In one of his recent blog posts, David Gaughran included some information I had read long before I decided to become an Indie author. Here is the excerpt:
The #1 reason readers always give for purchasing a book is having read and enjoyed something by the author before. The #2 reason is a trusted recommendation. Click here for a link to his entire blog post.
How does an author become someone who gets the "trusted recommendation" of a reader? I'm not sure, but I can share what I did. One of the main reasons I made Dating A Cougar free when I published it was that I was an unknown romance author in a genre populated with many, many excellent ones. The model of the "free book" was being used by other Indie authors, and it appealed to my practical nature. I liked that making it free took away the risk of a person having to pay for my book which they might not like in an economy where people are watching their pennies.
I could have done the .99 cent deal like others have done quite sucessfully. From a certain perspective I did that because Amazon would not allow me to make the first book free when I initially published there. At .99 cents, sales of Dating A Cougar were good. However, once Amazon finally made it free (after two and half months), sales magic happened.
What I have found now after five months and 150k+ downloads of the free book is that if the reader likes it, they at least buy one more to see if I could be good a second time. In many cases, they buy all of my other books which is both validating for me as an author and the best business thing that could happen.
Those who don't like the free book? Well, in the best cases they just didn't buy the others, and in the worse cases, they gave me a poor review somewhere. Neither of those seem to affect the readers that really liked it and recommended it to their friends, family, etc. For those that did like the book, I did nothing more than satisfy their need for a good story. So when you see authors urging other authors to "satisfy your readers", they are 100% correct in my experience. Why wouldn't you want to do that anyway? It seems like common sense.
Friends teasingly ask me "Wouldn't it be great if you had sales money from all the downloads of the free book?" I tell them that I did get sales money. The first book sold me as a writer and my books to those looking for my kind of story. When I please a reader with a story, they often write to ask when the next book is coming out. Sometimes I don't even know when they recommend my work to other people. When they write to tell me they liked a story, I think they probably are doing what I'm doing when I read a book I really like. I'm telling the author thank you and everyone I know how good the book is.