Eating My Own Words: On Free Ebooks
It’s official. I have to eat my own words because I’m now “selling” my dark fantasy ebook “Drasmyr” for free. Yep. I took the leap… or I fell on my own sword, I don’t know which. I’ve written a number of blogs on the changes ebook publishing are bringing to the industry. “Oh no!” I said. “Free ebooks are going to force all the other books out of production. Why pay five dollars for any ebook, when you can get something of comparable value for free?” I gloomily prophesied the imminent end of writing and publishing as the tsunami of free books forced down the prices of all books everywhere until profit margins shrank to nonexistent levels and the entire publishing industry collapsed in on itself. Well, I’m still waiting for that to happen; well, not eagerly.
Anyway, I guess it’s a question of branding. And the brand of an author is his (or her) name. I’m a beginning author. “Drasmyr” is my first fantasy book. At the moment, no one on the planet knows who Matthew D. Ryan is. And it’s my job to change that. The theory behind giving a book away for free is to develop a following. The first book acts as the hook; the rest of the series is where you will make your money (I hope). I spent several months trying to “sell” my book, but sample downloads were few, and actual purchases were even rarer. In the beginning, I was hell-bent against giving my book away for free. I mean, I had literally spent years slaving away, writing the best book I possibly could and now you expect me to hand the product of all that labor away for free? No way! I thought. By the time month four of sales had rolled around, however, my perspective on the matter had changed. I see now, that it’s not enough just to write a good book, you need exposure. And the best way to get exposure is to remove as many barriers to purchase the item in question as you can. The biggest barrier is price. Hence, I cut the price to zero. The number of downloads is increasing—not as quickly as I’d like, but it’s a positive sign.
This approach is more effective when you are writing a series. People are more likely to buy your next book, if they are already invested in the characters and plot that has come before. Fortunately, since “Drasmyr” was always intended as the prequel of a four book series, that’s a plus for me. I look forward to publishing the next book and actually charging money for it (Let’s hope the entire industry doesn’t collapse in the interim).