Free Books versus Cappuccino (and #giveaway)

There are a couple of “book marketing gurus” who are all the rage these days, urging authors to offer free books to those who sign up for their newsletters or who want to simply download them from Amazon or another website. The idea is that the reader will love the freebie so much that he or she will rush out and buy the rest of the series or other books by the author, boosting overall sales.

Do you think that’s true? Do you download a lot of free books? Let me rephrase that: do you download free books that you actually READ, and then go looking for more of the author’s work? Read on to weigh in and get a chance to get, yeah, a free book!

I remember when a friend gave me my first Kindle for Christmas way back when it was still a novelty, and I’d insisted that I only wanted to read print books. Now, I’m older and have worse vision and think digital books are pretty nifty and convenient. Whip out my phone, open my Kindle app, and I have the world of books at my fingertips.

Still. When I first got that Kindle, I was agog at the free and almost-free books out there. I downloaded anything that looked interesting. How many of those have I actually read? Maybe 1 percent…maybe. Some are buried deep in the heart of my Kindle library; others I’ve removed altogether. There are always books–books I paid for–that I wanted to read more. So, obviously, that marketing tactic doesn’t work on me as a reader.

There’s also the idea that I have spent months working on a novel and all that entails, from plotting to writing to revision to editing to proofreading, and having four or six months of my hard work valued at…nothing. Or 99 cents. “Less than a cappuccino,” as authors have been fond of saying for a few years as the freebie train has kept chugging along.

So, as I ponder marketing for new releases over which I have pricing control (if the author doesn’t have control over pricing, this is all a moot point), I ask you, my reading friends:

Do you download freebie or 99-cent books?

Do you only download them by authors you like or have been wanting to try, or do you download anything vaguely interesting as long as it’s free?

How many of those downloaded freebies do you actually read? Have any of them prompted you to buy other books by the author?

Leave a comment to be entered for a FREE digital version of any of my books–by Suzanne Johnson or Susannah Sandlin.

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man's Curse; Black Diamond).

17 thoughts on “Free Books versus Cappuccino (and #giveaway)

  1. I do download free and .99 books. Some are by authors I have read and I am exploring other books they have written. Others are new authors I want to try or have heard about on a blog. I have bought a whole series based on the first book offered at a discounted price. But I admit I have a lot of free books I haven’t read yet. I’m a book junkie. If I don’t have a ton of books waiting to be read, I go through withdrawal

  2. So I am one of those dinosaurs who prefer print over ebooks, but here are my thoughts:
    I have won a lot of print books.
    I still have not read all of them, but of the books i have read several were so good I indeed bought other books by that author. But… These were books I won, that would have cost me money if I hadn’t won them.
    I think that perma free and cheap books are something to be careful about. People involuntarily value a book (and anything else) by what it costs. So they expect that free/cheap book to be bad or inferior. i’ve seen it happen with nature excursions: when offered for just a few euro no one wanted to join. After the price was raised suddenly people wanted to take the excursion.

  3. i still prefer free book but some free ebook i like…. now i must say it’s more when it’s from an author i love ( example some novella in favourite series are available only on digital) so it’s in that way that i go if i love the author i will try to support him/her and i want more of her writing the opposite i don’t think so but after winning print book i did buy other in teh series quite often

  4. I have downloaded free and .99 books. Most from authors I already read. A way to finish a series with the .5 or 2.5 short story. Of those on the Kindle I have read about 10%. I still prefer print books, especially from my favorite author list.

  5. I have downloaded free and .99 books. If they are part of a series I like then they definitely get read. Of the others I probably get to about 5 percent since I still prefer print books. I have discovered several new authors that I like through reading a free book and gone on to buy other books by them. But I’ve discovered more authors by reading short story anthologies.

