Should You Write a Free E-book?

People write e-books for several reasons. One of those reasons is to make money. So why would any e-book author be willing to give their e-book away for free?

If you're planning to write an e-book, how should you decide whether to charge for it or give it away?

It really comes down to why you're writing your e-book in the first place. If your primary goal is to make money through the e-book sales, free e-books obviously aren't for you. However, if your goal is to use the e-book to market something else (your blog, website, a larger e-book, another product, or your services), or just to help build your reputation more as an expert in the niche, writing a free e-book could be a good idea. Here's why:

  1. Free e-books naturally can give you more exposure, because anyone can get their hands on a copy.
  2. If you haven't already built a reputation in your niche, people may not be willing to pay you for what you have to say yet anyway.
  3. Free e-books have a better chance of spreading virally. Most paid e-books don't grant the buyer the right to distribute the e-book to others, while free e-books often do. Using a free e-book as a viral marketing tool simply means that your e-books will get passed around via word of mouth (or the Web's equivalents).

Even if your primary goal is to make money from your e-book, don't necessarily snub free e-books. You may find that offering a free shorter version or excerpt actually promotes the sales of your primary e-book.

Have you written and distributed a free e-book in the past? Why did you do it, and how did it work out for you?

Profile image for Jennifer Mattern

Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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3 thoughts on “Should You Write a Free E-book?”

  1. I haven’t given away free e-books, but on my website I have “given away” free sample chapters of my book for writers called Writer’s First Aid. Browsers have a chance to read a sample chapter from each of the four sections of the book before choosing whether or not to buy. It seems to be working as a selling tool. Other webmasters have also used the free chapters as articles on their websites, with the buying information at the end of the article.

  2. Jennifer, so nice to find your blog and the wealth of information here.

    In addition to the wonderful reasons you cite above, I do offer a free e-book on my site because, quite honestly, if people do the work in the “workbook” it makes working with clients flow so much more smoothly. In a very real sense, it’s a credibility builder, as well as a training tool.

    Thanks for the service you provide here to your readers!

  3. Not yet … but I’m planning on one to establish credibility for a series of related titles under the heading of “If the free one was that good, then the $$ ones are probably worth paying for.” Of course, I intend that the pay titles actually BE worth their cost.


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