Bill Barol, author of the crime caper novel Thanks for Killing Me, is conducting an experiment in book promotion. He self-published his novel via CreateSpace and, after discussing his book promotion with a publishing friend, decided to give his book away (or, at least, sell it for as low a price as he could, given his relationship with CreateSpace.
As his publishing friend advised him, “First, forget everything you know about traditional media; all your experience is worthless. Take all that time you spend screwing around on Twitter and put it into marketing your book. And, at least in the beginning, sell it as cheap as you can. In fact, you know what? Give it away.”
As Bill noted in a blog post about his adventures in self-publishing:
His reasoning was hard to argue with, and not just because I suddenly had a loud buzzing in my ears and the room was all swimmy. The logic went like this: Given two facts -- the odds of any self-published novel ever making any real dough were astronomically low, and the job of my novel was now to be its own loss leader -- why not set its retail valuation at zero and get it into as many hands as possible?
It sounded screwy, it sounded counter-intuitive -- hell, it was counter-intuitive, as my intuition was to make money by my work, and as much of it as possible. But the more I thought about it the less nuts it sounded. If I was really serious about exposing my work to a broad audience and generating the kind of critical mass that would make publishers reconsider, I had to make the book almost impossible for anyone with even a passing interest not to acquire.
The Get It/Don’t Get It decision had to be friction-free, and cost was the point of friction I could most easily lubricate.
To read more about his decision and how he priced his books to sell cheap, see his blog post at BoingBoing: Adventures in self-publishing: Why I took a year's work and tried my hardest to give it away.