Is it worth giving a book away?

This post is a day early, due to my participation in a blog tour tomorrow.

I’m asking a big question this time. Should you give away your work? I do, am I crazy?

My novel Ribbonworld had received around a dozen reviews (mostly positive) but was selling slowly when I decided to give it away. I thought that it would be an enticement to attract new readers.

I’d been recommended to do this by various marketing experts, the question is, several months on, was it worth it?

Since it’s been free, it’s had over 2000 downloads, but only 8 reviews on all the platforms it’s been available from, varying from 2-5 stars. Judging from them, it’s been read like most books are, with lovers and haters. I’ve had the following comments,


I got about halfway through before giving up. 2*


I found Ribbonworld completely engrossing. 5*


slightly predictable 4*


Self-published, but just as well-written and interesting as some of the best novels you can get from established authors 4*


Sci-fi plays such a small part in this book I just wasn’t feeling it. 3*


Finally! A great, believable, rollicking Scifi novel. 5*



A mixed bag and probably very similar to the variety of reviews that most titles get. After all, you can’t expect everyone who reads any book to love it. And I should be quite clear, I don’t. The fact that people loved the book, or hated it, was never the point. The real question was always about the worth of giving it away as an advertising tactic. I really wanted to know how many of the people who liked it, actually went on to buy the sequel or one of my other novels? That was the whole idea of the exercise.

While it’s hard to tell in any detail, I suspect that the answer is hardly any of them. While I’ve had some sales, I haven’t made the same amount of royalties that I would have got from 2,000 sales of Ribbonworld. And it’s difficult to attribute them. I certainly haven’t had eight new reviews of Jungle Green (the sequel), so in that respect, it could be said that the whole idea was a failure.

Which brings us back to the original point, am I devaluing my work by offering it for free? Do people only download it because it’s free and then never read it? Do people think that it must be rubbish because its free?

And, moving on from that, if you shouldn’t give it away, how else can you get people to read it?

Ribbonworld is still free, click the picture to get your copy.

Let me know what you think.


2 Responses

  1. Marjorie Mallon

    Hi Richard, I am wondering whether to do this as well. It’s a tricky question and judging by your experience not that great an idea so I’m not sure. By the way did you put your novel on free sites to promote? I believe this is what Lizzie Chantree (best-selling romance writer) does. Nevertheless thanks for sharing your experience. I will keep on keeping on. Getting a debut novel out there is so much tougher than I would ever have imagined. And more crucially targetting the intended audience – YA is even harder still. By the way I got a copy of your book and will read and review at some point but not sure when as I am backed up with reviews to do. Will get to it though, I promise.

  2. Errin Stevens

    I think the tactic is fast losing efficacy due to how many authors are doing it/how many freebies are out there every dang day of the week. I DO suspect discounting coupled with promotion (e.g., BookBub) has the ability to boost actual sales, and I will be trying this approach out when I launch my third.

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