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Should you make your book permafree? What are the benefits and drawbacks?

Lessons in Self-Publishing: Should You Make Your Book Permafree?

Mark Dawson recommends it. Joanna Penn recommends it. A whole bunch of indie authors (myself included) do it.

But should you make your book permafree?

Well, let’s start off with defining permafree: it’s a portmanteau of permanent and free. So, your book is permanently free.

I know, I know, you don’t want to make your baby free.

You’ve spent years pouring your heart and soul into it, and by making it free, aren’t you devaluing your creative work?

Well...there are a lot of benefits to giving away work for free if it’s done for the right reasons. So long as you’re not giving everything away for free, it’s not so much of a problem. 

On 10 May 2019, I made What Happens in New York permafree.

The rest of that month made more money than the rest of 2019 combined so far.

Annoyingly I won’t see that money until the end of July as payments are two months behind, but it shows that making a book free can pay off.

But how?

How could I have possibly make more money when I’m giving something away for free?

Should you make your book permafree?

In Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing 101 course (which I’m a part of), he recommends making the first book in a series free. Why? Because it lures people in. It’s the carrot, if you will.

People may not know who you are. If they don’t know who you are or anyone who can recommend your books, they’re less likely to take a chance on you.

If your book is free, they have nothing to lose by taking that chance. 

Then, once they’ve read that first book and they’re invested in the characters, they’ll be more willing to pay for other books by you.

However, it’s worth noting that this works much better with a series than standalones. It’s the characters people get invested in first and foremost, not you.

Therefore, it makes sense to make the first book in a series free rather than a random book you’ve written.

That’s why you’ll sometimes find books that are part of the same universe but that focus on different characters listed as a series instead of as individual books.

What if I only have one book?

If you only have one book, get writing!

There’s no harm in making your one and only book free, but the sooner you can continue the series the more readers you’ll have, and the more engaged they’ll be.

And of course, the more money you’ll make.

You can make your first book free and direct them to your mailing list so that you can notify them of your next release, but not everyone who enjoys your book will sign up to your list, so you may lose out on readers.

The best way to market a book is to write more books, because it gives you more exposure in algorithms.

After I made What Happens in New York free, it creeped up the rankings, and the rest of the series followed.

Apple Books now advertises the book for me on all sorts of featured spots. It sells on there even when I’m not running advertising campaigns.

Bestseller rankings on Apple Books
An example of my books appearing on the bestseller rankings on Apple Books. This was for either the New Adult Romance or the Contemporary Romance category.

How do I make my book permafree on Amazon?

Making your book permafree on Amazon is a bit of a faff. It’s easy on the other platforms, especially if you use an aggregator like Draft2Digital.

With Amazon, you must price match it to the other free platforms.

This isn’t a perfect system. It took me a week to get What Happens in New York free, then, as it hit the top 200 for the whole of Amazon, they started charging for it again.

The reason I got was that they run regular price checks’. What, exactly, are they price checking it again, when they insist on always being the cheapest platform yet they’re the only platform that wants to charge for it? I don’t know.

I lost all my rankings and it took two days to get it back to being permafree. Luckily it’s recovered and continues to creep up the rankings.

So, if you do make your book permafree, keep an eye on Amazon, because they’re always moving the goal posts.

Conclusion

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It depends on you and your circumstances.

You really need to be in this for the long game for a permafree book to pay off.

If you’re in it for quick wins, a permafree book probably isn’t the way to go.

In fact, if you’re in it for a quick win, you might want to check my upcoming book Writing Myths, because there’s no such thing as a quick win in the literary world.

Over to You

Are you more likely to take a chance on a new author if the book is free?

Does giving our work away for free devalue the work involved?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Should you make your book permafree? Don't forget to share the post to help other indie authors decide!

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ABOUT
Kristina Adams

Kristina Adams is an author of fiction and nonfiction, writing and productivity blogger, and occasional poet. She has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Derby and an MA in Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University. When she's not writing she's reading, baking, or finding other ways to destroy the kitchen. She can be found under a pile of books with a vanilla latte.

1 Comment

  • 4th July, 2019 at 21:42
    Muluuta Mugagga

    Yes i can take on a new author depending on the title of the book. Sometimes an attractive heading can attract me.

    No giving away a book does not devalue the work involved.The quality remains as it is. What is to be noted is that giving away a book is a marketing strategy.

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