Is That Free Book Really a Sample?

Oh no! I’m thinking this morning. :D

I saw a post on The Passive Voice blog today when I should’ve been writing this morning.

The excerpted post quotes Craig Nybo as saying “always sell it — never give it away” about self-published books because “if you give it away, it cheapens the self-publishing scene.”

I have no idea if it does or not. I don’t give my books away because I’m not sure they’ll generate enough sales to make it worth it (I write in a very small niche with what appears to be a very finite customer base) and I’m in the situation where I need all the money I’m bringing in so I don’t have room to experiment with that. I think someday I will just because I want to see if it makes a difference, but at the moment I have people to feed and a house to pay for and kids who’ll be in college in less than 600 days. Agh!

However, it was one of the comments that made thoughts pop into my head this early in the morning, and here I am responding to it.

“Free samples are a good thing.” (Jim Self — note to Jim, if you ever see this, please, for the love of whatever you love, put links to your books on your website. I found a cute sample/excerpt for a story and tried to find a way to click through to Amazon but found no links to your books anywhere on your site. By the time I was done, I was so annoyed that I said f*ck it and closed the window without bothering. I’m just not going to go to Amazon and manually type in a search for a book when I’m annoyed. I’m very sorry.)

But what is a free sample?

Wouldn’t a free sample be like trying a bite of a pie (Kindle sample), then going on to buy the full pie (the whole book) versus eating the whole pie (free book) and going on to buy all the other pies by the same pie maker (the backlist).

Now, series books, if the series is tightly connected, would probably still qualify as a sample as far as I’m concerned, because a series book isn’t going to satisfy you the way a standalone book will. I mean, when I read a really great series book, I’m often left with questions I want answered, such as “Is Mary’s friend Jane going to find love with that asshole Bill?”

But for a freebie that’s not closely tied to any other books, I don’t know. I just can’t see them as samples. They’re not samples. They’re complete products that satisfy the consumer’s need, and how does that benefit an author?

I know, I know… You’re going to tell me that the reader will be so taken with the author’s writing style that they’ll run out and buy the backlist.

But if I want a coconut pie, getting one for free doesn’t really make me want all the other pies. It satisfies my desire for the specific pie I wanted, without me having to outlay any money. :) It’s a great deal for me, but really not so great for the pie maker.

So maybe a lot of people are giving away the pie thinking they’re creating a repeat customer, when in reality, that customer left fully satisfied and won’t be back until there’s another coconut pie.

I kind of want to go find a coconut pie now. ;)