Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Free Samples...Are They A Good Thing?
Take that example further. You've invested in an e-reader--Kindle, Nook, Sony, whatever. Then you see an announcement on Facebook or Twitter or some other site that such-and-such book is a free download. Hey, you have the equipment, so you might as well use it. Right? If you don't like the book, you delete it. No harm done, and it hasn't cost you a penny.
From the standpoint of a reader, free book downloads are great. I take advantage of them all the time. But have you ever wondered if these opportunities pay off in future sales of other books by that author? I decided to query a few industry professionals, and as you might expect, the responses were poles apart.
On one hand, a representative of a publisher that offers free downloads on a regular basis assures me that they see an uptick on sales of other books by those authors right afterward. It's the same philosophy as sampling the goodies in the grocery. If you like it, you'll go back for more. They believe this, and can show the numbers to back up their contention.
The opposite viewpoint is set forth in a recent interview in Publisher's Weekly, where Thomas Nelson publisher Allen Arnold is quoted as saying, "Free e-books really don't have the effect of dramatic readership growth, even when thousands of copies are downloaded. That's because 'free' requires no commitment from the reader, and these titles, while downloaded, may never be read or a priority. Charging at least a minimal amount helps increase the odds that the reader is more interested in the content." This is an equally valid viewpoint.
Incidentally, some of you have asked, "Do authors control when or if free downloads are offered?" I know that my contracts don't give me this option, and I'm glad. I'd rather leave the decision to the professionals.
So the question remains unanswered, and I have to turn to you, my readers, for your opinion. Do you take free food samples in the grocery store? And, if so, how often do you buy the product? Taking it a step further, do you take advantage of free e-book downloads? And, if so, how often do you go back and buy more books by that same author? Chime in. I'm listening (and several publishers have told me they will be, as well).