Well, yes it is, but sometimes you have to spend money to make money. That's the battle cry of advertising and marketing experts. Giving away books is an author's way of spending money in hopes of making money.
OLD ENOUGH TO KNOW BETTER was published the day before Thanksgiving--probably not the best time in the world to debut a new book since that starts the frantic holiday period where everything takes last place next to shopping, celebrating, and socializing.
When Amazon asked me to join in the Prime Select program, I was flattered and agreed. That limited sales of this new romantic comedy from the outset. One good thing about the program though was that I could make my book free up to 5 days in December.
I scheduled a single day before Christmas, then the 25th through the 28th. That second free offering was very successful. OLD ENOUGH TO KNOW BETTER was downloaded about 6,500 times. After it went back to its regular price of $2.99, it continued to sell as did my other books which are on Amazon but also on Nook, All Romance Ebooks, iTunes, Sony, Kobo, and Smashwords.
As a result, this older woman/younger man romantic comedy kept improving in ranking and broke into the Kindle Top 100 Contemporary Romance Bestseller List yesterday. This pleases me greatly because, well, I love that book! Yes, I wrote it, but that doesn't mean I can't love it too. It's a personal favorite.
Free Means Exposure
I'm sure you've already drawn the conclusion that free means exposure. Your name and your books get seen more. If all those 6,500 people in the U.S. (and the huge numbers of downloads in UK and several in Germany), read that book, and they like it, then they are apt to buy my other books too.
The competition for readers is fierce. More writers are offering free and/or offering at very low prices. The cold, hard truth is that it's hard to make a living with $.99 books because even the hottest book cools after a few months.
An indie author has to make smart decisions about when to offer free, when to offer at $.99, and when to raise prices to a living wage. Not an easy thing to do, and no one rule fits all writers.
Not all books become bestsellers so, as a writer, when you crack the Top 100 on any list, rejoice! If you are a reader, and you find a book you love, tell others about it by posting a review. Authors will love you for it.