From the Sourcebooks blog comes this article by Dominique Raccah.

There are loads of things that are interesting about ebooks. One of them is that you can fairly easily change the price of an ebook. So how eBooks are priced and why has to be a major aspect of any publisher’s (or author’s) strategy.

Pricing (as lots of people have talked about and discovered) is also one way to get your book or author discovered. But there’s also been a conversation going on that free doesn’t work any more and there are loads of opinions about why or why not.

This week Amy Denim noticed two of our titles available for free and posed this question:

I mean, Sourcebooks Casablanca is a pretty big publisher (I’d die to get published by them) they sell zillions of Romance novels every year. Why are they offering free books? (both of which I downloaded as soon as I could possibly make it to the one-click button)

So I pulled some data together about why we did it. (Thanks for the question, Amy!!). We ask ourselves this kind of question every week as we are evaluating eBook promotions. Here’s a bit about what we’re seeing.

We have offered 7 adult fiction titles (in romance and in general fiction) for free within the past 6 months.

On average, full-price sales for the 4 weeks after the promotion

were 46 times greater than the 4 weeks before the promotion.

That’s a really BIG increase – both in sales and in exposure for what are (in most cases) backlist or deep backlist titles. There’s a lot of variability in the results. Some titles saw a relatively weak 7-12 time increase. One book saw a staggering 844 time sales increase. The average was a 46-fold sales increase. The kind of novel seems to make a big difference here and we (as always) need more data.

We obviously use this tactic sparingly and as part of pretty wide arsenal of marketing and publicity tactics. We’re testing a lot of different ways to drive sales and discovery. And while we are interested in driving sales and marketing results, we are unwilling to do that at the cost of the value of our authors’ work. So again, there’s both analysis and discussion around when different tactics work best.

Anyone else have any data they’d be willing to share? I’d love to understand this better. What are you seeing from other publishers or authors?  What is your opinion of using free or discounted backlist to drive discovery?  Would love to hear what people are seeing and think works.

Thanks in advance for any discussion.



  1. My Literary Agent said , and I checked into it, “Free ebooks on Amazon count as Sales”
    The Author promotes I was in the Top # on Amazon,,,
    This is were extra Sales come in. Tricking the reader.
    The reader does not know , the books in some cases are pushed on people to down load. “Has happened to me” many of these people never read them….. But they count as a sale!
    We think it is VERY wrong.. If they do not count in your over all sale #s give away as many as you wish. A lot of Authors are now just bringing this up as unfair. I had no idea until , some Authors started pushing me to down load their books.

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