I tend to gravitate toward the idea of tribes, of creating a unique community. That takes time, but what happens is that you gain fans gathered around a cause, folks who are zealous to promote your books for you. To me, it typifies this verse: “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips” (see Proverbs 27:2).
Giving things away free, in light of creating a tribe, then, makes sense. You are offering a bit of yourself, your heart, to a potential tribe member. That’s why I have a free ebook for 2017 about writing YOUR book. (You can nab it here).
I do know, however, that free has an underbelly. If we always give away our content, we can come dangerously close to cheapening it. I don’t have a simple solution. Where I’ve fallen on the issue is to use free strategically (as a means to invite people to my mailing list, or as the first book (permafree) in a series to promote discoverability.
Every day I get emails from people needing something. Often I’ll send them something free as God prompts me–one of my self-published books in e format, for instance. I figure it’s better to err on the side of generosity than live in the land of fear and stinginess.
I’ve navigated “free” by praying, asking God to situationally guide me as I give away books. Sometimes He says not to do it. Sometimes He prompts me to give sacrificially. I am learning to let the pieces rest in His sovereign hands. But I don’t divorce myself from strategy either. Free can be good, particularly when I’m building a new mailing list.
In this marketing world, tend to think in terms of one little decision at a time, and that those little decisions, though they take forever, add up to something bigger over time. The key is to continue to be faithful in little things, not get discouraged, hold everything loosely, and rest in God’s sovereignty.