In case you don’t already know, I made Neanderthal Seeks Human free yesterday.

But what you might not know is why I made Neanderthal Seeks Human free. It might surprise you to learn that I have no expectation that making Neanderthal Seeks Human will help my overall book sales. In fact, I suspect it will do the opposite.

Thus, I am conducting an experiment that I hope will help other authors (who write in my genre) make an informed decision about whether to make their books free.

Hypothesis: I propose that the “first book free” advantage no longer applies to contemporary romance authors who price their books appropriately. I propose that making a book free (in my case, the first book in my contemporary romance series, Knitting in the City) will do absolutely nothing (positive) in terms of sales.

Reasons I hypothesize “first book free” doesn’t help sales/my assumptions:

1. Over half of the top 10 “free kindle books” on amazon are contemporary romance. Thus, I conclude that “free readers” of contemporary romance read mostly free books.

2. My backlist is priced appropriately (meaning, the rest of the books in the Knitting in the City series are priced according to their value, at $5.99). These books are worth $5.99. If a “free reader” were inclined to purchase another of my books, they would immediately dismiss my books based on the price-tag, because “free readers” are used to reading free books, not books priced according to a book’s value.

3. Many/most “free readers” never read the majority of books they download. They are book hoarders (and I mean that in the nicest way possible). Many/most will never read my book.

4. Many/most “free readers” who do read the book AND leave a review will leave a negative review (because those who read it and like the book won’t leave a review at all). These negative reviews will bring my overall rating average down. Thus, after my book is no longer free, my book will have a lower star rating and therefore it will be less attractive to paying readers.

Measurements: I will measure over time the following:

1. Number of Neanderthal Seeks Human copies downloaded.

2. % increase or decrease in sales (downloads) of other books in the Knitting in the City series.

3. Overall star rating

4. # increase in individual star ratings (1, 2, 3, 4, or 5)

5. Ratio of low to high star ratings

I realize it’s been less than 2 days, but I do want to note that early results show that my hypothesis is correct. I’ve already seen a decrease in sales across my other books (reduced from an average of 103 per day to 76) in addition to losing the income typically brought in by Neanderthal Seeks Human (an average of 26 books per day).

I’ll update this blog with findings at weekly intervals if you’re interested in seeing the data over time.

Best, Penny