Free is good, but it doesn’t make me read your book

My recent shopping spree at Kobo made me think about pricing, and what my sweet spot is for a new to me author, and how it has changed over the years. ( Not to say I’ll not buy anything at full price, I will.) I bought my first e-reader a Sony PRS 505, in Sept 2009 (Yikes! Four years already), and at first, I went wild. I didn’t care about the price, if it sounded good, I bought it since the e-book price was lower than the price of the paper book in Sweden. But gradually, I got more aware of prices. I started using coupons on Kobo, and when Amazon started the KDP I downloaded freebies. Lots of them. Except… I didn’t read that many of the freebies. I picked up the books I had bought, and read first.

And gradually I became very picky when it came to freebies, and I figured out that 1.99-2.99 was my sweet spot for new to me authors. Why not 0.99? Purely psychological. 1.99 is high enough that I have to want to read the author, yet it is low enough that I haven’t wasted money if I didn’t like it.

And while I figured out that, the publishers took a look at the market, and realised the same thing.
2-3 ago it was common for publishers like Del Rey, Sourcebooks and Kensington to offer free e-books, even if Penguin, Simon and Schuster and Macmillan was much more restrictive. At that time, free reads was the most common promotional tool for Selfpublished authors.

Now it is much more common that publishers uses discounts to promote books. Most of the deals that I see, and post, offers discounted titles for 0.99-2.99. The attitude to discounting varies between publishers, and sometimes between imprints, but the discounts have a huge impact on the bestseller lists. Courtney Milan wrote a blogpost that showed how Avon’s willingness to discount had affected the bestseller lists.

The trend to offer less freebies is also happening among self published books, too even if it is at a slower rates. For example, it is becoming common to offers bundles that is discounted compared to buying the books separately. ( Although that isn’t the always the case, so check what the books cost before buying it.)

Even if a lot of authors still offer the first book in the series for free on a more or less permanent basis. Free books still have an effect on bestseller lists, but I cannot keep on wondering how long that will last? When will readers stop sampling new authors through free, since they already have a lot of books to read?
The answer to the last question is never, since readers love free books, but maybe the correct question is: When will there be so many free reads, that free isn’t a good promotional tool anymore?
I think that has already happened. If it hadn’t been for Amazon KDP Select, the level of freebies would be much lower. Which raises the question: How long time it will take before Amazon changes the KDP Select Terms of Service to say ” Free or discounted to 0.99/ 1.99 for at least 5 days”?

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