According to Google Trends, searches for the term free ebooks doubled between December 2009 and December 2010 but has since dropped by nearly 75%.
Searches for the term “free ebooks” during the last five holiday seasons
What got me interested in looking at the trend of searching for free eBooks was the Pew Research Internet Project report released January 16, 2014: E-Reading Rises as Device Ownership Jumps. According to the report:
50% of Americans now have a dedicated handheld device–either a tablet computer like an iPad, or an e-reader such as a Kindle or Nook–for reading e-content. That figure has grown from 43% of adults who had either of those devices in September.
So compare this rapid growth of the ability to read eBooks with the continued decrease in search for free eBooks. (In the chart at right the number 100 is assigned to the highest volume for this term and all others are measured against this number.)
I draw four conclusions from this trend:
- Readers may be associating “free” with cheap and not worth their time.
- More of the books that people want to read are available as paid books.
- Readers are becoming more selective.
- Gifting of eBooks is becoming more popular giving new owners something to do with their devices on Christmas day.
What does this mean for authors and publishers?
I think we have moved into a much more competitive period where free doesn’t have the power it once had to help an unknown author breakout. It’s not to say that free is no longer compelling, because I think it is. But you can’t be a one-book-author and rely on free as your primary marketing strategy.
Here are 3 ideas that go beyond the free or KDP Select Free Book Promotion to get the word out.
- Have more than one book. I know this is easier said than done but your second book doesn’t have to be as significant as the first. Besides the obvious cross-marketing benefits you can price one at $0 to help market the other. A fiction writer can produce a collection of stories. A non-fiction writer can create a book that complements the main book. Nicholas Lovell, the author of The Curve did just that by writing and giving away 10 Ways to Make Money in a FREE World. (I honestly didn’t set out to write this post to feature this free eBook!)
- Offer your eBook for 99 cents instead of free. When Amazon changed the rules of the Associate program to limit the use of free eBooks to get affiliate commissions, many KDP Select promotion websites began favoring the 99 cent eBook instead.
- Use Countdown Deals instead of Free Book Promotion for your KDP Select. If you are a member of KDP Select you can chose one program, or the other, so instead choose Countdown Deals. Read more here.
People may have stopped searching Google for free ebooks but it’s still a viable strategy if you approach it right. By the way, someone just posted this message in the Linkedin Marketing on Amazon group:
“I recently updated all of my prices, increasing considerably the Kindle prices. It seems many publishing companies are doing the same. What are your experiences with pricing on Kindle?”