Why I Did the Unthinkable and Gave My eBook Away for Free

This weekend, I did the unthinkable: I priced my eBook at $0. It had already made a decent number of sales, but I wanted to experiment with giving it away to see how many more people I could reach.

Crazy, huh?

You Are a Writer

My goal is to get You Are a Writer into as many people’s hands as possible, and I don’t want money to be an excuse for anyone to not have it.

Last night, I entered Amazon’s KDP Select Program, which means that for the next 90 days, my eBook will be available only on Amazon. As part of the promotion, I get a select number of days to give the book away for free, two of which are this weekend: June 23 and 24.

Why I did it

This may be crazy, but I’m glad I did it. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Because I care more about spreading an idea than making money. If you’re an new author, you should, too.
  • Because anonymity is a writer’s greatest enemy. And the best way to beat it is through generosity.
  • Because giving away a book is actually a great strategy to sell one. My friend Sarah Mae taught me this when she gave away 2000 copies of her eBook and sold 20,000.

(A few more reasons here.)

I hope those who haven’t been able to get a copy will take advantage of this promotion — and that it’ll reach a whole new audience of readers.

A lot early adopters already bought the book. Thank you; I appreciate your support (diapers ain’t cheap these days). If it’s not too much to ask, I’d love your help in getting the word out to those who haven’t had the chance to read it. After all, I’m more passionate about the message than the money (but again, I am grateful for the diaper cash).

What can you do?

If you want to participate in this experiment, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Pick up a free copy. Download it here (if you don’t already have one).
  2. Tell your friends. Here’s a message you can post to Twitter, Facebook, or wherever: Grab a FREE copy of @JeffGoins’ new eBook #YouAreaWriter — just this weekend! https://amzn.to/K9HpIM
  3. Leave a review. Or you can email me with your thoughts. I’d love to hear what you think of it.

Don’t own a Kindle? No problem. You can download one of the free Kindle apps for your web browser, desktop computer, or any mobile device you have. I’ve read lots of books on my phone, so let me know if you have any questions.

My expectations

I have no idea what to expect this weekend, so let’s just see how this goes. I’ll share what I learn sometime next week. Part of me hopes this reaches a new audience and once the promo’s over that people won’t have a problem paying the usual price of $3.99.

The bottom line: This is just plain fun. I’m excited at the prospect of thousands of new people having access to this important message I believe in. For me, that’s what it’s all about: spreading an idea.

By the way, this means that the eBook packages are no longer available, but you can still get the add-ons (writing worksheet and audio program) on the You Are a Writer website.

Final Update: You Are a Writer was downloaded over 24,000 times in three days and continues to sell well every month. To read about the behind-the-scenes of this experiment, check out my Copyblogger guest post: How Amazon Grew My Audience by More than 24,000 People in Three Days.

Have you ever given something away for free? How did it feel? Share in the comments.

88 thoughts on “Why I Did the Unthinkable and Gave My eBook Away for Free

  1. Free e-book! Sure! I had been thinking of getting this for a few weeks, ever since you released it. Too bad I missed the opportunity to get the discounted packages.

    Oh, and I’m scheduling a Tweet.

  2. I too am a member of the KDP program. I gave my book away for free a few times already and was amazed at the amount of people who grabbed it. I’m getting ready to do it again. 

    When you believe in a product giving it away is no big deal! You merely want to get the word out on what you feel strongly about.
    Thanks for the book Jeff – I will leave a review for sure!

  3. Thanks, Jeff. The Manifesto was great. I hope this helps remind me to follow through. Appreciate the freebie!

    Also, have some experience with $0 merch. In a band, and we stopped charging for our CDs. People who already paid for them (friends) I think felt duped. Not sure. I would, so I may be projecting that feeling. But, I have some evidence from at least one person that that was the case.

    You have a similar experience?

  4. I bought the book at the beginning of June.  Glad you are sending it out for free for a couple of days.  I let my Facebook peeps know, and posted it in my daily list of free Kindle Books that goes out to my subscribers.  Gives me something to brag about.

    Thanks for making it available to a wider audience for a few days.   Thanks for the info about the KDP program, too.

  5. This has to be a “God thing” for me. I took the first step of faith last night and started writing the book that God laid on my heart months ago. I’ve never written a book before, only newspaper articles and blog posts. This is a new adventure for me and I’m sure He lead me to your site (via Sarah Mae) for another resource. Thank you for your generosity!! I will definitely post a review when I finish it. 

  6. Thanks, Jeff! This lets me know that this book was made for me to have! This is greatly appreciated and will not go unblessed!

