The reality is that only 2 - 4% of those availing themselves of free copies bother to write reviews, and of those who do many are negative, some citing reasons such as it wasn't the right genre for them, or perhaps because it's easier to criticize than it is to offer a constructive, well considered positive review. Downloading a novel then giving it a low rating because the story wasn't to the readers taste is no justification for a low rating. It just means that the reader didn't take the time to read the blurb, or 'Look Inside' to obtain a sense of the writing style. There are also readers who feel justified in submitting reviews after reading only a few chapters.
As stated in the Dec 2014 blog below, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that readers will go on to purchase others books when there is a pipeline overflowing with other offerings at their disposal. Why buy your next meal at the restaurant that fed you yesterday when another source down the street is offering their food for nothing, and are actually paying for the privilege to advertise that fact.
How did this phenomena come about?
Giving away work for free is a relatively recent occurrence that exists primarily within the indie community as a reaction to competition, as well as an incentive to create interest in readers, agents and publishers, for works not published by traditional methods. The concept of the free giveaway was initially successful as a unique marketing tool that worked for those on the leading edge. 'Unique' is the operative word and it is clear that this approach is no longer the case, for Giving away free copies of novels is no longer unique - and certainly not original.
So why is it continuing?
One answer is that this marketing strategy has become the accepted practice in order to compete at the lowest common denominator. Interestingly, it is a practice actively encouraged by outlets such as BookBub who charge authors a large amount of money to list their 'Free Books' with them.
Authors need to compete at a price that affords them some compensation.
Readers need to support the people who dedicate thousands hours to producing work by recognizing the value. Without that support the indie writing community will simply disappear and readers will be back to buying all their books at full price. Readers need to consider, and ask themselves if they would be willing to go to work for nothing.
Amazon, Apple and all the other outlets that publish works by Indie authors need to get on board by preventing any book from being given away. They're not making any money, the author isn't making any money and that approach is ultimately destructive to a vibrant, artistic community.
Giving away free books costs money. Without an tangible offset it doesn't make sense.
The first step is up to each and every author. It is they who are responsible for pricing the work they produce.
Here's a reprint of the Dec. 2014 Blog Post
It’s a sobering reality check to realize that all the months and years devoted to the creation of a piece of work, such as a novel, is nothing more than the beginning of the process, and not the end. There is an expectation that the final, final edit, the agony over cover design and introduction to a hundred agents is enough. The book is complete, the process finished, it's on the launching pad and success will surely follow. Publishers will fall all over themselves to secure this new work and produce thousands of copies. The title will appear on the New York Times Best Seller's List and suddenly John Grissom, David Baldacci, Brad Thor, Steve Berry, Steven King, JK Rowling and all the other well known writers will be wondering who the heck is this newbie nipping at their heals.
It somehow doesn’t quite work that way. Agents and publishers already have a stable full of known talent with proven track records that keep them busy. And they have an infinite amount of choice clogging the pipelines, bombarding them each and every day, every week, month after month, year after year. The chance of interesting an agent: the preferred and often only way to approach publishers, is exceedingly slim. Unless you happen to be a celebrity, or have the luck to click with the right person, who just happens to need a new client, in whatever genre the writer and agent share a common interest, at exactly the right time.
A tall order when agents admit to rejecting 99.9 percent of all work submitted by unrequested query introduction.
The alternative option is self publishing an eBook and listing it on the many eBook sites willing to offer it for sale, for sizable commissions ranging from 35 - 70%. Many writers, especially those who were on the cutting edge of this eWave, have had success, and while it is without doubt worth exploring it is also worth noting that this is the route the majority of writers unable to interest an agent are taking.
One site recently visited listed 130,000 writers placing books with them, many of whom have multiple listings. The numbers are staggering and promotion on these sites are just the same as at a bookstore; all the known authors are front and center and that lovingly produced work that was listed in the expectation of discovery is buried and consigned to a dimly lit back room where a search warrant is required to find it.
The lack of visibility and realization producing competition for attention and recognition quickly follows. Works that have taken months or years to produce are given away at very low prices, and often for free in the hope that much needed interest will be generated.
The reality is that many readers simply download all the free works offered and spend months working their way through them only to download another batch of free offerings when the need arises. Everything has value. Giving something away at no cost in the hope, rather than the expectation and promise of some form of compensation is questionable, encourages others to follow in order to compete, and that course of action is ultimately harmful to the entire community of writers.
When was the last time a baker handed out entire cakes as samples, a dentist filled a cavity for nothing, or a lawyer prepared a legal document all in the vague hope that the recipient would recognize the value and return when the same can be had from every other baker, dentist and lawyer down the street? They wouldn't and don't; they provide samples, or consultations and that's it.
Two or three sample chapters are enough for decisions to be made on the style of writing, and whether the prospective buyer is interested, or not. If it’s purchased and liked and judged to be worthwhile it is reasonable to assume future success will result. Giving away thousands of copies of an entire book just doesn’t make sense, and the people who picked it up certainly won't be buying it.