How Free Books Build Your Brand as an Author and Authority

Scott Steinberg wants to help parents navigate the weird world of gaming and technology as they raise their kids. He wants to help them so bad, that he’s literally giving this advice away for free. If they want it for free, that is.

In an interview with Portfolio, Steinberg describes how his new book, The Modern Parent’s Guide to Kids and Video Games will not only be released in different formats, but at vastly different prices as well (ranging from $17.99 to zilch.) On his website, he offers a paperback version of the book (available through Lulu), and a digital version, available free for the Sony reader.

But how effective a business model is offering both a version that costs money and one that is absolutely free? Is that even a business model?

As Steinberg explained, “Free giveaways facilitate brand-building, cement subject matter expertise, and foster huge publicity wins. These opportunities not only allow you to do something positive that benefits readers, they can also potentially lead to new relationships, fruitful speaking engagements and heightened goodwill.”

By offering a free version, Steinberg sees the tradeoff between profit and publicity as being completely equal. It doesn’t mean completely giving up on the idea of turning a profit on your self-published book, but by giving digital copies (or excerpts) away, an author can help promote their name and foster goodwill (resulting in even greater exposure and sales).

In the traditional publishing model, authors have to promote their books. But in self-publishing, we’re finding more and more that authors are using their books to promote themselves — especially when it comes to how-to guides or areas of specialized knowledge. For Steinberg, who is established in the field of advising parents about technology, his book aims to help build his flourishing brand.

Sometimes, the best way to establish that you’re a qualified source of information, is to literally have written the book on it. If you’re pursuing a career in consultancy, self-help, or expert analysis, self-publishing is a great way to build your brand and establish you as a bona fide source of knowledge.

Put succinctly by Steinberg, “Many authors consider books the best form of business card available.”

For additional reading on the topic, check out our blog post Make More Off Your eBook by Selling it for Free.

Thoughts? What examples do you know of authors selling their eBooks for free? Did it incentivize you to download the book?

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