I love giving away copies of my books for giveaways and to my special readers, but I've come to the conclusion I'm not going to put any books up for free on Amazon. I have a couple of freebies on Smashwords just as a blessing to my readers, nothing else. They're older books that haven't ever been through a proper edit, but no, I won't do free on Amazon.
Here are my reasons:
1. I've subscribed to Sweet Free Books and Ebook Soda emails and often download books they suggest are free for a few days on Amazon. Some of the books are great and often one of the best books I've read, but for some strange reason, I never end up ordering the next in the series. I really feel bad and feel like I owe the author to read on, but I never get around to it. Maybe one day I will when I go on a buying spree, but by that time, I've read the next few and forgotten about them. I tend to much prefer reading books from authors I know or from publishers I can trust.
2. Often, free books are poorly edited and some new, inexperienced indie authors make the first in a series free to hook their readers. Problem is, they often don't hook me but put me off. Now, I'm beginning to think I'm only going to read the books that I buy or from authors/publishers I know well. Is it worth it taking that risk? The free books offered are making readers more discerning. They're becoming less tolerant of junk. Could they have become suspicious of the freebies like I have? It's very likely.
3. When I buy a book, I value it more. If I download a free book and it's not great in the beginning and really doesn't sweep me off my feet and keep me riveted the whole way, I put it in the "discarded books" folder of my Kindle. Why waste my time reading something that's not wonderful when I have a huge "to-read" pile waiting for me? On the other hand, if I paid for it, I feel this need to make the most of my purchase and at least give it a chance. So I'm more willing to plough through some parts in the beginning that don't push my buttons. I know we aim to write the best and keep our readers gripped from the beginning, but is that really possible with such a variety of tastes and readers? Some bestselling authors don't do it for me. Others don't do it for others. We have no guarantee we're going to keep the reader going. But if they've paid for the book, they're more likely to stick it out. And then they'll get into the story.
4. I don't like KDP's strangulation. KDP (the publishing side of Amazon) makes you have to join their Kindle lending programme and have your book exclusively with them in order to put your book on free promotion for five days. I refuse to let them be the only ones keeping my books. Yes, maybe we get more downloads with them, but many of Amazon's business practices are shady. And they want to control the market, to the detriment of writers and publishing as a whole. I wish, in my own tiny way, to not allow that to happen. I love Smashwords as they put your book on so many different sites. They also pay via Paypal and not a horrible cheque which we have to pay huge bank charges here in South Africa to bank. I still haven't worked out how to put a book on Amazon for free on a permanent basis, but even if I do, I don't want to.
5. Really, when you come to think of it - how much time does it take you to write a book? Especially when it goes through a publisher and you have about five rounds of edits, plus all the admin that goes with it. Not to mention the hours of scribbling down the first draft, sending it to beta readers and working through their edits and polishing it before sending it off. It's days of your life that you've put into it. I don't think my books should be going for free. I already think they get sold at such low prices. I get very little from my books in the end. Yes, it's great with the advent of ebooks, but it's devalued our craft a little, and I don't fancy devaluing more by making my books free. Even my indie books - although they haven't gone through rigorous editing, they've taken me hours to make a cover, write and format.
It's incredibly tempting though. I mean, the free books get found so much easier amongst the millions out there because people are looking for free all the time. Maybe sometimes, it's the only way to get noticed. What do you think? Should I be more open-minded to the idea?