Free Ain’t What It Used to Be – Ebooks versus Snack Food

This blurb is a continuation of my prior post about free ebooks…

As far as I can tell, free isn’t getting any better. To complete my Amazon/KDP free “promotion” of my still unreviewed comic fiction masterpiece, THE GENRAL STORE, I ran two final days of free. I did a few tweets to promote the offering, nothing else, and got twenty downloads. This was about 10X-100X lower than the past with the same level of promotion.

I like to think these results did not happen because my amazingly hysterical ebook totally sucks. Instead, it seems to me that many readers now feel free ebooks are worth less than the fraction of a fraction of a penny it takes to store them on their Kindle’s hard drive. I think this is happening because the free ebook market is max’d out.

Ultimately, my just completed ebook freebie-thon reminded of a recent child-rearing experience…

I have three boys. Two are teenagers. They eat a lot. So, the other day I went to BJ’s and bought massive quantities of snack food, a box of that contained three hundred little bags of Cheez-Its, a crate that contained five hundred sleeves of good old-fashioned Oreos (not the shitty blond ones), and a thirty-eight gallon bag filled with smaller bags of chips and cheesy-crunchy things that looked like mini colons. I then went to Home Depot and bought some plastic shelving. After a few hours of sweat, I put the snacks on the supposedly “easy to assemble” shelf and told da boys to “load up!” They’re skinny as hell, but can out-eat an NFL lineman, so I was expecting them to empty the shelves in a couple days. Instead, an amazing thing happened. And, I’m not making this up. They barely touched the snacks. The same items they would have wiped out in a few minutes if I bought a smaller quantity were totally ignored.

They knew a large supply of snacks were available. So, they were in no rush to eat them.

W4$

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Too much FREE is bad.

I have tried the KDP Free Promotion a couple times. It has produced some interesting results. Most recently I did a 2-day giveaway of THE WALKING MAN. On Holy Thursday Jesus apparently intervened on my behalf and 8,000 free copies of THE WALKING MAN were downloaded making it the #2 “BestSeller” in the Free Humor category at Amazon.com. The following day, 2,600 free copies were downloaded, contributing to a grand total of 10,600 free downloads. In the two weeks following the promotion, 125 copies of THE WALKING MAN were sold at $0.99.

Frankly, I don’t know what to think of the whole experience, but I enjoyed watching the free downloads go viral. It made me feel like a real author for about five seconds.

Long-term, I am certain free ebooks are bad for authors. Assuming reading rates are constant and some free ebooks are actually read, free books have to hurt the sale of paid books. Thus, overall, my guess is they will decrease author income. This being said, free ebooks currently provide new authors with a chance to get some exposure which would otherwise be unavailable to them. I perhaps benefited from this free exposure, although, at this time, I am not sure.

Thus far, I have drawn one conclusion. I feel authors must petition Amazon.com to modify their free ebook policies, so they will not ultimately hurt the ebook market.

Here are my suggestions:

1. Limit Free Downloads.

Limit free downloads to 1,000 downloads per book. This would provide plenty of downloads for an author to get some feedback from readers and attract some follow-on sales.

2. Set a Mimimum eBook price

Set a $0.99 minimum price for an ebook and only allow 1,000 free downloads (See #1)

3. Reader Option to Pay

If reader enjoys a free ebook, give them the option to buy the book for $0.99. I’m sure many readers would be willing to pay $0.99 upon completing and liking a free ebook. I’m sure there must be an easy way to do this.

4. Increase Royalty Rate on $0.99 ebooks

Increase the royalty rate from 35% to 70% on $0.99 ebooks, especially if an author participates in the KDP program. Giving away 10,000 ebooks to sell 100 seems unfair to me. The Kindle platform benefits by the addition of a mountain of valuable content, while the author earns peanuts. I say big Amazon needs to stop starving its $0.99 authors.

In conclusion, because it is in their best interests, Amazon.com appears to be looking for ways to help self published authors attract new readers. I think this is great, but in the interest of all authors, I suggest Amazon.com set limits on their Free Promotions while increasing its royalty rates on $0.99 ebooks. For ultimately, I believe too much free is bad and KDP authors deserve enough income to buy pizza for five one every three months.

Let me know your thoughts by commenting below.

Thanks,

W4$