6 authors who gave their best work away for free and why they did it

Written by Belle Beth Cooper on July 19, 2012

Giving stuff away for free in return for promotion is nothing new, but giving away your best work? It sounds crazy. It might, in fact, be crazy.

Either way, these six authors think it’s worth doing. Here’s why.

Jeff Goins

On his blog, Jeff Goins openly discusses his journey as a writer, including the ups and downs that come with writing, releasing and promoting his books. After his eBook You Are a Writer was released on Amazon (and was selling well), Jeff repriced it to a big fat zero for an entire weekend.

Jeff had a lot of reasons to give away his book, but most of them boil down to overcoming every new author’s greatest enemy: anonymity.

By giving away his book for free, Jeff was able to reach more readers, get more people to talk about his work and collect more Amazon reviews.

Julien Smith

If you haven’t heard of Julien Smith, you should take a look at his blog, In Over Your Head. It’s full of hard-hitting advice to wake you up and get you into gear. Smith is so passionate about the importance of giving away your best work for free that he included this advice in his blog post, 100 tips about life, people and happiness.

After co-authoring the New York Times Bestseller Trust Agents with Chris Brogan, he wrote his first solo book, The Flinch and offered it to readers at no cost.

In an interview Smith explained his motivation thus:

“…the real thing that an author has that is valuable is not even their book; it’s their name. And if my name is in the hands of a hundred thousand readers, it’s significantly more powerful to me than even the hundred thousand dollars that I would get from the potential sale of those books.”

To put it even more simply, he said, “Price is friction, and you want to reduce friction.”

Joshua Fields Millburn

As co-founders of The Minimalists blog, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus have authored four best-selling books.

When Millburn’s book of short stories, Falling While Sitting Down was selling well on Amazon and had received nothing but five-star reviews, he gave it away free for three days.

After just a few hours, the book jumped to #1 in the short story category on Amazon.

Ultimately, Millburn wanted to spread the ideas in his book with more readers.

 

He was able to reach more people and share his work by cutting the price barrier for a short period.

Colin Wright

As a friend of both Smith and Millburn, Exile Lifestyle blogger Colin Wright joined in the experiment and offered his own book, How to Be Remarkable at no cost for three days.

 

Although Wright’s book started out with a price-tag of only .99c, he felt that dropping the price altogether was worth it:

“It’s not a large discount at all, but it’s amazing how massive a wall even a dollar can build in some peoples’[sic] minds, and the content of the book is something I’d like to share with everyone, even if some people don’t like making purchases online, or don’t have a buck to spare.”

Wright was so sure about the positive effects of the experiment that he offered this advice on his blog:

“Don’t risk your business model, but think about it; you may even find that the additional exposure ends up being a smart business decision, not just a solid philosophical one.”

Jody Hedlund

Novelist Jody Hedlund thought giving away your best work was crazy, at first. She admitted that she didn’t want to give away free copies of her book.

When she decided to try it anyway, she was surprised to find that her sales went up, not down. Unlike the authors mentioned above, Jody gave free copies of her book to reviewers, influencers and bloggers rather than opening it up for anyone to download.

By choosing carefully who to offer the free book to, Hedlund found people who ultimately helped her to attract more paying readers.

Charles Sheehan-Miles

Charles Sheehan-Miles agreed with Jeff Goins’ theory that the writer’s greatest enemy is anonymity.

In order to fight this, he made electronic versions of his book Republic available for free while keeping the paperback version available for purchase on Amazon.

He made his motivation for giving his book away clear and simple:

“…by giving away the book, I hope more people actually read it.”

You

Now that you’ve heard about six different authors who did it, will you?

Do you have the guts to give away your best work for free?

White label event registration that puts you in control

We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to go their own way. To choose their own path. That's why we give you the freedom to re-brand Attendly as your own and set your own booking fee.

About the Author

Belle Beth Cooper

Belle has spent the past four years as a freelance writer and social media consultant. She has written for The Next Web, Desktop Magazine and Social Media Examiner. Belle now spends her days wielding a pencil as Attendly's Head of Content.

2 Comments

  1. July 19, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    To be fair: when I gave away Republic, it was 2008. And it had a _huge_ impact then. I track a lot of the discussions among authors now, and it still helps in terms of exposure for authors. But, and this is important… when so many are doing it, it’s less of an effect. A lot of people are storing up ebooks like squirrels with acorns… they download a bunch of free ones, collect them, and don’t read them.

    Those that do choose to give away their books, this can be great exposure; but the best positioning for an author who gives away a book is to have an entire series ready to go. Give the first one away for free, and charge for the rest.

  2. Belle Beth Cooper
    July 24, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Thanks for making this clear, Charles. The fact that more authors are using this as a promotional strategy is a good point: when it’s no longer remarkable, it won’t work in the same way.

    I love the idea of giving away the first book in a series, though. Thanks for your comment!

Leave a Comment

Click on a tab to select how you'd like to leave your comment

Stay Connected
Follow us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
Follow us on Google Plus
Follow us on LinkedIn