Do free ebooks pay off?

Mae Clair and I are doing a blog swap today. She recently did a very successful free promotion for Eclipse Lake. She's here to tell us how she pulled this off.

Strategy, Results and Wrap: Do Free eBooks Pay Off? byMae Clair

When Craig and I talked about doing a blog swap, I wasn’t sure what my topic was going to be. I thought maybe I’d reference several internet sites for writers that have been helpful to me, and then I realized the most useful information I could share was my experience offering a free book on Amazon.

Maybe you’ve already done this. If so, I’d love your take on it. For me, the whole thing was a new experience and I didn’t know what to expect. A lot of authors offer free books when they’re writing a series—offer the first book free and hope the reader will become ensnared enough to purchase the successive books in the series—but in my case, I didn’t have a series to work with. What I had was a brand new romantic suspense/mystery, MYTH AND MAGIC that I wanted to draw attention to.

To give MYTH a boost, I offered one of my previous releases, ECLIPSE LAKE, a stand-alone romantic mystery free for a period of three days. I admit it was exciting to see ECLIPSE soar in the Amazon rankings, eventually topping out at #64 in the Kindle store and #3 in the romantic suspense/mystery category. I was prepared to see it plummet when the freebie deal ended, but a strange thing happened.

No, ECLIPSE LAKE doesn’t rank in the top 100 now, but for nearly three weeks it held steady in the 5K to 10K range which was a big step up from where it had been languishing before. Even now, nearly a month later (as I write this blog) it’s still doing exceptionally well. Hopefully, I’m not jinxing myself by saying that. I did have to work, however, to get the word out.



I had approximately two dozen bloggers lined up during the free period to run my promo with both ECLIPSE LAKE and MYTH AND MAGIC. Of those, about five forgot and didn’t post, but all the remaining blogs gave me a strong push. I also had authors tweeting and posting on Facebook about the promo. For my part, this was just coordination and an investment of time, ensuring everyone got the material they needed when they needed it.

Paid Advertising

Not everyone wants to invest in paid promos, but they get the job done. I paid for two Facebook boosts (one for Eclipse and one for Myth). I also paid for two reader service ads. These were with The Fussy Librarian and The Choosy Bookworm, two large reader subscription services that send out daily emails with new releases and free books broken down by genre. I had spots ads on the Fussy and Choosy websites, too, as part of the promo package I paid for. In addition, Great Books, Great Deals, included me in their daily email when ECLIPSE LAKE was offered free. That inclusion didn’t cost me anything. All total, I invested close to $60.00 for everything. Was it worth it?


MYTH AND MAGIC did well, better than any of my previous releases, but I would have liked for it to climb higher initially.

ECLIPSE LAKE kicked butt and the freebie offering has breathed new life into it. Even better, I experienced a gooduptick in ALL of my previous releases (SOLSTICE ISLAND, TWELFTH SUN and WEATHERING ROCK) for a full week.

I picked up 25 new fans on my Facebook page. Hmm, maybe I should really think about using it more.

I had several new blog followers join me, and several sign up for my newsletter. Ditto with Twitter and Google+

ECLIPSE LAKE picked up 12 new reviews (eleven 5-star, and one 4-star) in a three week period. I was extremely pleased with those results, and hope there will be more reviews to come.


I’m still not sure I can call the whole experience a success given what I invested. I will, however, chalk it up to another learning curve on my writer’s journey.

Thanks to Craig for allowing me to share my experience on his blog. If you’ve offered a free book, or are considering offering one, I’d love to hear your thoughts, good or bad. I’d also be interested in knowing how many of you have downloaded free books, actually read them and posted reviews. And finally, I invite you to check out ECLIPSE LAKE and MYTH AND MAGIC for yourself. I know I’m partial to them, but I think you’ll find them both an intriguing blend of mystery, suspense and romance.

You can find Mae Clair at the following haunts:



Twitter (@MaeClair1)

Facebook Author Page

Amazon Author Page

Kensington Books Author Page



I can personally vouch for for Myth and Magic. I read it recently and gave it five stars.

If you want your Entertaining Stories fix today, you'll have to visit Mae's blog. I took Doubt, the raven, over there to talk about editing, but something went haywire.



Filed under Writing

26 responses to “Do free ebooks pay off?

  1. carmens007

    Thank you for sharing your marketing experience with us, Mae!
    Yes, a pity not all bloggers kept the promise.I visited your each link and saw it. I had a similar experience with promo and reviews for Shadows of the Past. But anyway the fact that your books had a nudge upward in charts is a good thing for you. Congratulations!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Carmen. I guess I walked away with good and bad impressions of the whole thing. Sad, that as authors we have to give our work away for free to draw some attention, but then in a world of mayflies (thinking of one of Craig’s previous posts) it’s really hard to get noticed otherwise. I will probably do a free promo again down the road, but now I can apply what I’ve learned from this experience!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think the blogging community is really helpful. In my experience, I think most everyone is willing to lend a hand. Of those I contacted, almost all replied favorably. I did it so far ahead of time, I think the ones that missed posting just forgot.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I used to have a real problem downloading free ebooks, until I realized there was a trick. Download the book, upload to Google Play Books, and viola. Or, download and email the link to your Kindle address, where you can upload from there. When it’s time to review I make sure to write “the author gave me a copy for an honest review” or “I received this copy during a free promo”–something along those lines so Amazon doesn’t remove it, and I always keep a copy just in case. 😉 Thanks for sharing your experience, Mae!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Sue. Yes, Amazon is getting very picky about what reviews it allows. I try to remember to note when someone gives me an ARC, but I’ve never noted receiving a book during a free promo. I guess I should start doing that. And yes, emailing a copy to your Kindle address works great when not downloading directly from Amazon. I even do that with the final draft of my novels before submitting just to get a “final feel” for them. I usually catch things on the Kindle that I miss after multiple clean sweeps on the computer!

