Since Select came out six months ago, I've seen quite a few people question whether all those free books that are downloaded are actually being read. I don't have an an objective answer as obviously I can't poll the thousands of readers who have downloaded free books and ask if they have read them, but I can give my opinion both as an author of freebies and as a reader.
As a reader, I have read quite a few books that I got free, and some have been my favorite books. I'm selective about my downloading though. I don't get a free book just because it is free--it has to sound interesting to me too. There are some books that are no-brainers, like I download co okbooks or writing books when I see them. Especially if the recipes involve chocolate. I mean, what is there to think about when chocolate is involved, right?
As an author, it's more complicated. I have given away more than 100,000 books in the last year, 99% of the freebies were my first book, No Good Deed. I know a lot of those copies are still sitting unread and forgotten on thousands of Kindles, but thousands were also read. I know this because sales of my second and third book have been steady and I do next to no advertising for them. Once in a great while, I'll post a link to them on an Amazon FB page, but that is the extent of the advertising. I haven't paid for an ad for either of them ever. Sales have come just from readers seeking out the next book in the series, and many of those readers got the first book free. Since I re-vamped my author bio at the end of my books back in March, I receive a lot more email from readers, and from what they are telling me, they are reading the free books! :-D Just in the last week, I've had at least four emails where readers have specifically mentioned getting the first book free. They have even named the blogs they found them, so a big shout out and thank you to Pixel of Ink, Ereader News Today, and Michael Gallagher's Kindle blog. All three were mentioned either in an email to me from a reader, or in a review.
Some of you readers might be groaning, 'But my Kindle already has a million bajillion free books on it!' Here are some tips for you. Read the description and a few reviews--even the bad ones. A two star review might tell you that the reader didn't like it because of the romance. If you happen to love romance, that 2-Star review might be more helpful than a 5-star review that just states that they loved the book. If the reviews and description have you undecided, then sample before downloading. You can usually tell in just the first few pages if the book has potential. If it sounds good, then go ahead and download it.
If after investigating and a free book doesn't appeal, you'd be better off not downloading since having too many freebies can be overwhelming. I have found that since I began being more selective as a reader, I'm actually checking out the freebies more often. I had been in FREEBOOK OVERLOAD for a few months and just avoided the lists because I had so many already. However, when I became more selective, the fun and thrill of getting a free book returned, and now I eagerly check every day to see what is free. All it took was getting a few real gems to spur my interest again.
So, readers, be selective, but also don't be afraid to stray outside your comfort zones. For example, if you've never read sci-fi, but the description sounds good and you sample a few pages and the writing looks solid, go ahead and get it! Even if it turns out to be not your thing, you aren't out any money, but with just a little effort, those free books are a goldmine of wonderful stories. The sites I linked above are great because they do a little vetting before listing books as the books have to have a minimum star rating. I was lucky with Michael Gallagher's blog because he had actually read and reviewed my book favorably last summer, so not only did he link, he gave his own opinion of the book and linked to his review. That was awesome. :-)