Bookbub and other eBook discount retailers like Riffle and Bargain Booksy use a direct-to-consumer business model. When an eBook reader signs up online with them, the reader indicates what kinds of books they like. After that, they’re regularly emailed promotional newsletters letting them know what bargains are currently available in those categories.

Publishers or authors pay Bookbub for the privilege of having their books promoted this way. If your eBook is chosen to be featured in a promotion, you might sell many more copies than ever before. But during this limited time sale, your book’s price will be heavily discounted, maybe to $2.99 or $1.99 or even 99¢. These retailers provide a career author with a conundrum: what’s your book worth?

How much for your blood, sweat, and tears?

Does a 99¢ price tag (of which an author gets but a portion) truly represent the value of countless hours of long, hard work? Or, with increased sales from such a promotion, will writers bring in more money than they would selling at a higher price? If so, does the price tag still matter as much?

Now that many career authors find themselves writing blogs and Internet articles for free, is writing books for free just a step away? Actually, it’s already happening.

Free books?

Sometimes indie authors offer up eBooks for free in a promotion. An original eBook may be given away at no cost in hopes of gaining a dynamic new author higher visibility and fans.

Or perhaps an experienced author’s backlist title is promoted and released by a publisher at a low cost or free in eBook format in an effort to encourage newly enthusiastic readers to go on and purchase that same author’s recent book at full price. If the previously published book was no longer selling, why not use it as a promotional tool?

Most publishers would rather do a low-price promo than give anything away for free. To warp Janis Joplin, Free is “just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” Skeptics think a free eBook is devalued in the eyes of consumers. Further, studies have shown cheapskate free-book readers don’t go on to spend more money. They will not pay full price. They finish their free book and go looking for another bargain.


Free book excerpts, however, are standard in the promotional toolbox for digital and online sales. Studies have shown that whetting the appetite of readers by providing just a taste greatly increases sales.

Always leave ‘em wanting more.

Sales spike

There are significant benefits to eBook price promotions. Even when the price is 99¢, an author—especially an original eBook author—may make more money as bargain hunters purchase en masse. These promoted reader purchases may even make up the majority of their sales numbers.

Romance readers have passionately embraced the eBook revolution, so romance price promotions outperform other genres. Also, numbers for well-known print authors on sale as an eBook outpace the pack.

Extending your reach

Print authors have jumped on the bandwagon, including heavy-hitter bestselling career authors. First, the print format of a book is released, along with a somewhat lower-priced eBook. The price of the eBook is less than the print book but it still isn’t cheap. In a few months, when the market for the book at those higher prices is maxed out, the eBook’s price can then be dropped in a short sales promotion.

With these promotions, a new audience opens up to this book and author. Readers that wouldn’t pony up $24 for a hardcover may well bite when the eBook is selling for $2.99. 

Discoverability is a key concept in book publishing. With a direct-to-consumer price promotion, new readers may hit upon your book and become fans. (Bookbub breaks down their subscribers here.) With increased sales comes higher visibility for both your eBook and brand.

“Bestselling author of…”

These promotions have heightened the profile of original eBook writers another way. Great sales might vault them onto eBook bestseller lists. Who doesn’t like that? Every writer pines for that “Bestselling author” intro before their name.

Courtesy of the Internet, we’re deep into this Brave New Economy. For career authors, it’s not a question of whether or not to exploit this cyber-transformation, it’s how you choose to do it.


What’s your attitude on these book fire sales? Have you purchased a book for 99¢? Hit us back on Facebook with your opinions on this timely subject.