Guest post by Meredith Allard
When I published the first novel in my paranormal/historical trilogy, Her Dear & Loving Husband, in 2011, I was starting completely from scratch. I didn’t have a platform, a website, or really anything to recommend me or my book.
As an independent book author, I don’t have unlimited funds to spend on marketing. The name of the game is to get my books downloaded onto as many e-readers as possible (that 15,000 eyeballs thing), and I’ve found that free is a great way to do that. Free costs the readers and me nothing, but as an author the return is priceless.
I decided that since Her Dear & Loving Husband was the first book in the trilogy, I would set it to free hoping that readers who enjoyed it would be willing to pay for the second and third books. If the book is on the free bestseller chart, then at least I have a chance to get it downloaded onto e-readers; whereas readers might not have known about it if it stayed in limbo on the paid charts.
I believe the power of free is why The Loving Husband Trilogy has sold so well. Since 2011, I’ve sold over 50,000 books and given away more than 100,000 books for free. The vast majority of those sales have come from The Loving Husband Trilogy. I know that to a lot of people those numbers will seem backwards, but I don’t believe I would have sold as many books if Her Dear & Loving Husband hadn’t been free.
Her Dear & Loving Husband has had word of mouth going for it, largely because it was free and people read it and told others about it. Never underestimate the power of word of mouth advertising. That, too, is free, and perhaps the most valuable kind of advertising because word of mouth comes from friends and family whose recommendations people trust.
I’ve had so many e-mails from people who said, “I told my whole family about it!” or “I told my best friend about it. She loves paranormal romance,” or “My sister told me about it. She loved it and raved about it!” All the money in the world can’t pay for advertising like that. Seriously.
The biggest downside to free for a lot of authors is, well, the book is free, and if the book is free that means the author isn’t making any money. Even with my limited math skills I can figure that out. But I maintain that more people have bought my books than there would have been without the free downloads.
For my vision for myself as an author, it’s a more than fair trade. I’m in this for the long haul, and I’m willing to sacrifice the money I might have made up front in hopes that I’ll find new readers for my other books.