Today in the eBook market anybody can publish a book. But can you sell it? The fight for the attention of the consumer requires a power platform, an ample advertising fund, and/or a publisher willing to push your product. It is a war carried on far above the head of the Indie “none of the above” group. Where eBooks once were the friendly province of Indie authors, this format is now fully exploited by known and well supported authors with huge backlists. Just getting into the top 100 in sales in any Amazon category has become exponentially more difficult.

Why is that important? The novel that is number 101 in an Amazon category still sells, sometimes fairly well. But not as well as number 100. One shift we’ve noticed is increasing royalties through the ranks. It is because the invading known authors can receive good prices for their eBooks, just as they do for their paperback versions, and as more high price authors join a category, the consumer now seems willing to pay a higher price deeper into that category.

But for any author, and most especially the “none of the above” author to attract a buyer, visibility is the only answer. Your book must be seen to have a chance to sell. And the good news is, there remains at least one sales device that still works: the free book. It is the one remaining tool of the under-advantaged.

Why? It is simply because the Hillermans and Johnsons and Baldaccis and Sandfords don’t need to give away books in order to become visible, and therefore do not. Why should they? Thus the free book sales technique remains the vital tool of the Indie author, and so far it is an undisturbed playing field.

Some people can’t understand how giving away books to potential buyers, particularly eBooks which aren’t going to be passed around, can help the bottom line. First of all, why not? It doesn’t cost anything. It gets your book into more hands, more mouths talk about it, your name as an author becomes more familiar. Some ask, aren’t you giving away potential sales? Tougher question, but in my experience, very few more.

For example, this author put up five of his books for free on amazon, each over a 48 hour period, spaced by three or four days in between. The result? Fifteen thousand books were downloaded. I can assure you there is no way I currently expect to sell that number of books in that short time. But I do know there are fifteen thousand more readers out there who know my name and may tell others about my books.

I will continue to explore the free book avenue. Marketing books today is an ever changing challenge, but right now it seems to support that old adage “you have to give something to get something”.

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