Friday, April 12, 2013

Free Books--One Reader's Opinion

There has been some discussion as of late about whether offering books for free helps authors to snag new readers. As an author, I did offer my book Prince of the Mist for free on Smashwords once for a limited time. Lots of people downloaded the book. Have they bought my other books because they enjoyed Prince of the Mist? I don't know.

I am not just a writer. I am a reader who just happens to have some special privileges. One of my special privileges is that I can get free books from some of my publishers if I write a review and post it on Amazon for them.

This is like handing crack to a cocaine addict. You know I was delighted to download those books and add them to my formidable to-be-read pile of books.

The little gif above shows some of the books I've read over the last few months that I downloaded for free. Some were from my publishers. However, some of them were special offers for a limited time, some were available in Nook's free Fridays program. Not pictured are some of the classics I've downloaded from Gutenberg for free.

I enjoyed all the books. Would I BUY one of the author's other books because I got one for free? The answer is a qualified maybe. I have so many books to read and I am continually acquiring them, that the possibility of me downloading another one of the author's books is remote--although, I have to say that if the book was in a series (as some of them are), there is a better chance I will buy another one in the series.

I always do my best to support other writers in my community. I have bought many, many books by New Jersey authors. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten around to reading all of them. Does this stop me from buying more books? NO!

I buy plenty of used books, too. Just last night, I bought a used copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation at our town library. I've been wanting to read it for the longest time--and there it was for only fifty cents. How could I pass it up?

I do buy ebooks for the Nook and from Kindle. Ebooks are inexpensive. Why wouldn't I buy them?

I still buy paper editions from Barnes & Noble, too. Because people know I am crazy about books, I often get gift cards to Barnes & Noble. (Yes, let the world know you have a serious reading habit and they will happily help you drown in books.)

As a reader, I love free ebooks but I would spend money to buy the books I want.

As a writer, I really believe all authors should be paid for their work.

What do you think?


Gerri Bowen said...

I'm not sure if it helps the author or not, Penelope. I do download free books, and I do take note of the authors I want to follow, but...many times the eBooks are as expensive as a paperback. So I don't buy, I put om my wishlist.

Penelope Marzec said...


I don't buy the expensive ebooks. :^) I find plenty of reading material from small presses who charge less for their books.

Otherwise, I buy used copies, or books that have been marked down. I'm really cheap.

I've never kept a wish list. I just wish I had more time to read all the books I already have. :^(

Louann Carroll said...

I'm with you, Penelope. I get so many books from Amazon and my publishing company for free that I rarely buy books anymore. There are only a few authors I would spend money on: Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and the debut author Simon Toyne. I've read both his first two books in his Sanctus trilogy and cannot wait for the third.

Penelope Marzec said...


I'm always looking for something new or trying to catch up and read popular books everyone else has read (like Eats, Shoots & Leaves). So I still buy books. I'm not a Stephen King fan, but I enjoyed his book On Writing. My favorite books will always be romances. :^)

Kenra Daniels said...

I've been interested in opinions on this topic for a while.

As an author, it's difficult not to get excited at seeing the download numbers roll up during a free promo. Then I remember those books were free :)I have to wonder if those downloads were simply because it was free. Would any of those readers have actually purchased the book?

As a reader, I LOVE seeing a book from my favorite author on the free list, but I would buy it anyway.

Penelope Marzec said...


I, too, would buy a book from one of my favorite authors if it wasn't free. I have discovered some great authors by downloading free ebooks--authors I would not have known about if I had not seen their books available for free.

But I don't know if free books have helped my sales. And it would be nice to know.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

What I've seen from my experience with my friends and myself is that many of us are trying to save money and won't pass up a free book, but that doesn't always translate to future sales. On the other hand, I've also read that surveys suggest that some people will get the first of a series free, then buy the next one. Maybe it's a mixed bag, not a clear pattern?

Penelope Marzec said...


Yes, offering the first part of a series for free is probably the best way to grab more readers. But there seems to be no guarantee. :^(