99 Cent or Free eBooks? I Won’t

When someone goes to work, they expect to be paid a fair amount for their work. When an artist creates a work of art, they expect to be paid for the work they have done. So why would an author work for months on a book only to sell it for 99 cents or just give it away for free? I won’t do that.

Sure, I’ll do the occasional promotion where I’ll drop the price to 99 cents, but never free. I want to be paid for the work I did. I’ll never keep a book at 99 cents, either. That is unless it’s one of my first books in a series and I’m comfortable with reducing it to that price. But I can’t guarantee it.

So why won’t I do this? It turns out, from what I’ve heard, that offering free books may get more downloads, but they’re unlikely to be read much. When people buy books, they will read them. A freebie is just that. Something they’ll put on their Kindle and forget about it. Low priority.

With that said, I do download free books, but I want to give back to that author in the form of a review. If I really liked the book, I may buy a print copy. I like physical books, because I’m a bit of a collector.

So, permanently low price or free book? No. I want to be paid for my work. Low price promotional copies? Yes. It’ll boost my visibility and hopefully drive regular price sales. I will have to experiment, though.

How do you feel about free or 99 cent books? Let me know in the comments.

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29 thoughts on “99 Cent or Free eBooks? I Won’t”

  1. I agree with not keeping books at .99 cents or free. Some will not bother to read and review. I always read and review as a courtesy to the hard-working author. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Would you review a book that you flat-out didn’t like at all? Or would you, as a courtesy to the author, keep your opinion to yourself so as not to harm their book’s rating average?

        1. I don’t like the idea of ‘crushing the author’s dreams’ or whatever, but I also don’t like the idea of saying nothing about a book unless one can give it at least 4 stars. That gives a false impression that a book is exceptionally good, sometimes, because of “sock puppet” reviews, etc., praising it, when the REAL reviewers (live humans — or those who can reasonably pass for same — who actually read the book) all disliked it but don’t want to say so because, “This book’s ‘plot’ is just a synopsis repeated over and over, and also, the grammar is bad,” could hurt the author’s feelings.

          Reviews are for other readers, though, not for the author.

          1. I agree. And honestly, only doing 4 star reviews makes the reviewer look less reliable. The majority of my reviews are 3 or 4 stars. My 3 star reviews are decent books, but with problems. I state what I like and what doesn’t work for me. I make sure to mention that what doesn’t work for me may work for others. I always recommend the books I review for who may enjoy them. Even one I gave 2 stars, I said fans of non-stop, fun action will enjoy the book, as long as they can suspend their disbelief.

            1. A 3-star review doesn’t even have to mean there are things “wrong” with the book, just that some aspect of it didn’t work -for that reader-. I find 3-star reviews to be quite helpful in helping me decide if I want to read the book, as long as the reviewer actually says WHY they liked or didn’t like parts of it.

            2. Well, not necessarily wrong, but something stopped it from being a 4 or 5 star book. I like to mention something about that, but my 3 star reviews are mostly positive.

      1. I have always told the author if I cannot review it with at least 3 stars because of editing problems. Even if I find anything at all that effects my rating I tell the author. I have refused to do a review if it is so terrible that I can’t give it even one star. I did ask this author to send it to me again when it was edited. Never received it back again, however. I feel it does negative things to an author’s book and self-esteem.

  2. You’re righr about free books not being a priorty if the are downloaded. I have several freebies in my “to read” list. I personally couldn’t give my book away like that (if I had one). If I were to sell it for .99 it would stay that price for long.

  3. I agree. Authors should be paid for their time and expertise. As I understand it, ‘free’ helps boost sales rankings and acts as advertising. But it should never be the norm – at best, used as a temporary promotional device. I also think that even 99c is too low. Put another way, in the trad system authors might earn up to $2 or$3 after tax and expenses per copy sold and it’s reasonable to expect the same sort of return from ebooks.

    1. Right. It’s far better to have a higher price. I read that authors who keep their books around $4 or $5 US have the best profits. Those prices don’t deter readers.

    2. As I understand it, free books only boost ranking in the perma-free categories, and those downloads don’t count as sales for author rankings, etc.

      A trad-published author gets a couple of dollars per book, but they don’t have to pay for an editor, a cover artist/designer, etc. (Good cover art that isn’t just a generic image seen on a dozen other books is kinda expensive.) The cost of that sort of thing OUGHT to be figured into what indie authors get paid for their books, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

  4. Call this a bit of a conspiracy theory, but I believe there are people out there who download free ebooks, scan them and add them to databases of ‘free’ ebooks that are used to entice the greedy to their website. Once there, they are hit by promotional stuff for other things and/or infected with malware.

    I’ve found one of my books on such a ‘free’ website and I know I didn’t put it there. It’s an obscure bit of sci-fi but I put it up for free promotions when I first published it. It’s the only path I can see for where it’s ended up.

    For me, 99 cent promotions are doable, free ones no longer are. Just not worth it.

    1. I’ve heard of this. Not a conspiracy theory, at all. I’ve seen discussions on this on Facebook writer’s groups where someone’s book was stolen and sold as a free eBook. There was no malware, but it really damaged the real author’s ability to earn money from sales.

  5. I sold more copies at 2.99 than at 99 cents. I did give away copies shortly after release and around my birthday last month, but those haven’t translated into reviews or more sales.

  6. I think it’s great promotion, especially for series. Maybe not permafree forever, but if the first book in a series is free or 99¢, I’m way more likely to buy it, read it then move on to the rest of the series if they’re equally cheap or only slightly more expensive as they go along.

  7. I think offering a book for free or for 99 cents for a very short time can be a good idea, such as offering the first book in a series for free when book number five has just been or soon will be released. “Perma-free” or permanently-99-cents books, though… I wouldn’t do it.

    A book that’s perma-free is often perceived (fairly or otherwise) as being WORTH less than one that costs a few dollars. There’s a “Why can’t the author get anyone to pay for this book?” reaction. Of course, lower reader expectations can work in the author’s favor sometimes — from reading reviews on Amazon, I have seen that some reviewers will cut a book A LOT of slack in regard to the quality of writing if they didn’t have to spend money on it: ‘At least I got this book for free, so the crappy grammar and less-than-one-dimensional characters don’t bother me.’ (Must be nice, not being bothered by crappy grammar and less-than-one-dimensional characters. *sigh*)

    Now, offering a short story for 99 cents all the time makes sense to me. If a full-length novel costs four or five dollars, it doesn’t make sense to charge the same for a 2K-word short story.

    1. I agree with a 99 cent first book as part of a promotion for a later book. And of course, short stories should be a lot cheaper than a book. I have a series of short story ideas, though they may develop into novellas. I’d keep the prices for them low.

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