Some insist that you have to give your first book away. Others claim that free means “worthless” and they won’t do it.
Free is good. If I’m talking to a prospective client, and I can impress them with my expertise and enthusiasm by mailing them a copy of one of my books that’s pertinent to our conversation, I’ve spent $7 on marketing to get what could be a $2,000 client. If I email them the Kindle version, I’ve spent zero.
What’s important to remember is that free isn’t a price. It’s a strategy.
Just posting a copy online with a price of zero is not strategic.
Does that tell you who downloaded it? Does it let you follow up to see if they liked it? Does it give you a way to foster conversation with other readers, or word of mouth to potential readers? Does it do anything to encourage downloads, beyond “it costs nothing so why not?” ? Does it turn people into fans of you, not just fans of free books?
Free without strategy is very expensive.
But free also doesn’t mean “without value.” Surely no one believes that a gift from a friend is worthless or unappreciated because it had no price tag. And yet, if we give something away for business purposes, we assume the recipient won’t appreciate it. Well, if you’re giving the wrong gift to the wrong person, yeah, obviously. Whose fault is that? The giver, not the recipient. It doesn’t imply some fundamental lack of moral integrity on their part, it implies poor business thinking on the part of the marketer.
Give without strategy, and you’ll just be confused and frustrated. Give strategically, as I have for the past 6 years, and can build a business around your writing. (I’m not rich, and I don’t make all my money from book sales, but I do make all my money doing stuff I love, and it’s all from the same marketing strategy: generosity.)