  6. I have downloaded free and .99 cent books. I read more than 1% of them but always find that I put them behind my roster of books I have purchased. I do tend to read a greater percentage of the free print book copies I have won from a contest. Partly because I still love the feel of a print book in my hands. That said, regardless or whether won or free ebook or print, I tend to purchase from the authors whose work I find I enjoy. It is just that my motivation to read the free ebook is less than that of a book I purchased or a book in print form, won or purchased.

  7. I download free and 99 cent books and read most of them. When I download by title, it is usually based on a synopsis that I like. If I download based on a newsletter freebie, I am less selective. That said, I usually don’t pay full price for other books by the author (the authors I buy tend not to have sales unless the publisher is doing it). I used to wait for Kobo site-wide sales but I noticed that they haven’t done any for over a year so I might break down and do some selective purchases. If an author appears to be limited to Amazon, I usually unsubscribe from their newsletter (one way of cutting down on newsletters).
    For some books, I still prefer print when I know that I’ll want to re-read it. I also use the library for some favorite authors from publishing houses.

  8. Thanks for the comments! It seems the free/99-cent books do get read more than I expected. I think as an author I have to decide if I can agree that three months of work is only worth 99 cents, though–LOL.

  9. This is super interesting! I have never downloaded any free or 99-cent books, unless they were already on my wish list – mostly because I already have so many books to read that I don’t go looking for them even if they’re a good deal. I am definitely in the minority! Now I wonder what I am missing… 🙂

  10. I have downloaded lots of free and 99 cent books and I have read almost all of them.

    I read a lot but I have a pretty limited book buying budget. If a book is published traditionally I can often (not always, but usually) find it at my library. If that author/series is not at the library I have to put it on the list to buy. If I am looking at my list of potential series and one of them has a free first book I am much more likely to try that one out. Sometimes I stop with just the freebie, but there have been many times I ended up buying the entire series. I discovered some of my favorite authors that way. I think it is a pretty effective method for luring people in.

    • I do feel bad about how little the authors make off of those, though. Another similar method I’ve seen that is a little more fair to the author is temporary price reductions. Instead of always having book 1 be free, book 1 will just be cheaper than the other books in the series. Or every few months there is a price reduction on book 1. So if it normally 6.99 like the other books in the series it will be 2.99 for a week or so. That works on me, at least. I look at my list, see the price reduction, and say to myself “Oh, I better buy it while it is cheaper!” and I end up getting it now instead of leaving it languishing in my TBR wish list for months and months at a time.

      On occasion some of the authors I keep up with post serials or free fiction on their website. If I read it I will go buy it if it gets published later. For example, every year Ilona Andrews puts their latest Innkeeper Chronicles book up on their website as a serial. Once the final chapter is out they take the story down and then publish it. I read it for free, but I always end up buying it as a thank you for all that enjoyment. Plus I want to have my own copy. 🙂

  11. I have downloaded plenty of books like that, and haven’t read many. But I don’t get the chance to read as often as I’d like anymore. I would never download something just because it is free if it didn’t appeal to me. I’m going to read the ones I have eventually; I swear!

  12. I too tend to only read about 1% of the free/.99 ebooks I download. I have found several new series that I’ve gone back and bought after reading the free/.99 ebook first book in a series. In this case though I always buy the print copies as I can’t get over that need to have something physical in hand if I’ve paid $10 to $15 for it. I’m just as likely to start a series once reading a novella set in the series from an anthology or free/.99 ebook bridge book (.5 ).

  13. I download a lot of free to $1.99 books and have ended up buying quite a few entire backlists. I fall for that one a lot. 🙂 But if I were an author I would think hard about doing it before I had a decent backlist.

  14. have tried some, but some authors deliberately don’t tell you the book ends on a cliffhanger or is the first in a series

  15. Like you, when I first got my kindle I downloaded so many free books that I had to go through eventually and delete most as I knew I would never read them! Now I’m more choosy and do actually read a lot of the free ones I get. I also buy the 99c reads, and it’s lead me to authors that are now on my one click list!! If the first is good, then I’ll usually buy the rest.