  7. This is a book that must be read! I love this book so much I am sharing this on social media and on my blog. Congrats with the promo, Jeff. I hope you have a great weekend with it! 🙂

  8. I’m about to start my third KDP promotion. Each time I’ve gotten better at it and had better results in my book sales. The first time out I gave away 1500 books in 5 days and had a 650% increase in sales afterward. The second time I gave away 25000 books in 3 days and had a 4300% increase in sales. 

    It really has been helpful to give the book away so that people get it and look at it. 

    However, I think a lot of people grab the free books and then, maybe, eventually read them. So, in that way it’s good for publicity, but not as great for actually spreading ideas. At least in my experience. 

  9. Just got my copy…thank you so much for your generosity.  I love to give things away….it seems to catch people by surprise (especially if it is a stranger) and I think I get more from it than they do…always puts a smile in my heart.  

  10. You are a marketing genius!  Got my copy today.  I wasn’t actually waiting for it to go free, but a book slot just opened on my reading calendar last night.  Thanks for all you do Jeff.  You are an inspiration to me.

  11. Hi – Just downloaded a copy. I’ve been toying with the idea of joining KDP Select for the second one – I’ll be interested to hear how it goes 🙂  Best of luck – and I look forward to reading your book!  Karen (@kareninglis )

  12. Jeff … since I obtained your books (Manifest and You are a
    Writer) I have already given a copy of each to number of my friends and people
    I know. I have given it to my own daughter (she is 18). Each time I explained
    to recipient that it is necessary for them to read those books (and check your website
    when they can) because those are not just instructions on writing – they are
    also instructions on life, honesty and humanity, from “this young American dude”
    (my own words). So you have people reading your books in such far away and
    exotic places as New Zealand and Croatia. You deserve it (cost of diapers or
    not), because above all you are a decent human being.

  13. Jeff, 
    I thoroughly enjoyed the book and your writings. They are inspiring and the encouragement I need to not only declare that I am a writer but to take action on that. Thanks.

    Here is my review on Amazon.com:

    “I only heard of Jeff Goins through a random twitter that promoted his book. I became curious and checked out his website. I then came across his eBook, “You Are a Writer.” I never thought of myself as a writer, although I do have a blog and post from time to time. So the title immediately caught my attention. The main theme in the book is that “You” are your own stumbling block when it comes to writing. The book was both inspiring and challenging to finally step out of my comfort zone and start writing and to declare to myself that I am indeed a Writer! I encourage anyone who ever thought or is thinking about writing to read this book. I was unable to put the book down and read it one setting. Jeff Goins gives no non-sense, in your face advice about writing. He doesn’t beat around bushes and he is honest with his own fears and doubts that he struggled with as a writer. This is a must read that takes little to no investment on your part.” –Aaron Coon https://lightandsalvation.wordpress.com/

  14. I bought your book as soon as it went on sale, and I spread the news about it immediately. Now I get to share the word again and bless the skeptical ones! 

    Thank you for inspiring me.  I’ve always been told I should “be” a writer, but I never believed it. Now, hear me, loud and proud: I AM A WRITER! Many, many thanks. May God bless you greatly!

  15. Hi, Jeff. Thank you very much for being so generous! Amazon still charged me though. Would you have any idea how I can give feedback to Amazon/ sort this?

  16. Thank you so much for giving this away for free! 🙂 This is truly a blessing! I’ve tried to download it, but it asked me to provide a credit card number. Is this offer only available in the US? I’m from the Philippines. I really want to read your book! I hope you can help me out on. Thank you so much!

    1. It may not be available in all areas of the world. So sorry about that. Send me an email, and I’ll see what I can do: jeff(at)goinswriter(dot)com

  17. Thanks!  Shared this link on FB.  I’ve been blogging for a while now, and would love to write a book at some point, so maybe this will get me going on the right track.  🙂

  18. Sean and I used free with our post-apocalyptic serial, Yesterday’s Gone, as well as our other series.

    KDP Select, and the resulting exposure and buy-ins to the rest of the series, now allows us to write fiction full-time. I see Free as a tiny advertising cost. Yeah, you lose sales for a few days, but what you gain (especially if you have other books for sale) far outweighs the costs.

    I think that free can work for anyone, but I think it’s especially helpful for people such as myself with series books. If anyone here is writing a series, I urge you to give KDP Select a shot.

    And to James Wood, yes, a lot of people will download your book who will never read it. But there’s also a good number who will, people who might never have heard of you if not for the free book. I embrace the opportunity for what it is rather than what it isn’t.

    One suggestion for writers who are going to do free (and which addresses the issue James brought up) is to make the first page of your book a synopsis or sales copy for what’s inside. Reason: If someone does download a ton of free books and is browsing their collection, you want to give them a quick reminder of what your book is about in case they’ve forgotten. There is no back-of-the-book copy to remind them and MOST WRITERS don’t think to do this. So if you do, it will increase the odds that they’ll actually continue reading your book.

