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I'm swimming in the dark a little here, so don't jump on me if I'm wrong.

I would like to share a few observations with you about free books.

Firstly, I sold 18,000 plus books last year and refused to go free with my SF novels, then yesterday I did and immediately watched 1,540 downloads happen overnight. This is continuing to escalate as a large portion of my readership downloads the first book in my series. Since the downloads began all other books (okay, both other books) have stopped selling completely. Yes, I might get them to buy the secnd book. I hpe so, but what percentage will do so and what percentage will just move onto the next free book in the download section.

Second observation is that just over a week ago I began downloading books from the free book emails that seem to have sprung up everywhere. Before that I was spending a $1,000 a year on downloading indie books for myself and my wife. Now, I will be lucky to keep up with the 3 or 4 really good books coming down for FREE every day. EVERY SINGLE DAY. I have amassed about 30 books already and I cannot see me stopping because, well because - they are good - and there are so many of them. :(

So, I'm no different to anyone else out there. If they are all downloading the same amount of free books a day from so many different sources - is it any wonder that since the New Year the market has been drying up for me.

Lastly, I need to address KU/KOLL because however we want to look at it, it's a major MAJOR source of free books every month with almost NO LIMIT on what can be downloaded and read for a set cost each month.

As Indies can we survive if this continues to grow as an alternative to buying books (and believe me we cannot just put the genie back in the bottle). Or, am I just a harbinger of doom without foundation (am I going around shouting 'the sky is falling'?) or does anyone think this is potentially bad news for all of us if we continue to grow this aspect of indie book distribution.

As I said, don't flame me if I'm wrong, just tell me I'm wrong and tell me why (and keep telling me until I believe). :)

Thanks
 

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Well, I'm not sure I would take that initial surge as indicative of anything.  When a book goes free, it seems a lot of sources pick up on it - i.e. those Free ebook emails and websites you mentioned.  I'd reason to guess that chances are you have more people just grabbing it to grab it, rather than grabbing it because they're Sci-fi fans or even have any intention of reading it. 

The key will be to see how the sales of your others do after the mad rush dies down to more normal levels.
 

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I personally think discounting is decreasing in effect as more authors play that game, the tail of promos gets shorter as the next round of discounted books immediately shoves the last round off their perch. It's worth a short term rank goose to be sure, but the market is so awash with discounted books now, even from the trads I think we'll start to see a gradual decline in the success people have with promos.

Its been said by many, I think we'll all have to get used to selling less books per title, and putting out more books to maintain our volume. Key to everything will be in building a loyal readership willing to pay a premium for your books vs other authors. I feel we're in a land grab for readership before the market becomes saturated with discount books that it becomes incredibly difficult for new authors  to break out of the bottom of the long tail slush pile.

With free books now buried in seperate bestseller lists, hidden from most also-boughts, and seriously penalised on the pop list, they are becoming much more neutered in the effects they have.

Its not doomsday yet, but i think people will need to adapt soon and find new ways to market beyond free and 99c promos, at least on Amazon; the US store is so cluttered now its becoming seriously difficult to stay out of the dustbowl.

 

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Tobias,
Sweetheart, darling I think the world of you.  Now please give your new readers time to actually read your book.  You put it free what yesterday?
Have a little patience please.
 

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The stoppage of sales is likely an artifact of the recent reporting hitches on Zon. I never observed any genuine slowdown of sales when I went permafree with book 1. Quite the opposite. Sales picked up. There's no rational reason anyone would (for example) decide not to buy your book 2 simply because book 1 was suddenly free.

As an author, I've found permafree to be an effective tool, despite the glut. One has to stand out among the dreck, is all.

As a reader, I find myself treating all books 99c to free as the same - costing me almost nothing. I also chuck them after reading the first couple chapters or less at a rate of about 4 or 5 to 1. I use them to discover new authors while still reading books from my favorite authors.
 

