The Free Effect.

I’ve seen it in my own books and heard about it from other indie authors. Sales have really suffered this last year. But what is to blame? Lack of marketing, lack of fresh material, poor story? You can say what you will, but I think the root of the problem lies elsewhere.

Marketing is important. If people don’t know you’re out there, they can’t buy your books. Fresh material is always important. People who like your work will want to read more. The more you give them, the more interested in you they become. One hit wonders are rarely successful.
Poor story… that’s debatable. It could be argued that the 50 shades books are poorly written stories but they sell like hotcakes. I’ve heard the same of other books. People think the writing is not up to par but the stories sell well. Now, I am not saying write crap, but I don’t think the quality of the story is where the sales issue comes from.

My honest opinion. It’s Kindle Select and all the freebies out there.

The flood of free books out on the market is an enticing thing to readers. Who doesn’t want to read a free story? Good or bad, it doesn’t cost anything. There is no risk.

People download them and fill up their ereaders. Do they actually read them? That’s debatable. I have to wonder. The same people who are downloading the free stories are still paying for the books they love from the authors they love. I would venture a guess to say that they download what is available and get to it when they feel like it, but they already have a long list of stories they paid for to get through before they hit those freebies.

So, for the indie author who puts their title up on Select as a freebie gets that huge spike in downloads while it is free, but their book might not actually be read for months to years from the date of download.
Multiply that by the thousands of indie authors out there offering their titles for free and you can easily see why sales are in the decline. There are too many freebies out there and the authors who are using freebies as a tool to spark sales but are not seeing those sales happen. They are essentially giving their work away for free.

Again, this is all speculation.

For me, I have seen sales shrivel over the last year even though I have more titles out now than I ever had before. I’m at the point of wondering how I will make ends meet. For me, free has been a double-edged sword. I’m still positive things will turn around, and I am still working on getting new stories out.
I’d love to hear your thoughts as well. Leave a comment and let me know if you are an author feeling the pinch, or a reader who wants to weigh in on how you see “Free” stories.


Jenn said...

I am definitely feeling the pinch this month.

But, my problem is that there are so many pirated copies of my books out there and people are downloading those vs buying from me, Amazon, or another authorized retailer. It makes me sick. I don't think that the people who are putting these copies up on file sharing sites realize just how devastating this is to independent authors. I've seen my sales drop from 1,200 books a month to maybe 200 this month. Piracy is not a victimless crime. These people are literally taking money away from me and my family. I've got bills just like everyone else... I can't pay those bills if people keep stealing my money. And lord, it's not like my books are expensive.

Some people say, "Well, I can't really afford to buy the books." My whole thing is, if someone really wants to read my book and doesn't have the money, I'd be more than happy to give them a Smashwords voucher for a free copy or discount the price for them. All they would have to do is contact me. I know what it's like to be broke. In this economy, if you're not hurting you're doing better than 90% of the people out there. Reading can be add up to be an expensive hobby...i know first hand,...that's why i wouldn't mind helping others buy my books on a case by case basis, you know?

About the free books...
I download free books all the time. I have over 300 sitting on my Kindle right now. If I'm lucky, I'll get to read 2 books a month. Most of the time it's 1 book I've paid for (usually one that I've been waiting for to come out) and 1 freebie. There is no way I'll be able to read all my freebies this year, or even the next year. But yet, i still keep adding freebies when I see one posted on Facebook and the synopsis or cover catches my eye.

Some of the freebie reads have led to me buying others in the series, but it has to be a pretty good book for that to happen. I have SO many series that i read currently and very little time to actually do the reading.

On freebie sales...
I've listed my first book Blood of the Son for free 6 times now through Kindle Select. I'll be honest, i actually saw a huge growth in my sales that month and the month after. Those who bought book 1, and actually liked it, bought book 2. But the sales tapered off the next month. I agree with you that there are a lot of my freebie books, and yours too probably, sitting in people's Kindles long forgotten about. It's a bit frustrating because if they'd just read them, they might buy the next book.

It's hard being an indie author... Harder than i thought it would be. And it's tough because we get little respect sometimes yet we work twice or even 5 times harder than traditionally published authors. We do the networking, the promoting, part of the editing, cover design, swag and book orders, blog tour scheduling, and contacting stores for's crazy how much we do.

I think you are an amazing writer Katie...I have been a fan since i read the first book in your Immortalis series. I hate that you are struggling with sales. It scares me...a lot. If someone as talented and accomplished as you are is struggling to make ends meet, what does that mean for the rest of us? What is our future going to be like. *sigh* The only thing we can do is keep on keeping on...keep fighting the good together and help promote each other's work. I'll start checking the sites i find my work being pirated on for your books too. I'll post about your critiquing and formatting services as well as links to where others can buy your books. If we indie authors stick together i think it might help some. Lord knows it couldn't hurt! I appreciate the offer to post about my new release on your blog. Thank you for helping me get the word out. I'll be sure to return the favor. ;)

Katie Salidas said...

You are so right, we indies need to help each other out. And you know I am here to help promo your work as well. Just say the word. I sent you the book spotlight questionnaire, right?

Denise Verrico said...

Katie, you and I have discussed this before. I do think all the freebies are hurting. I've spent many an evening researching and looking at blogs where authors are expressing the same frustrations. I'm hoping to pick up an agent when my new project is done. I submitted to small presses only with my vampire novels because my series crosses genres so much. I like the idea of small presses. I like my small publisher, but I still would like the chance to be published by a larger press. I understand the drawbacks of the different publishing models, but distribution and name recognition of a press does carry some weight.

Denise Verrico said...

I'm always willing to help other authors promote too. Good for you, Jenn!

Dana Griffin said...

Being new a new Indie author, I've questioned the free books authors use as a marketing tool. If someone did read one of your free books and liked it, if their an avid reader, they have other authors to read while they wait for your next book to be free. So, I haven't figured out how this helps sales.

I agree with some of the comments here about people downloading the book and then forgetting they have it. We could hope they "might" read it someday, but will they?

The price of most Indie author's ebooks is already an incredible bargain. I feel what we sell our books for is almost giving our work away. So when I see Indie authors who I like offering free books that I want to read, I wait until their freebie days are over. I feel every Indie author is entitled to the few dollars they make off each book.

I'm probably not going to offer my book for free unless I hear a valid reason to do so. So far I haven't heard one.

Jenn said...

Yes, Katie! I sure did and thank you! I'll send you everything when I email you all the ebook formatting stuff on the 26th. xo

Vivek said...

Hi katie,

yup , I agree . Today one can't protect their copy righted contents ..from piracy ...and ppls do download and share illegally.

I feel for the writers who works so hard and don't gets the fruits they deserves .

But you guys don't disheartened by this stricter laws are coming to tackle all this .

I wish , I could become a writer one day ...:).

Have a nice week ahead enjoy..

About The Author

Katie Salidas is a USA Today bestselling author and RONE award winner known for her unique genre-blending style.

Since 2010 she's penned five bestselling book series: the Immortalis, Olde Town Pack, Little Werewolf, Chronicles of the Uprising, and the all-new Agents of A.S.S.E.T. series. As her not-so-secret alter ego, Rozlyn Sparks, she is a USA Today bestselling author of romance with a naughty side.

In her spare time Katie also produces and hosts a YouTube talk show; Spilling Ink. She also has a regular column on First Comics News where she explores writing from a nerdy perspective.