  19. I downloaded your book today and read it tonight. Great advice. We have to own who we are and do the necessary work.


  20. I already bought your book and love it. I put it on twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for you and I plan to quote you in my blog post next time. Only that will be after the sale. I love that you give people permission to be themselves and write what they love. I had gotten a little stuck and unmotivated recently and I think this will help.
    I do a little more creative writing on my blog from my life experiences but worried sometimes that I wasn’t always using right key words or hitting what the market wants. This book gives me permission once again to relax and write what I want to write. In doing so, I hope to give others permission to write creatively from life experiences.
    By the way, I loved the Writer’s Manifesto and the way you did the spacing. I do calligraphy and love to play with spacing but never thought it would be okay in a book or product. You freed me up. So at some point, I’m going to play with fonts and spacing in something I create. I can’t wait. 🙂
    Thanks for stepping out and having courage to be yourself.

  21. love it jeff. sharing!

    i once gave away a car… a very, very beloved car – my ’63 oldsmobile starfire dynamic 88 holiday that i adored. (the car was as big as the name! heh.) it was hard deciding to do it, but once i did it was an amazing feeling – being free to give something away that i loved so much. 🙂

  22. Thank you so much for giving this away for free! 🙂 This is truly a
    blessing! I’ve tried to download it, but it asked me to provide a credit
    card number. Is this offer only available in the US? I’m from the
    Philippines. I really want to read your book! I hope you can help me out
    on. Thank you so much!

    1. I just downloaded it successfully, and in the Philippines. It didn’t ask for a credit card number, only for my Amazon account name and password. 

  23. I’ve also participated in free book giveaways, and it feels so good just to know that someone wanted it – my biggest thrill so far was when one went to Jamaica! This week I’ve got 2 more giveaways scheduled. Highly recommended if you ask me.

  24. Very generous of you, thank you for doing this, reading through right now, :D, thanks again

  25. got it today and tweeted about it jeff – anything to keep the little guy’s bottom diapered LOL  it is sucha a thrill to know that people want your book – whether they read it or not. i’ve bought books I never read – hundreds of them over the years. so who cares? it is simply thrilling. be sure to let us know how the freebie thing went.

    can’t wait to settle in for a good read. 

  26. I just gave (and continue to give away) a FREE eBook devotional to encourage people in their walk with God (Free at JimCaldwellLive.com). Being able to encourage others with this resource has encouraged me as well. The great stories of how God is using this resource in the lives of people makes it worth all the effort. I probably wouldn’t have thought about giving it away were it not for your FREE blogging course. Thanks again for all you do Jeff!

  27. Jeff, thanks so much for your generous offer. I have downloaded your book and started reading it after which I’ll do a review. So far it is speaking directly to me and addressing my writing paralysis. I used to be able to write – now it’s as much as I can do to update my Face Book status! Just write huh? Anything? Not a carefully planned, researched thought-about for-a-year novel? I’ll read the rest of your book to find out.

  28. Jeff, this a generous and brilliant offer! It’s hard to give away something you’ve worked so hard at for so long, but the proven results of that act far exceed any financial gain. It’s all about reaching your audience, KEEPING your audience, and expanding your audience. You have done well in all of these areas.

    I am finishing up my free upcoming ebook. It has been more difficult to release than I expected, as I run a blog on avoiding and eliminating debt. That makes financing cover design, editing, and format conversion very challenging! Not to mention the desire to exceed reader expectations, even when the product is free!

  29. Jeff, thanks for the book; I tweeted the link. There are many compelling audience-expansion reasons for giving away your work, from the simple motivation of sharing your art to paving the way to sales of related works. I’ve given away a few writing-related books on my site in exchange for an email address for a writing-related newsletter; it’s a good way to build a list. Or to be a good guy, as you seem to be.

  30. I utilized Kindle Select free days to broaden my reach and build an audience. It’s a wonderful opportunity that costs nothing, other than the restriction of your book being limited to sale on Amazon only. But, let’s face it, Amazon has the lion’s share of the e-book  market…you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain here. I retweeted your free day out and wish you much success. Looking forward to your next blog post…

  31. Hey Jeff, glad to see this experiment wasn’t one of those blow-up-in-your-face ones! I read the first chapter first thing this morning and loved it. Thanks for sharing. I posted on Facebook and you also have a punt in my blog that will post tomorrow morning (so maybe some sales will come of that.) You can access both at Enduracom.com. Thanks for all you do to encourage writers, and I hope that you get way more than just diaper dollars for it!

