Do free books work as a marketing tool? This is a hotly debated issue among the indie authors that I know. Some are quite vehement that since they put in all that time writing the book, they want to get paid for that work.

I understand that. I want to get paid, too. I think the difference between those who use free e-books and those who don’t is their view of their career. Authors who use free books as part of their marketing plan believe that giving away a book now will help them further down the road in building readership and therefore, more sales.

I did some revamping of my own marketing plan this fall and decided to use free books as part of it. The first way I implemented this strategy was to offer three free e-books to anyone who signs up for my mailing list. (If you’re interested, visit my website at You’ll find a signup at the bottom of the home page.)

The results were good, but I still need to tweak things a bit to optimize it.

chart free vs paid series starter               Smashwords recently released an updated survey that supports the use of free books. With more and more authors using free book promotions, the effectiveness has dropped off some, but it still works. The 2015 survey found that free books are downloaded 41 times more than a priced book. That is up a bit from 2014, but down significantly from 2012 and 2013.

However, what it shows is that free books are a great way to get your books read. What happens from that point is up to the author. If the book is well written, the reader will want more so authors need to make sure that it is easy for the reader to find more books by the author and buy them.

“A free book allows a reader to try you risk free, and if you’re offering them a great full length book, that’s a lot of hours the reader has spent with your words in which you’re earning and deserving their continued readership.  Free works!,” Smashwords founder Mark Coker wrote in the survey.

Another item involving free books from the survey is that series that offer the first book free earn more money than those that don’t. Smashwords looked at 200 series with a first book free and 200 series that didn’t offer a free book. The survey looked at average earnings and the median earnings of the series. Both ways showed that series using free books earned 66 percent more.

I think this shows that free books should at least be given a try. I certainly will be. If you want to take a look at other findings in the survey, you can find out more here: