The Value of Free

Fatal IllusionsRecently, Kregel Publications ran a special sale of my first novel, Fatal Illusions, and then offered it free for one day, July 10th. If you missed out on the freebie, I’m sorry about that. I would love to have offered it free for several more days, but I had no control over the special sale.

The freebie delighted me for several reasons. First, I have a good number of author friends who are pursuing indie publishing and speak highly of offering their novels for free on occasion. So I’ve often watched them offer their novels for free and wished I could do the same. Second, as anyone who watches me on Facebook knows, I love freebie Kindle books too. I love to download them, and I love to share them.

I’d also put a lot of time and work into this first novel, and I was excited about folks being able to download a copy for free. One of the biggest blessings of any author is simply to know that what he or she wrote is in fact being read. And enjoyed.

I had a few days’ notice that the freebie was coming. Well, now I had my chance, and I made the most of it.  I blitzed my e-mail list. I posted about the freebie at Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. I got the word out in several Facebook groups. I posted about the freebie on here.

A lot of friends and even strangers bought the book that day, helping to land it at #80 on the Kindle overall free list and at #2 on the free Christian suspense list (only Dani Pettrey’s very popular Submerged beat me out for the number-one slot). A friend of mine who knows these things said the novel sold remarkably well that day. She said I must have sold thousands of copies to break the Kindle free 100 list.

Really!? Beats me. I frankly didn’t know what was good and what wasn’t. I just did my best to get the word out.

Another friend on Facebook sent me a note, rather puzzled. “Why would you give your novel away for free?” she asked. Actually, my publisher decided to do this and had ultimate control, though I was certainly on board. It’s a valid question that may seem counterintuitive if I’m, in fact, trying to sell my novels.

My understanding is that offering a free e-book can benefit an author in several ways. Mainly it potentially opens the door to new readers. More folks who had never heard of my novels came in contact with Fatal Illusions and with me as an author than ever before. For the first time thousands of folks downloaded my novel risk free without any financial investment.

Will some downloaded copies remain unread? Certainly. But with that many downloads, the hope is that the folks who really like my kind of novel will find me. And the results are in. The free novel “sold” well, and I’ve had a bump in my positive reviews. See, I’ve already found some new readers—and that’s how I develop a faithful readership in the long term. I’ve also had some amazing notes. “The novel kept me up late. I couldn’t put it down. I loved it!”

There you go. There’s the value of free.

I pleased a reader. I kept him or her glued. At least for a while. And that thrills me in ways I can’t even describe.


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