  32. I downloaded your e-book at around midnight and read the whole book by 4 o’clock am.  I want to thank you very much for letting me have the opportunity to read it.  I’ve been searching inside myself for years to find what my passion really is and by reading your book I’ve finally found it.  Next to my passion for Christ is his His passion of writing for me.  I have needed to get out of myself all that He has taught me since the beginning.  I have been writing for probably twenty five years and have a lot of material, I just needed a little help, and actually you have helped tremendously just giving me the motivation to start.  And with all this information I am going to.  God Bless you and yours! 

  33. It feels great to give something away for free. I haven’t quite finished my book yet, and am not sure if I’ll go that route, but I love to live by the principle: “Give, and it will be given unto you.” 
    Things I’ve given away in the past: a guitar, a hoover, a TV, furniture… (we did once move overseas, and then back again 3 years later).  We frequently put things out on the street for passersby to take away. I’ve found that we are always equally blessed (not necessarily through people giving us stuff) but through other means… my husband won a free trip to San Francisco, job promotions, bonuses etc. 

  34. Hey Jeff!
    I found your free e-book today…. I’m reading it like there’s no tomorrow! I’ve been an on-again/off-again writer for nearly 50 years! (I’m only 53, but started writing love letters to boys in kindergarten 😉 Now, kids raised and gone, business flowing, I feel like I’m ready to start again. You have already inspired me to begin designing my brand (I’m a designer by trade, so while it’s fun – it’s much harder to create for me than for others!), author a lengthy and in-depth review of another book I was reading before I found yours (that counts as writing, yes? ;-)), and commit to getting up (at least) an hour  earlier each day to – simply – write.Okay… just wanted to say THANK YOU! And, by the way, I would have paid the $3.99 ;-)Peace~Caitlin Crest

  35. I spent my spare minutes this weekend reading your free book. It was great! Thank you so much for your insight and the challenge: “You are a writer. You just need to write.” I needed to hear that.

  36. Jeff, you just did something that made me think of the “it is more blessed to give than to receive” verse- and I do believe that Jesus was the author of the first big give-away! Look at what was left after the feeding of the 5000! and don’t you know they went home and talked and talked and talked about it- good press there! Nothing, given in the right spirit, will empty you, but you will be filled up again and again-Thanks for doing that. It was a great object lesson for one just entering the arena of “writing to be read”. N

  37. Just wanted to let you know that as of Monday, 9:06a.m. Eastern the book is still listed for free.

  38. Jeff, thanks for giving your ebook away. A friend mentioned it on twitter last night so I got your book and literally couldn’t put it down. I just finished it. I have been giving my husband the play by play of what you said because it is so inspiring. I am so excited to follow your blog and to hear more of what you have to say. Thanks again! It really was so fun to read. -Ashley

  39. Downloaded and read your book yesterday, Jeff. So inspiring. Reading it, I get the same feeling I do reading Brenda Ueland or Natalie Goldberg. It’s fun to see the process you describe put into real practice on this blog.

  40. I bought You Are a Writer at $3.99 and I thought that was a steal! The fact that you gave away copies just shows that you practice what you preach when you talk about serving your readers. Thanks for all you do. 

  41. Thank you for making this available to me. I read it last night; a great encouragement to this weary writer’s heart. Your words about words talked me out of my “quit” and filled my inkwell with possibility and promise. I am grateful for your kindness; it’s been a rich grace to my heart this day.

  42. Once again, I found myself at that crossroad contemplating my next career change because no job made me feel satisfied enough. And I decided to finally give in to the long hidden dream of writing. Your eBook came at an opportune time and gave me the much needed push towards what I know I am called to do.

    Thanks so much for being generous.

    Stay blessed!

  43. Love the idea. I just published my first e-book a few days ago. My sells are increasing, but I could benefit from a wider audience obviously. I am purchasing a Kindle Fire soon, and then I will be all over your book Jeff. In the meantime, check out my first book. It’s about the foibles of dating and relationships in your twenties, a humorous account of what is often for from amusing https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K9UJXEA

  44. Ditto – was worried by the prospect, but at the end of the day I feel vindicated by the positive early response and reviews for my book. So after a month, the free promotion (3 days) seemed like a feasible move. Once you’ve sold a few early copies and are satisfied with the feedback, no reason a new author shouldn’t send his work out there for no financial recompense just to elicit more interest.

    Jackboot Britain | The Alternate History Epic: “What if Hitler beat the Brits?”

    1. well said, Dean. If there is one thing that makes me cringe, it is someone trying to delay your writing by making you think you need to read a book on writing well first. There is nothing more back-stepping than this ploy.

  45. I’m going through this dilemma right now as I prepare to publish my first book Sept 1 (A humorous running book for non-runners based on my blog https://dcdana.blogspot.com/) My publisher highly recommends giving the eBook away for the first couple days and your post made me feel better about that idea – thank you!

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