Is “free” a four-letter word?

Starting today (December 20) Dance of Souls will be available for Kindle FOR FREE for three days.

I’m taking advantage of Amazon’s new KDP Select Program. To quote: “When you make your book exclusive to Kindle for at least 90 days, it will be part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library for the same period and you will earn your share of a monthly fund when readers borrow your books from the library. You will also be able to promote your book as free for up to 5 days during these 90 days.”

I have heard a lot of buzz and grumble about this, especially over the exclusivity requirement. For me, it was not an issue since I so far haven’t made the book available anywhere else.

What’s not clear to me is whether the “FREE” enticement will do anything at all to prompt more people to download a copy. At $7, it hardly seems that money could be standing in the way of people who want to read it. The problem is not cost but exposure. So the program will be helpful if it actually draws attention to books that might otherwise not be noticed. Apparently, though, so many people have joined the program that there’s now the same problem of getting lost in the crowd that exists on Amazon as a whole.

I’m looking at this, as I look at most of my activities around marketing Dance of Souls, as an experiment. My marketing/pricing background tells me that cheap products tend to be valued as such. My mother told me, “You get what you pay for.” Is advertising my book for free sending the wrong message?

Perhaps I am going about this all wrong. Instead of offering Dance of Souls for free, I should charge more. (Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine lists for $625—$449.07 on Amazon—and currently ranks #1,221 in books, which beats mine by oh, a million and a half or so.)

So hurry up and get your free copy in the next three days, before I raise the price to reflect the true value of what you’re buying.

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