I have a headsup from a publisher that free ebooks will be coming from their hallowed halls very soon, following in the footsteps of Avon’s online freebie of The Duke and I and Tor’s free ebook programs.
But do they help sales of other books? The Oprah/Suze Orman experience says so, since Orman’s book was on the NYT list shortly after the free PDF giveaway, but Simon Owens interviewed a few Tor authors who all said, resoundingly, “Oh, hell yes it does:”
Authors who go this route believe that the ebooks act as a form of advertising, arguing that the negative effects on sales from people reading it for free are offset by the word-of-mouth campaigns those same people will initiate. These creative commons evangelists also tend to point out that most readers don’t like long texts on a screen, a fact that may cause them to buy the print copy once they’ve sampled enough of the story online….
Every Tor author I spoke to for this article said they hoped the publisher would continue offering the ebooks even after the new site debut. When I asked them whether they would be willing to offer another book of theirs to the giveaway list there wasn’t a moment’s hesitation with their answers.
Romance readers seem like an ideal audience for the “Try a free ebook” giveaway program, since we are very much inclined to glom (nom nom nom) the backlist of an author whose books we enjoy. If Tor authors are reporting sales increases on books within a series after one of the books was offered for free, a similar model might work in romance. There are many romance whose series might experience a boost, especially series that are long as all hell, and therefore intimidating for those who are looking for new material but are hesitant to embark on a huge, lengthy series without taking the first book for a test drive.
Of course, Owens’ article does indicate that the free ebook giveaway from Tor is a temporary program that’s scheduled to end after the 20 July launch of their new site.
Note to Tor: Major Bummer, if it’s true. Free ebooks are brilliant! But even if Tor doesn’t keep up with the program, other publishers, I’ll bet, are getting in line to start doing free ebook offerings of their own, so you’ve definitely set a trend.