A lot of people say that putting your book up to be sold on sites such as Amazon for free will boost your sales, but I'm really skeptical. Won't that put readers off--thinking that something must be wrong if the book is free? If this person really invested a lot in the book, they wouldn't be giving it away for free. Something's fishy here.

Am I just being paranoid, or is this a real thing? Is there a way to avoid making people suspicious about the quality of my book just because it's free?

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    I've seen a lot of free books on Amazon over the years, so if it doesn't work, it's not working for lots of people. (I don't know how to query Amazon for "sales" data for those versus comparable non-free books.) "First one's free (in a series)" seems to be a thing, too -- it's gotten me to buy the sequels, anyway. Nov 3, 2017 at 15:54
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    I don't know the 'answer' but I know your writing has to be good, period. A suspicious person who reads good writing will realize that they had nothing to be suspicious about in that case. Huff Post has an article that aligns with individuals I have talked to about this. huffingtonpost.com/simone-collins/… I am personally leaning towards building a website with free short stories from my world, and novels that can be purchased, perhaps occasionally at low cost.
    – SFWriter
    Nov 3, 2017 at 16:01
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    Worth noting, Amazon will only let you offer your book for free for a limited time. That's in the nature of "promotion" rather than "valuing your work at zero." Short-term freebies are a very long-lived and respected promotion method that probably started with "trade for two stone spear points, I'll throw in a third for free."
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Nov 3, 2017 at 16:51
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    My guess is more people may download it, but I am sure less will read it
    – Andrey
    Nov 3, 2017 at 20:59

2 Answers 2


On kboards there is a forum post by successfully self-published author Elle Casey about how "perma-free" works for her.

Things that I would consider:

  • Making money off perma-free books works by luring those that want to sample a new author into buying the sequels (or other books by the same author), so you need to either have other books published or the sequels ready to be published within a few weeks. Elle Casey publishes at least one book per month.

  • While there is a huge community of readers that actively search for free or cheap self-published books, that community only partly overlaps with readers of traditionally, publisher-published books. Most renowned blogs and all newspapers do not review self-published novels. While there are exceptions (e.g. Amanda Hocking), self-publishing (and even more so free self-publishing) will put you outside the traditional publishing community of readers, reviewers, book distributors, film makers (!) and so on. For that reason alone, I would only consider it in the event that I could not sell even my third attempt at a novel to a publisher.

  • I do not read free (or self-published) books. I have tried a few (among them one by Elle Casey) and found them all to be poorly written (or lacking the loving guidance of an experienced editor). As I don't lack reading matter, there is no reason for me to waste my valuable time trying to find the few rare gems among all the self-published mediocrity and trash.

  • I have published an erotic short story on Amazon for free. Without any kind of advertisement it got enough downloads to remain in the top twenty of its genre for half a year. (I published it that way because no publisher would touch it due to its offensive content.)

In sum, I believe that if you publish your book for free, you can be as financially and popularly successful as any traditionally published author. But you have to give up on the admiration and satisfaction that comes with being accepted by a traditional publisher.


Klara, I share the same thought as you... When I personally see a book that is "free" I wonder why it is free. A person puts a lot of effort into things and to give it away freely would make me wonder if something is wrong. I have no problem with the writer giving away limited copies for free as a promotional gig, but to have it free indefinitely in a store would be suspect to me.

With that said, I have downloaded free books before. Most of them I learned pretty quickly why they were free (either really, really really short books or poorly written). However there have been a couple that I have honestly enjoyed.

I would avoid keeping it up there for free. Possibly put an advertisement out stating that for black friday only the book will be free or for only a dollar, and then bump it back to normal prices after that weekend or that 1 day. This way, people who come late to the site will still look at the book and decide to buy it or not, helping you to generate more traffic while giving people a chance to get your work at a discount. Obviously the goal is to get enough people who are willing to take a risk and read it for free/cheap in the hopes that they enjoy it and tell their friends about it who will in turn come and buy it at full price. Marketing is a risky thing, I say there is no issue with it as long as it isn't left freely but used as a limited time promotion.

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