Monday, 29 April 2013

Amazon and free books

This last six weeks has been an experimental period, during which I attempted to assess the usefulness of the Kindle Select option through Amazon. Some of the vote is still out, but early returns are in.

For those not familiar with the program, Amazon gives you the option to enter a book into the Select program, so long as you agree that you will not sell it through any other platform. What they give you in return is 5 days in a three-month period during which you may give away the book for free as a promotion.

That’s it, really.

The results thus far appear to be largely ineffective. Reviews are difficult to quantify, but I suspect I’m seeing one review per 500-1000 downloads. That’s unsatisfying, as reviews were really the only reason I’d been interested in the program. I won’t say I was surprised. I suspect that the vast majority of books downloaded for free are never read at all. People just like to grab free things; it’s a monkey-brain reflex. You also run the risk of people who really don’t like your genre reviewing you because it was free – they’d never have downloaded your space opera, otherwise, and didn’t like all the starships, etc.

So is it worthwhile? No, I don’t think so, but the experiment isn’t quite over. I think I preferred to run my promotions using Smashwords coupons for reviewers, contest winners and the like.

In the end, we all value things relative to what we paid for them; this is why the wealthy extoll Ferrari rather than Ford. I suspect that mass free promotions devalue the quality of a writer’s work in the mind of the reader, consciously or unconsciously. I don’t think they’re nearly as valuable as Amazon would have us believe.

Thoughts? Leave a comment!