Does FREE Still Work?

Eons ago I worked in radio and saw the power of free at
work. Or the lack of power. We’d frequently run promotions where we gave away
movie tickets, or concert tickets, or free passes to some station event. The
value of the tickets was anywhere from $12 – $55. 
Any guess what percentage of winners used their tickets?
Forty percent. Why so low? The listener had no skin in the game and when something else
came up, the tickets went to waste. They hadn’t put any money in so they weren’t losing anything to bag on the event.
Now allow me to fast forward to 2010 and contradict myself.
My first novel, ROOMS, released in spring of that year and for two weeks in
April my publisher gave away the Kindle edition for free. It was #1 in the
Kindle store for 12 out of the 14 days. Then they gave it away free for two
weeks on the Nook.
When the four weeks were over, 90,000 copies had been
downloaded. It gave ROOMS a lot of buzz and I think it SOLD a lot of books. (I
know it did, because with that first novel I tracked the numbers like an actuary.)
But I think the day of giving away Kindle or Nook copies to
drive sales is over. Simple reason: There are too many free downloads. My TBR
“pile” on my Kindle is around 300 titles. I might get around to reading some of
them. But odds are higher I won’t.
Funny though, the books on my Kindle I paid for seem to get
Can you relate? Do you find yourself reading the books you
pay for and neglecting others you got for free? Or do you read both equally?
Have you used a free giveaway recently and seen it have a positive impact on
Have you discovered an author through a free e-book and bought their
other titles? Is there a difference in an established author giving away a free
e-book (Ted Dekker did this a few months ago to spectacular success) as opposed
to a new author?
Your turn. Thoughts? Inquiring James’ would like to know.
 James L. Rubart is the best-selling, award winning author of
four novels. Publishers Weekly says this about his latest: ““Readers with high blood pressure or
heart conditions be warned: [Soul’s Gate] is a seriously heart-thumping
and satisfying
that goes
to the edge, jumps off, and “builds wings on the way down.” During the
day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps authors make more coin of the realm.
He lives with his amazing wife and two sons in the Pacific Northwest and loves
to dirt bike, hike, golf, take photos, and still thinks he’s young enough to
water ski like a madman. More at