Giving It Away: Why Fiction Authors Should Offer Free Ebooks

POSTED ON Jun 5, 2013

Jason Kong

Written by Jason Kong

Home > Blog > Self-Publishing > Giving It Away: Why Fiction Authors Should Offer Free Ebooks

By Jason Kong

Jason, who writes the storyrally newsletter for authors, last contributed 2 Ways Fiction Authors Can Start Using Social Media. Today he’s back to tell fiction writers why they should “give it away.” Here’s his post.

You could do it today.

Select one of your stories, convert it into an ebook format, and make the file available online for free. A download link through your website or blog is ideal, but leveraging other sharing platforms such as Amazon and Smashwords is good too.

Of course, that’s not really what’s stopping you. As a professional writer, you’re wondering about the upside of giving away your hard work without charge.

Glad you asked.

The first book

Getting anyone to try something new is difficult, especially when it costs money for that privilege.

Fiction writers face a special challenge. You already know word-of-mouth recommendations and positive reviews are critical to your marketing. But even strong social proof isn’t always enough to hook a new reader.

Why? Because a review reflects the personal taste of the reviewer. There’s always the risk that a story may not engage you the same way it did someone else.

Now imagine reading a novel you especially liked. Seeking the author’s larger body of work is a natural rationalization, because you’ve already enjoyed a story by the same writer.

That’s the difference between having a book described to you versus reading the book yourself. There’s no stronger endorsement than one coming from your own experience.

So give a newcomer an introduction to your work, by offering a free ebook good enough to sell. Have your story well written, well edited, and well packaged in a professional design.

Getting someone to read that first book is key. If you can make an outstanding impression then you have two opportunities: to gain a reader for the long-term, and the positive word-of-mouth from that reader (which can lead to more readers).

As always, the best marketing for a storyteller are the stories themselves.

“The best marketing for a storyteller are the stories themselves.” Click to tweet

Earning money isn’t your biggest problem

If you’re connected with enough people who enjoy your work, then it’s almost impossible to not make a living.

Charging for books is fairly straightforward. Finding people who value your stories enough to pay for them? That’s the hard part.

It’s especially true if you’re a budding fiction writer. When you’re just starting out, you’ll have no idea if your fiction resonates with anyone. Consider sharing your first story for free to find out.

If there’s an audience for your writing, you’ll learn soon enough. Use a newsletter or social media to open a communication channel with those interested. Then you’ll have people waiting for your next story or project.

Don’t have the mindset that you need to get directly compensated for everything you write. Building a platform for the long-haul is one of the best ways to support your career.

Free is here to stay

Maybe you’re still unconvinced.

The idea of writing for free may rub you the wrong way. Or perhaps you’re worried that all authors’ work will be devalued by this trend.

Unfortunately, your personal feelings won’t change reality. Cheap media isn’t going away. When anybody can self-publish, everyone will.

The world is going to get more crowded with wannabe novelists, which means more junk along with the gems.

Commanding attention is at a premium. If you already have it, you’re in great shape. For everyone else, you’re stuck in obscurity.

So try offering a story for free and see what happens, knowing you don’t have to do it forever. The best part about being a self-published author is that you get to decide your boundaries. Be at least willing to experiment and learn.

Do you have any experience (good or bad) with giving away a free ebook? Let us know in the comments.

profile of Jason KongJason Kong is a Contributing Writer for The Book Designer. He also runs Storyrally, an email-based subscription that helps fiction writers with their online marketing.

You can learn more about Jason here.

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Jason Kong

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Jason Kong

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