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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

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 have offered several of my books for free on Smashwords for a limited time. Many people downloaded the books. Have they bought my other books because they enjoyed the free ones? I don't know and I doubt it because sales of my other books did not go up.

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 other authors in the hope I will write reviews and post them on Amazon.

This is like handing crack to a cocaine addict. Am I always delighted to get free books and add them to my formidable to-be-read pile of books.

The little gif above shows some of the books I received at the Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference. 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 buying another one of the author's books is remote--although, I have to say that if the book was in a series, 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 other 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, at library book sales, yard sales, and flea markets. I buy ebooks on  Kindle on a regular basis. Ebooks are inexpensive. Why wouldn't I buy them?

I still buy paper editions from Barnes & Noble, too. Friends and family know I am crazy about books so 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 books but I also 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. :^(

Emily Conrad said...

I have heard from indie authors that offering the first in a series free is a great way to generate sales of the rest of the series, but beyond that, I have to agree that I'd expect most free books to not result in many more sales. I buy far more books than I can read. Last Christmas, I stood in Barnes and Noble, eying a book I'd loved. I had a friend I thought would love it, too, but it was expensive (as in, full priced paperback) and she and I aren't in the habit of trading gifts. Ultimately, I decided to give her a copy anyway because I wanted her to have it, and I wanted the author to have the sale. I realize not everyone can afford to decide to buy extra books simply to support the industry, but as an author, I've seen just how much it means when a reader chooses to support a writer in other ways. Even if we get books for free, we can help authors by spreading the word about good ones with reviews, social media posts, even encouraging notes to the author!

Penelope Marzec said...


Last Christmas my oldest daughter bought me a book because she wanted to read it. LOL! So I was compelled to read it right away so I could give it back to her. I always try to put up reviews for the books I read from other authors and spread the word. Encouraging notes from readers are true blessings.