I have a tendency to lurk in the Bookbub Paranormal Suspense section. It's a great way to read a high volume at low cost, allowing me to find authors to collaborate with on promotions without breaking my bank account. Most of the time I enjoy the books I find. Once in a while I find a book I can't finish or that simply wasn't ready for prime time. I don't review books I don't like (there is enough negativity in the world and I experience guilt because I know the work that goes into a novel), but I might whine a little bit on Facebook without naming names or titles. In one case, an author dedicated chapters to her heroine's bizarre and completely irrelevant profession. My friend's reactions surprised me. One in particular:
"You mean the books you get for free aren't of stellar quality? I'm shocked!"
I don't have a problem with free books, but that may be because I've experienced the pressure to do freebies. Free books are a way to increase readership with the hopes they'll enjoy the series and move to the next book. The strategy has solid logic behind it, but it doesn't take into account the reaction I run into. People are naturally suspicious of a deal that's too good to be true and the perceived quality plummets. A quick Google search turned up a few research studies that confirmed what I've witnessed while talking to friends.
Finally there is the issue of quality. While I've read quite a few free books that were great, there were the books that started this conversation. It only takes a few bad apples to confirm a suspicion in overall quality. A book must be professionally edited and formatted.
I've done a freebie for my first book, and despite the hundreds of books given away, I didn't see a lot of lift in reviews or sales. Participating in Bookbub in a heavily discounted sale, on the other hand, went very well. I moved a much higher volume and there were more subsequent sales and reviews. Then again, it was Bookbub. My last sale didn't move nearly the volume of the freebie. It's difficult to make a comparison, but I'm leaning towards sticking with heavy discounts over listing books at zero cost.
What do you think about free books as a reader or a writer?