      Liked by 2 people

      • That’s a great idea. I’ve uploaded my ms to Google Play books before, but that was only for my benefit, to look for things I might have missed during editing. Now, my screen turns so I can use landscape or portrait. It’s amazing what a little turn does to perspective.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Amazon is really cracking down right now on reviews. I make friends with my readers in many cases. I’d hate to lose my right to review, or have my books stripped back to the bone. It all feels like hoping the crocodile isn’t at the watering hole today.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Pretty disgusted with what Amazon is doing right now. I really hope it blows over. Either that you’re they’re just going to have to stop allowing reviews on their site, period.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve done a few of those and they’ve been hit or miss. The first one went amazingly well and I had no marketing for it. Then I did another with a little marketing the next two times and it didn’t do very well. I’m thinking of doing a free weekend of my first book when I release the next one in the series just to see what happens. I do fear the drop when it returns to the paid list, which has been minimal at times and destructive at others. Makes me wonder if an author using a random free period harms their own progress because people are waiting for it to happen again.

    Liked by 2 people

    • HI, Charles. How wonderful that you had a successful experience without investing marketing. And so odd, that when you did do some marketing the results weren’t as good. Like you said, I guess the whole thing is hit or miss.

      I do think offering a free book when you’re writing a series can be a great boost for other books in the series. The only drawback I could see is that a reader would download the first book, not read it right away, and then decide later if they want to continue with the series. I’ve done that myself.

      One series caught me right away, and I bought all the remaining books (4 of them) from the author. Since then I’ve read the first releases in three other series by different authors, but wasn’t caught up enough to go back and purchase the second books and those that follow.

      And you’ve got an interesting point about authors harming themselves with the random free periods. Something to think about!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think it could work out well for you. I always thought it suited a series better than stand alone novels. Mae showed me something new, and maybe a bit of promotion is in order.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for sharing your experience, Mae. I think the biggest thing I got out of my free promotion on Lightning Only Strikes Twice, were the number of reviews. It went free for a week, and had over 18,000 downloads. I’m sure it won’t get read that many times, but I think the reviews came from that bump. That was a couple of years back when the free downloads weren’t as prevalent as they are now, though. I’m really glad your experience was positive. Of course, you write awesome stories, and that makes all the difference. Congratulations!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Aww, thanks for those kind words, Stanalei. 🙂 And 18,000 downloads is awesome! You know I don’t know that I even know how to check for that on Amazon. I really need to use my author portal far better than I do. You’re right that free downloads are becoming more and more common. I used to grab them thinking “oh, that might appeal to me at some point.” Now I only grab them when I fully intend to read them–which sometimes takes a while given my TBR list!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Ali Isaac

    Well Mae, that sure sounds like success to me! Well done, and here’s to your continued success. Eclipse Lake has a particularly beautiful cover, BTW.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. From a reader perspective, I’ve found that if I pay for something, even if it’s just 99 cents, I’m likely to read it shortly after purchase, but when I download things for free, they tend to sink to the bottom of my Kindle without being read.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is something I always believed too. I offer freebies to my friends now, but haven’t don’t a free promo for a long time.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, thanks for that insight. It’s extremely interesting. I try to review everything I read, but I never looked at my ratio of paid vs. free. I’m going to have to check that out!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, I have several authors I had no idea existed until I found their free book online who are now on my “must read” lists. Shelley Coriell, Lori Handeland, Lisa Shearin, Jeremy Robinson, D.D. Ayers, Amy Braun, the list goes on and on. Oh, and Wen Spencer – I am rereading her first book of her series right now (well, listening, that is. I have several authors I have on my “must listen” rather than “must read” because the Audible editions are narrated by narrators I don’t want to miss.) because I noticed that she has several short stories out as well based on the series that I want to fit into their proper position in the reading order. In other words – free books are great, in a series of course, but as Mae says, if you have published other books before and the one you are offering for free gives me a ‘taste’ of your work, and it sounds promising, I will download and check it out. That’s not to say that I keep, and read, every freebie I see. If I find that the book is horrendously edited, it goes in the trash. The same goes for poor writing. I just can’t be bothered with books the author doesn’t care enough about to be meticulous in their work. And some people can’t really call themselves “authors” – simply ‘writing’ doesn’t an ‘author’ make. So many books, so little time! But, overall, I truly appreciate freebies and am always thrilled when I find a new author to add to my “Yeah!” list. Anthologies do this for me as well – authors I may never have found on my own suddenly become “I have to find out what else she/he wrote! Right now!”

      Liked by 1 person

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