Baen Publishing, a big sci-fi publisher, presented an idea to their authors. It goes something like this . . . authors should make the first novel in a series available to the public as a free e-book. Yep, I said a “free” book. No royalties, no advance, no physical book; only a free download.
Baen reasons that readers will appreciate receiving the free electronic book, and if they enjoy the author’s style, they will gladly pay for the rest of the books in the series. It’s a way to market entire series, and develop an author fan base, at the same time. Here’s the link to Erick Flint’s lengthy explanation of this controversial idea:
Here’s the problem I see with this approach. If I’m a first-time published author, I don’t have a “prior” book in the series. Even if I am an established author starting a new series, there’s no “prior” story in the series. What then? Maybe I should write two books in a series BEFORE approaching Baen for publication. Then, the opener-story for the series could be the freebie with the sequel being the fee-based book. Sounds like a lot of work to risk on the sales of just one story.
Space Chronicles: The Last Human War was my self-published, sci-fi story. It was received well by readers but not very profitable because I was selling books a few at a time. I lacked access to major advertising and marketing media, so I sold copies through personal marketing effort until I made a small profit. Then, I gave the remaining 500 books to the soldiers in
Now, the sequel to LHW is coming along, and I hope to go through a major publishing company to get widespread marketing. I'm willing to offer The Last Human War as the free e-book download to introduce sci-fi fans to the Space Chronicles series. I asked my literary agent about it, and she expressed excitement about the potential, offering to represent both books. In addition, she already has a good relationship with Baen . . . this is getting exciting.
What do you think about this Baen marketing idea? Free story: yes or no? How would you handle that "first-book" in a series problem?