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Answering your questions about writing, publishing, and marketing books

By Sarka-Jonae Miller, author of the free book Between Boyfriends

At almost every author talk, panel, and book-related event, people ask why authors make their books perma-free, or permanently free. I've heard many authors say they participate in giveaways but would never consider making the actual price of a book $0. It's easy to understand their point of view given the amount of months, if not years, it takes to write a book. Would you work for six months without compensation? Setting aside the reality that unless you have an advance you're effectively doing that every time you write a book, it's still reasonable to do so in hopes of getting paid eventually.

But, there are many instances why making at least one of your books perma-free is good for your career and could lead to more money overall, which is why I made my award-winning novel Between Boyfriends free on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

Between Boyfriends is about an SDSU student from Coronado who must lose everything to learn what matters in the most hilarious way possible, a book East County Magazine's editor Miriam Raftery called “an escapist romp for readers” and “the ultimate chick-lit read” before I started writing this column. Read the complete review here.

Giving your book away for free may hurt a little at first, and probably isn't a great idea if it's your only one, but for authors with several published books perma-free books could have significant benefits.

What Perma-Free Books Will Do For You

  • Perma-free books are the tasters that get people hooked. Free samples are a tried-and-true method for selling quality products. Unfortunately, giving out sample chapters doesn't work as well as it used to because who wants a free movie trailer when people are giving out free movies?
  • Readers who are unwilling to take a chance buying a book from an unknown author might try it out if it's free. Bookworms are constantly hunting for new authors and once they find ones they like they tend to read everything those authors publish. You cannot buy that kind of loyalty, but you can incentivize readers to give you a chance instead of waiting for Oprah's next recommendation.
  • More people reading your books leads to increased word-of-mouth advertising, personal recommendations, and reviews – all of which are critical to long-term success. Getting that magic trilogy in the amount needed to boost an author's career is harder than hitting a trifecta at the races, much harder.
  • Books have a short shelf life, even online. Unless they are a breakout success, books see a significant drop in sales and visibility in a matter of months, leaving them effectively dead in terms of sales. Making an older book free could give it a second life.
  • Online retailers like Amazon use metrics such as page visits, online searches, and downloads to determine author rank. Even free downloads could increase your popularity in Amazon's eyes, causing the company to start recommending your books and helping new readers find you. You will find no better partner to sell books for you than Amazon.

What Perma-Free Books Won't Do For You

  • Perma-free books will not make you an overnight success. If giving your book away for free made you an overnight success, you could just make it free for one day and then jack up the price.
  • Making a book perma-free will not lead to the same number of paid sales as free downloads. No matter how amazing your free book is, not everyone who downloads it will buy the sequel.
  • Books that are poorly edited, incomplete, and generally not ready for publication will not benefit you as an author. Although there may be an initial spike in author rank, the reviews and word-of-mouth will quickly persuade people not to download your book. Just because it's free doesn't mean everyone will want it.

A complete list of links where you can get Between Boyfriends for $0 is available at If you enjoy it, please leave a review and let me know what you think. You can also talk to me on Twitter @sarkajonae, Facebook, and my website

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