Here, This Is For You – NO! Don’t Touch It!

Now, here’s a thing.

A blogger posted recently that he was offering one of his books for a week or two as a free download.

Later, he posted angrily that lots of people had downloaded his book for free and why the devil could they not have bought it from him?

I do wonder whether I am missing something here.

The debate rages (I say ‘rages’, perhaps that is a bit of an exaggeration) over whether we should give away books for free to promote ourselves, or to promote other books in a series.


Now here’s a thing.

On one side, there are those who say that people are attracted to free downloads, and this will help to get the author’s name known. Then after the book has been read for free, the reader might be more likely to buy another book by that author.

On the other side, there are those who say that most free downloads languish on disks and are never read, and that they create an expectation that writers will give away their work for free, thus making it less likely that the reader will buy more books.

At times like this, I do what I always do when I need advice and guidance.

I ask Bob.

‘Do I want a free book?‘ he asked me. ‘Of course I do! Have you got it with you now?’

‘I’m afraid it was a rhetorical question, Bob, but I note your reply. What if you were the author, though. Would you give it away?’

‘Of course not! Don’t be ridiculous!’

‘Well, that doesn’t make any sense. Isn’t that rather a contradiction?’ He shrugged.

‘Maybe. But you asked me the questions, so I answered them.’

‘Fair enough.’

‘But no wonder your friend was cross,’

‘They’re not my friend, Bob.’

‘Whatever. No wonder they were cross, if they offered their book for free and lots of people had the cheek to take up that offer.’

‘But that doesn’t make any sense either, Bob. What would you have done?’



‘I’d have taken the book.’

‘But would you have offered it in the first place?’

‘No, of course not.’

I knew I had been reminded of someone when I read the original posts.

It could have been Bob.

59 thoughts on “Here, This Is For You – NO! Don’t Touch It!

  1. I’m going to self-publish my first book in a month or two. Though I have no idea what I’m doing re: marketing, my instinct tells me giving something valuable away for nothing is not the way to go. It takes away from its value. On the other hand…when I buy makeup, if I get a free sample of a product I’ve never tried, sometimes I’ll start buying that product. But…I think a book is a different story. Pardon the pun.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s hard to see where the truth lies, here. There is certainly logic on both sides, but my gut feeling is that giving your book away essentially devalues it; the reader thinks ‘if it was free, it can’t be much cop’. And if you download 2 books from (e.g.) Amazon, one for free and one at $2,99, I’ll bet you read the one you paid for first.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I tried a giveaway of one of my older books when I published a new one. It resulted in a LOT of free downloads but hardly any new sales. I am still fumbling along, trying to figure all of this out. Maybe I’ll be famous when I’m dead! 😵

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reading your post, I am reminded, Mick of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I can’t for the life of me imagine why …! Possibly some of those who downloaded the book for free will leave a review. However on reading the blogger’s complaint concerning all those who took advantage of his free publication, I suspect some of them may be disinclined to do so. Again, I can’t think why …! Kevin

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This seems to be a dilemma with a no win situation either way. A lot of authors nowadays seem to add the first chapter of their next book at the end of their present book as a way of tempting you to buy the next.
    I think though that if you offer something for free and people take you up on it you can’t complain.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, the first chapter idea is a bit like going onto Amazon and looking at the first few pages of a book, as you can usually do – much like a browse in a bookshop. It seems perfectly logical and reasonable.

      And no, it’s a bit much to complain when you make an offer and it is accepted.


  5. I did try publishing ebooks on Amazon some years back but found the same as your disgruntled person, that as long as it’s free quite a few people download it, but once you revert to even the lowest price, which I think used to be 1.99 dollars, nobody buys. I did read somewhere that the population of buyers on Kindle is completely separate from the population of free-downloaders. Suspect ebooks only really useful to established authors who already have a successful ‘paper’ book out and whose publishers then put an e-version on Amazon for them, to add to sales. Marketing is really the big problem, and a great ocean of competition. If I were to write another book I think Iwould go back to traditional publishers, keep trying there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That would be my preferred route, if I could get picked up. My kindle version is only as an alternative to the paperback copy, and I don’t do giveaways. I’ve probably sold slightly more paperbacks, but the ebooks have sold.
      There will always be plenty of people happy to download a free book, and perhaps never read it. Chances are that 99% of them would never buy it, anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Offering part of a book free makes sense, but not a whole book… not unless it’s one of a series that is already published. Or unless it’s in return for some publicity, like a review on Amazon or similar.

    That said, years ago on an older blog, I used to give away free artwork to other bloggers – not for any reason except it’s what I enjoyed doing, and then one day someone asked me if I had any for sale… and fairly soon afterwards that person bought several paintings I had on an art site. So… freebies can work, but not necessarily in the way you expect. And, of course, that’s art, not literature.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t download free books but I can understand why. I cannot understand his annoyance though. I do know many who do specials for a day or so to drive sales and to try increase reviews. I’m not sure about free but I do think ‘free’ does cheapen book buying and make people critical and reluctant to pay a reasonable fee.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you in that I think ‘free’ does send a message that the book in question isn’t worth paying for. And i wonder if that would then affect my opinion of another book by the same author – it certainly might.

      No, it was his annoyance that caught my attention in the first place.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Don’t think giving it away for free is the right move after all the work put in creating it. I would think that most people would be more likely to read something that they had paid for. Maybe.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s a dilemma that I struggle with too, Mick. All that hard work given away. But some of those downloads get read and reviewed and other books get sold, so I figure it’s worth it. The downloads that don’t get read wouldn’t have been read anyway, so not much of a loss there. I hope that the day will come when I can step back from giveaways. Not quite there yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m not in a position to know, but I suspect that I wouldn’t offer copies of my book for free. Too many people just want free stuff, and that doesn’t mean they actually plan to read the book (or review it, or recommend it to others, or look for other books you have written as well.) There’s just something about “free” that makes people say, “gimme!”
    It’s like those all you can eat buffets–everyone goes back for seconds, sometimes third helpings, when you just know they’re already full. But the food is free, so they want more of it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it is a bit like that, Ann. I do have a couple of ebooks I downloaded for free a while ago, and somehow those ones always seem to be at the bottom of the list when I choose another one to read. because i haven’t paid for them, they somehow feel as though they are of less ‘value’.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Lucy Brazier

    Hmm! It’s a tough one, this. I think it’s down to the individual author as to what they think is the best way forward. But the chap is an idiot if he is cross with people for taking advantage of an offer he instigated. I suspect he is one of those touchy creative types.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. All this reminds me of how difficult it is to promote a book, whether it’s by giving it away for free or by standing on the street corner and handing out flyers for it–or berating innocent passersby for not buying it. Or any of the more conventional ways. I wish I knew the secret, but so do a lot of people.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is an interesting conundrum and it seems to mainly be a problem that artists of all sorts have. In an overly broad sort of way, I would give an art product to my car dealer when he or she gives me at least a free 15,000 mile service on my car. I would give the dealer a lot of free books for a free new car and so it goes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the idea of barter. My local Indian restaurant raised the possibility of buying some of my paintings, but decided they couldn’t afford them. I was tempted to try to do a deal around the paintings and a number of meals, and I wish I had tried, now!


  14. I don’t think books given for free are of less value, but then that’s just me. And I also feel that just because you pay for the book or it is recommended by a whole lot of people who have given it 5 stars, it has to be good in any way.
    But I don’t understand why anyone would complain after willingly giving out their book for free.

    Liked by 1 person

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