'Giving It Away': When Free E-books Work and When They Don't
Balis offered a word of caution for other publishers: Free e-books have to have some hook to a causal relationship, either by metrics and traffic increase or an upsell to future products.
Wiley is now exploring offering backlist titles for free to upsell an author's new title, as well as a "try-before-you-buy environment" for mobile.
"Be careful about how you use [free content], but don't be skittish," he said.
Lewis said that Harlequin has been doing free promotions for decades, and this year has a significant free e-book and print-book giveaway effort in conjunction with the company's 60th anniversary. The goal, he said, is "to increase awareness of our brand and the amount [and scope] of content we publish." To this end, he said, their efforts have been successful.
"I think it's really important to define the business objective of why you're giving it away free and how it's going to help your business," he said.
"The interesting thing about digital sampling," he noted, "is that a lot of people download the digital book, but don't read the whole thing; they read the first chapter and then go buy [the book]."
The key, said Lewis, is: "Make sure it's measurable—define success. What is success for you and can you track it?"