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So first off, 18,000 + books in a year... I want to be you!!! I just released my first novel a couple days ago. It was free for 2 days, and got to number #18 in action adventure-war and military. Now, I'm hoping some of those free downloads turn into some REVIEWS. I have 3 more days left that amazon allows your book to be free, so I want to be wise in how I use them. That brings me to my first thought....

it seems like the "5 free days" rule is one way Amazon is trying to moderate the free market a bit. Like I said, I need the exposure and the reviews. When my sequels start coming out, offering the first book free could get my other, let's say, two sequels sold. On the other hand, there's alot of talent, and alot of phenomenal stories out there, so I understand what your  point is when you say that the market may become saturated with FREE, to the point that consumers are always finding ways around paying. It certainly happens with music and movies, right?

My opinion... well, I'm still an inexperienced first-time indie author, so I don't really have one. But I'll definitely be consciously thinking about it as I move forward.
 

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I'm going to venture in on this but as a reader. I opened my email of book offers today that had piled up and it was stunning to see how much I could download for free, and all of it very good. Like you, I could be reading for a very long time before buying another book from an independent author. Not so for a trade published author. If I wanted a trade book, I'd have to buy it or borrow it from a library where the library system had already paid for it. Books in libraries earn the author money at point of sale and in small fees for borrows. Even if I pick up the book used--somebody paid for it at some point.

There is so much on offer now and free is as low as it gets. But as you say, that genie isn't going back in the bottle...
 

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There's no doubt in my mind that the "indie revolution," or whatever you want to call this whole thing, has exerted downward pressure on book prices overall. Part of that pressure comes from the availability of free books. I don't see this as a bad thing, though -- at least not for self-publishers. Our royalty percentages are so much higher that there's plenty of room for lower prices. Furthermore, I don't see why the availability of free books has to have a negative effect on any individual author. If you "hook" a reader hard enough, that person will take a break from the freebies to buy and read the rest of your books. No one can hook every reader, but if you hook a reasonable percentage of them, you'll make money. If almost all readers plow through your freebie and think, "Meh," and go on to the next freebie, then yeah, you've got a problem. But Tobias, if you sold 18K books last year, I don't think you're getting a whole lot of "Meh." Sounds more like the kind of situation where someone sets a permafree and quadruples their sales. Just give it a chance. :)


 

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doolittle03 said:
I'm going to venture in on this but as a reader. I opened my email of book offers today that had piled up and it was stunning to see how much I could download for free, and all of it very good. Like you, I could be reading for a very long time before buying another book from an independent author. Not so for a trade published author. If I wanted a trade book, I'd have to buy it or borrow it from a library where the library system had already paid for it. Books in libraries earn the author money at point of sale and in small fees for borrows. Even if I pick up the book used--somebody paid for it at some point.

There is so much on offer now and free is as low as it gets. But as you say, that genie isn't going back in the bottle...
The reason free works in spite of the glut of free is that if a reader likes the free first in series, s/he is usually willing to pay a reasonable amount to continue with the story. If it were a simple matter of undifferentiated supply and demand, free would be the death of us. Fortunately, books are unique products rather than all the same.
 

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Becca Mills said:
There's no doubt in my mind that the "indie revolution," or whatever you want to call this whole thing, has exerted downward pressure on book prices overall. Part of that pressure comes from the availability of free books. I don't see this as a bad thing, though -- at least not for self-publishers. Our royalty percentages are so much higher that there's plenty of room for lower prices. Furthermore, I don't see why the availability of free books has to have a negative effect on any individual author. If you "hook" a reader hard enough, that person will take a break from the freebies to buy and read the rest of your books. No one can hook every reader, but if you hook a reasonable percentage of them, you'll make money. If almost all readers plow through your freebie and think, "Meh," and go on to the next freebie, then yeah, you've got a problem. But Tobias, if you sold 18K books last year, I don't think you're getting a whole lot of "Meh." Sounds more like the kind of situation where someone sets a permafree and quadruples their sales. Just give it a chance. :)
Exactly this.
 

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David VanDyke said:
The reason free works in spite of the glut of free is that if a reader likes the free first in series, s/he is usually willing to pay a reasonable amount to continue with the story. If it were a simple matter of undifferentiated supply and demand, free would be the death of us. Fortunately, books are unique products rather than all the same.
I have picked up 99% of my sweeties because they were free. The other one percent came from a friend who was so sure I would love the author that he said he would buy me any book of my choice if I wasn't happy.
 

