Why My eBooks Are Free

Yesterday, I made PDFs of my digital comics and eBooks available for free. But... that wasn't always my plan.

See, I wanted to relaunch my online store replete with links to purchase all of my digital comics directly from me. You'd pay a few bucks through PayPal and receive an immediate email with download links. Easy, inexpensive, and reliable.

If only!!! That's not gonna happen unless I shell out $$$ ahead of time for a service like Linklok to facilitate my digital sales and content delivery. It's not an overpriced service, but the $30 or so it would cost me to run it on my site is still more than I've made in sales since I started selling eBooks almost three years ago.

When I first found out that the Amazon Kindle Store could sell digital comics, I was psyched to get the Time Log one-shot on there. I spent all of Memorial Day weekend in 2010 researching and formatting the book for the Kindle.

And then? Zip. Zilch. Nada. My ensuing sales were shit. Back then, almost everyone who owned a Kindle had it because they loved reading novels, not comics. (And that goes without mentioning how Amazon degraded the quality of the Time Log eBook with its conversion process and then forced me to sell it for no less than $2.99 because of the file size. Ooooooo! A whopping 10 MB!!)

Though I've sold a few copies of Time Log for the Kindle over the years, it's not enough to coerce me to sell all of my digital comics on Amazon. Aside from the first Stick Cats eBook, I've opted to use other services for digital sales.

Like DriveThruComics, for example. They were the first digital comics storefront on the web, and -- sadly -- it shows in their site design. As bad as my sales have been on Amazon, they've been even worse on DriveThruComics. I've never sold a single copy of the Time Log one-shot through that outlet.

Here's what my classy DriveThruComics listing for Time Log looks like today!

Last year, I discovered UploadNSell, a free service that would allow me to sell eBooks from my website. There were plenty of catches, so it's not like I found the perfect digital delivery service. But it was still good enough to try it for the initial release of my Super Haters eBooks.

I made a few sales through UploadNSell, but not enough to maintain every single one of my files on their servers (items need to be purchased once every 90 days or they get automatically deleted). Plus, as I've learned recently, UploadNSell wasn't secure. There are plenty of hacks.

Soooo I was back to square one. I researched my ass off this month trying to find a digital sales service that would:

1. allow any file size
2. cost me little or no money per sale
3. not charge an unrealistic monthly fee
4. email customers a download link immediately following a purchase

The only thing I found was the Easy Digital Downloads plugin for WordPress. Seemed like a perfect fit! I got it all set up and prepared my downloads. As recently as last Friday, I thought I was ready to roll with EDD here on this blog. But testing showed me that the service was inconsistent and often didn't work at all.

Frustrated, I took a step back and looked at the big picture. I'm not selling many eBooks through legitimate channels and I'm not selling many eBooks through questionable channels and I'm stressing myself out about it. And with what end result? Limiting my readership while I make next to no profit on these things.

So I said "FUCK IT!!" I've decided to give my eBooks away for free. I'll make new fans while eliminating any worries about the customer experience.

Also, tweeting "free #ebooks" tends to get you all kinds of RTs and mentions.

Ironically, I've figured out a pretty solid solution for selling eBooks in person. My digital comic cards aren't setting the comics industry on fire, but I still sell a few every time I set up at a convention. (Granted, most of my customers never redeem their Dropcards download codes, which is beyond me why they would buy something and then not use it. But that's their prerogative!)

Honestly, I'd love to sell my digital comics as eBooks on the web. But there are few easy ways to do it, and even fewer ways that give me optimal control of the storefront without charging me an unrealistic fee. So for the time being, I'm happy to give away PDFs of my comics. I hope you enjoy 'em!!!

4 Responses to “Why My eBooks Are Free”

  1. [...] Then Nick talks about how he's decided to give his original digital comics away for free as eBooks instead of selling them. Learn more about his decision here. [...]

  2. Hey Nick, do you have any experiences using Gum Road?


    I've heard of some people being very satisfied with it in sales of digital goods like .PSD files, source code, .PDFs and the like.

    • Nick Marino says:

      Never heard of it before!! Thx for the link. I'm gonna check it out. Maybe next week I'll have a post that says "Why My eBooks Are For Sale" 😉

    • Nick Marino says:

      Duuuuude I finally checked it out. It's definitely what I was looking for. Too bad I didn't know about it before!! I'm leaving everything for free. TOO LATE.