I sent out a notice to my mailing list that my short story, Blue Sky, is available free on Amazon this weekend. (And now I'm telling you. You can download it here. For free. And please tell your family and friends. And enemies. Or the mailman and all your coworkers, and everyone else you know.)
But a client/friend emailed and asked me, essentially, why I was doing this. And that made me realize that not everyone has studied the theory of indie publishing with Amazon as I have. (Why would you? I never thought twice about it until I started hearing other author's success stories.)
So, why would you give away a book for free?
Let me be the first to say that I'm not an expert on this whole thing, so all I can offer is why I decided to do it. Here's the deal. When you publish a book exclusively with Amazon in their program called KDP Select, they offer you several sales tools. One of the most-used is the freebie. For every 90-day period you are exclusive with them, you get up to 5 days where you can offer your book for free.
And--this is its own little mini-industry. There are numerous sites that will list your freebie for free, or a small fee. Some of them list it for free but then say they can't guarantee your book will show up unless you pay them that small fee (anywhere from $5-$50, at least on the sites I saw). If you're interested, I found a page on Author Marketing Club that listed a bunch of such sites.
All this being said, why do it?
For me, its a matter of exposure. I hope that people will read my short story, like it, and decide to buy my novel. I also hope they will come visit this site (hello to you if this is your first time here) and keep an eye out for future releases. And maybe keep coming back for more scintillating posts on writing and the writing life. One of the great things about formatting a book for Amazon is that you can put anything you want to at the end of the book. So, of course, I put a link to this page.
I'm not sure how effective a free promotion would be if you had only one book or story up. There's a whole school of thought that indie publishing is a numbers game and that the more books you have up, the better you'll do. Hugh Howey, the poster child for indie publishing, said at a panel at AWP that he didn't do any promotion until he had five or six titles published.
So, I'll keep you posted on all this. I'm approaching my foray into indie publishing as a grand experiment. Why not try offering a book for free? Of course, it helps that what I have to give is a short story, not a novel I slaved over for years. (Though I did write the first draft of this story when I was doing my MFA back in 2002.)
Here are a couple of posts about publishing with Amazon:
Would you consider giving a book away for free?