First, you should know that there are some great authors who’ve successfully used this strategy to either launch or upgrade their writing careers by establishing or expanding their base of loyal followers.
It’s a great marketing idea, but…
See, the theory is if you have a great book and you give it away for free, then the readers you win with this great book will gladly pay for your next several books; so, by introducing yourself to new readers, you will get more sales in the long run.
This theory relies on two major assumptions:
- You assume your free book will win you readers.
- You assume readers won’t devalue your work based on the “price” of that first book.
In order for this approach to work, you have to manipulate your bonus offering in such a way that you prove that the first assumption is true while ensuring the value of your book remains intact.
Don’t worry. It’s possible.
To start with, you have to have a really great book. Quality is an important factor here, because if you skimp on the quality of your book you’re going to turn readers off instead of winning them over.
Next, your bonus offer has to be such that the people who paid for that same book don’t feel ripped off. One of the easiest ways to do that is to make the book available to read for free (say, on your website), but don’t make it “ownable” for free (don’t give away a downloadable digital copy or a print book). Unfortunately, this also reduces the convenience for trial readers.
You still face a challenge with readers who want cheap or free access to additional books. If your quality is high enough and your story is engaging enough, readers will jump to books they have to pay for, but they might grumble if they feel the price is too high.
Another alternative is to offer something less than a book for free. For example, if you kick off a series with a short story or a novella, you can place that online for free. You can even offer it in downloadable form. The interest in the short story or novella can lead readers to “explore the world more fully” in the books that follow. In this case, and if it works for your story, it might even be worth the effort to write a prequel short story or novella just to take advantage of the boost bonus offerings can give you.
Don’t forget: You still have to promote your bonus offer in order for people to know what you’re doing!