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Speaking purely as a reader, my experience of free has not been good. Perhaps I've been unlucky, but most free fiction titles I've attempted to read have been - to put it bluntly - rubbish: loose, meandering plots; low level technical skills in terms of spelling, grammar and punctuation; little or no evidence of editing. I am on the mailing list for a site that promotes only free books, but rarely even bother to open the e-mail these days. When I do, it's usually a non-fiction title, if anything, that I'll download.

Subconsciously (I hadn't really thought about this before, but now that I have I guess it won't be subconsciously any more), I tend to equate free with likely to mean lower quality, and paying for a book with likely to mean better. Of course, I know this is nonsense, that a free book could turn out to be better than one I've paid for, but that simply hasn't been my experience.

So I tend not to even look at free stuff any more. Since I am not unique in my reading tastes or habits, there must be other readers out there who feel the same way.

[I haven't to my knowledge downloaded a free title by anyone who posts on kboards so I am not referring to anybody's work here.]
 

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Hey Sam,
I discovered that Kboarders have a better chance of being good than the run of the mill freebies.    Now it has been more than a year ago, but I spent one week comparing free kboarders to free non-kboarders.   
The data skewed 90/10.    Free kboarders were 90% good.  Non-kboarders 90% unreadable.
I found that interesting.
 

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Sam Kates said:
Subconsciously (I hadn't really thought about this before, but now that I have I guess it won't be subconsciously any more), I tend to equate free with likely to mean lower quality, and paying for a book with likely to mean better. Of course, I know this is nonsense, that a free book could turn out to be better than one I've paid for, but that simply hasn't been my experience.

So I tend not to even look at free stuff any more. Since I am not unique in my reading tastes or habits, there must be other readers out there who feel the same way.
This well-known principle in marketing is known as "perceived value," which is heavily influenced by the price paid as well as the brand reputation. In this case, it means that you will tend to value something you paid more for. If you have two books, one of which was free and another costing 9.99, you will tend to read the 9.99 book first, you will give it more leeway to suck before you put it down, and you will tend to believe it's better even if it isn't, because you've invested in it, as opposed to the free book.

Interestingly, all-you-can-read services like KU radically changes perceived value differences (among those books on the service) by making every book "cost" the same.
 

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cinisajoy said:
Hey Sam,
I discovered that Kboarders have a better chance of being good than the run of the mill freebies. Now it has been more than a year ago, but I spent one week comparing free kboarders to free non-kboarders.
The data skewed 90/10. Free kboarders were 90% good. Non-kboarders 90% unreadable.
I found that interesting.
I'd attribute that to the fact that KBoarders are invested in their craft and themselves, and have learned a lot here, striving to improve. "Serious" indies vs. dabblers, in other words.
 

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I download a fair number of free books and generally find them to be pretty decent quality, although I don't finish them all (short attention span problem). They tend to be from Bookbub or ebooksoda or here, though. Plus I always check out the Look Inside first and won't download unless it looks good.
 

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cinisajoy said:
Hey Sam,
I discovered that Kboarders have a better chance of being good than the run of the mill freebies. Now it has been more than a year ago, but I spent one week comparing free kboarders to free non-kboarders.
The data skewed 90/10. Free kboarders were 90% good. Non-kboarders 90% unreadable.
I found that interesting.
Cin - I can quite believe that.

I think my experience has been with what you call the run-of-the-mill freebies. Sadly, they did not even provide a run-of-the-mill reading experience - that woud be according them praise they did not merit.
 

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I've been downloading a lot of free books (short sci-fi and fantasy fiction) Out of the last 10 I read, 7 of them were really enjoyable with no major issues.

Two had minor issues plot wise and a couple of typos.

And then there was that one..... plot holes, grammar issues, horrible formatting, absurd spelling issues... it was bad. To make it worse, it was maybe 8,000 words and the normal price was 5.99...

So far, in my chosen genres, cinisajoy's stats seem to ring true.

Just my .02.

:)
 
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