off… after we spent full price on it last week. It’s the ugliest form of sticker shock; the birth of that little voice in your head that tells you to wait next time until the item is on sale.

I worry that regularly putting our work out there for free will condition people to wait for it to be free. On the other hand, my wife believes if the work is good enough, then readers will scoop up the latest titles, regardless of having to pay or not. It’s a great spotlight on the type of shoppers we are. I’m willing to wait for something until the price is right, and she’s more into immediate gratification by getting the item right now. Which type is the majority? I’m curious because if most readers are like me, then most indie authors are going to end up being starving artists. If they’re like my wife, then there are no worries.

What do you think? Are free promos a temporary fad, an excellent form of advertising, or a danger to how readers shop for eBooks?

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One Response to “Are free eBooks sending the wrong message?”

  1. Persephone Says:

    I like free books and I usually download free books but they end up sitting in my reader for awhile. If I spent 99 cents or more in e-books, those are the ones I tend to read first because I spent money on them. Somehow they are more demanding of my time.

    If I read a free book that is a first in a series and I like it, I’ll buy the second book, no matter what the price is. I don’t mind paying 2.99 for the second book. I like instant gratification but I do get frustrated when the book becomes free in a month or so. I feel like that 2.99 could have gotten me another book; a book that an author isn’t planning on dropping the price.

    I won’t buy short stories though. For one dollar, I can get 40 pages or 300 pages of reading material so I go with the novel. I’m not saying that short stories should be free but there is a discrepancy on how e-books are being sold.


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