There has been a lot of controversy over whether free books are really a great marketing tool, but for me, there are several pros and cons.
On the plus side, many authors say that having the first book in a series for free results in greater sales for the subsequent books, so the hit they take on having a free book is off-set.
A free book will let readers who wouldn't normally be in your target audience download something of yours to try and, if they like it, they may buy your other books.
Your visibility and rankings on Amazon can increase, resulting in sales in the long run.
On the downside, when I have downloaded free books, it is rare that I find a well-edited, great story. It's like searching for that needle in a haystack. And often, I get what I paid for when the free books I've gotten are riddled with errors and needed a good content editor.
The market is currently saturated with free books. It seems hard to get noticed these days when there is an avalanche of free books advertised every day. My kindle alone has so many downloaded books that I know I will probably not get to in my lifetime. So downloads don't automatically mean it will be read or result in reviews or other sales.
Lastly, authors spend hours and hours crafting a story, putting their heart and soul into it, and giving it away results in loss of royalties.
So what is an author to do?
I think if you are going to give away a book for free, make sure you have clear goals. You want new readers. You want to be noticed. You want your series to sell so you're sacrificing one book. And be clear that it might not work well. Of course, it may work great for you and be a wonderful marketing tool. The key is to know the risks before you make the decision.
What do you think of free books?