Top three reasons to give away your book: ah, it seems counter-intuitive to give away your book, doesn’t it? How giving away your book (Torch Ginger)  helps sales is. . . paradoxical. (and it's free this weekend, 9/1 to 9/3/2012 just click on the title to access a free Kindle download)

1)      Advertising. In this brave new world of online shopping, it’s very hard to get noticed, and if you’re an indie, it’s a real struggle to get your books in bookstores at all. If your book is top quality, with a great cover and good blurb and several positive reviews, many people will give an unknown author a try for the amazing cost of. . .nothing. (I often download free books myself—but even free is too expensive to waste my precious time on these days, so I’ve become very selective about this. How about you?)

2)     Building your Book Lovers List. If you’ve checked out my minibook on author  platform building, you know I advocate creating an email database of your hard-core fans—people who love your books and eagerly wait for each installment. Word of mouth is powerful, and works eventually, but to actively build that list it may be necessary to create an appetite for your books—and with the barrier of being unknown, how does one do that? Giving away the books is a great way to convert skeptics to fans—but make sure you have a TOP QUALITY book, from the editing to the artwork. (My books cost a lot to produce—I’m shooting to keep them under $4,000.00 and still haven’t succeeded. Other indie authors are horrified by this expense—but this is a fraction of what big pub houses spend. Why should my top quality indie book cost any less? For me it’s been a smart business decision to go top end, then give it away. I feel strongly that, with so much mediocrity in the indie book market out there, readers can tell a difference—even when choosing a free download.)

3)     Amazon’s Mysterious Algorhythms. I put this reason last, because authors can still do a great free book campaign without signing up for the (in)famous Kindle Select program, wherein you put your ebook available exclusively on Amazon. Part of Kindle Select is 5 free days available to you for promotion each quarter—and so far, the Kindle Select program and judicious use of my free days has done more to increase my books’ sales and visibility than doing a hundred guest posts/blog tour stops! The free days don’t do much for sales in themselves except for the above two reasons—which would still make it worth it to do–but on Kindle Select, when you come off the free days you’re higher in the rankings (and thus more visible) and everyone who downloaded your book may now be solicited to buy your future titles. This all goes on without you, the author, doing a thing to get that business! My support of fellow indies by downloading their books has resulted in a steady stream of email recommendations based on what I’ve “liked” —an amazing marketing opportunity that I enjoy forwarding to my author friends—“Look! Amazon wants me to buy your sequel!”

I believe in Dean Wesley Smith’s advice about getting books out there, and the “long tail” of letting them earn their keep over time. I might seem to be “cranking out” books—but actually, the first three Lei books were done and “on sub” to publishers all through June. I’m just getting ‘em out earning for me now as fast as I can afford to produce them—and if I have to give a few hundred thousand copies away to let people know about my kickass heroine Lei Texeira (yes, Blood Orchids has had over 100,000 downloads) for me this has added up to smart business.

What do you think of free ebooks? What makes you decide to download a free book?

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