There are two styles of free when it comes to books, and there’s a lot of confusion about when to use them effectively.
Perma-free is when a book is free all the time on multiple distributions (Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, your website, Draft2Digital).
While free all the time makes it easy to schedule promos and find newsletter swaps, it’s most effective when it is done on the first book in a series with at least 3 books available. If you can keep your perma-free high in the free lists on Amazon, you’ll have trickle downloads even when you’re not actively promoting.
The purpose of a perma-free is to capture readers’ attentions and their hungry appetites to read and encourage them to read the other books in the series. It’s called a loss leader when done like this. Readers have acquired a short attention span, and they enjoy binge watching/reading.
It is not an effective strategy when it is the only book you have out or when you only have a pair of books in a series.
If you are doing a perma-free in a standalone or in an incomplete series (less than 3 books with plans on more), then make sure you are using an effective Call-To-Action to get those readers to join your newsletter, follow you on social media, follow you on Amazon/BookBub, etc. so you don’t have to recapture a reader later on in your career. It’s easier to maintain a reader than it is to re-fish for them.
Free is a short-term proposition. You might run a free promo for a week, over a 3-day weekend, to celebrate an anniversary, etc. If your book is in Kindle Unlimited, then you have 5 days to use every 90-days. If your book is wide, you can schedule these type events on the dashboard—except Amazon where you must email them to price match.
These are usually done in conjunction with a huge promo-stacking push to get your book in front of as many people in as short of a window as possible. While you give out hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of free copies, there is a sell-spike in copies after the free days have ended.
Making Free Work For You
To make free work for you, you must actively put your book in front of readers that haven’t seen it regardless if it’s free or perma-free.
Social media posts, author takeovers, and newsletter swaps are just the tip of the iceberg.
Find things like Pretty Hot, E-Reader Today, etc. to make sure you’re finding the right readers who are interested. Some of these are free or cost a small fee and some, like BookBub, can cost hundreds. Before you pay money, you need to ask your network and groups you’re in if they found a promo effective. Those who understand data will give you a yes or no to a positive ROI, and that’s what you need to be looking for—a promo that pushes enough copies, KU reads, downloads to make it worth the time and money spent setting them up.