Most of my short stories are now $.99 instead of free, in spite of the fact that I originally intended to leave them free forever. In addition, I will be charging for future short stories that I write, including the Demented Children stories. :( I'm still leaving the first books of my trilogies free and one of the Demented Children books free at a time. It'll alternate throughout the year.
Why they were free in the first place.
For two reasons. One was the obvious marketing aspect. Most readers buy the books of the authors they know. The best way for me to get people to want to buy my books is to give them a sample of my writing.
The second reason was that I enjoy giving them away for free. Life is hard and often times many people can't afford a lot. There have been times when I've spent my last few dollars on a book rather than a meal. At a couple of points in my life, I've been homeless. If I got a few dollars, I would buy a used book and sit in the park while reading it. Also, a lot of young readers don't have a big allowance for books, so it's really nice to have free ones available.
Why they are not free now.
The self-publishing world is changing fast. What worked a year ago is ineffective now. Giving away hundreds of thousands of copies of my stories was an excellent way to get people to know who I am and gauge whether or not they like my writing style.
That's no longer the case. Amazon is especially eager to put the brakes on free books. When I gave away Rojuun in January of last year, I gave away about 25,000 books in the first two months. When I gave away Dralin this year, I got about 4000 downloads. That's even taking into account that my timing and marketing were better. Part of this is due to a glut of free ebooks on the market and part of it is due to adjusted algorithms that sweeps books under the rug much faster.
I've also noticed similar trends with Apple and B&N. It's getting much harder to compete and they're adjusting how they calculate sales and which books to highlight.
Now, an actual sale where money is exchanged causes my popularity to jump a bit, bringing me closer to the eyes of the masses. Therefore, if I sell a book at $.99, it doesn't just give me $.35, it also makes me more noticeable. The more noticeable I am, the more likely bookstores are to feature my books.
The more books I sell, the more likely I am to be able to make a living off of my writing. If I can do that, I can write more books and that's a win for everyone except the people who hate my writing!
I've mentioned in the past that I really don't know what I'm doing. Most of this is just guesswork based on observations I make about the market. All I can say is that I'm doing my best to write as many books as I can and hopefully make a living off of it at some point in the future.
I still have 3 books for free, "Rojuun", "Dralin", and "Drippy the Peg-Legged Rainbow".
John H. Carroll