How I Choose the Books / A Post for Authors #3

All – there are a lot of independent authors who read this blog.  While this post is primarily geared toward them, I’m sure some of you will find it a little bit interesting!


By popular request, here is a continuation of the “Is It You?” thread I started two weeks ago.  Consistent with the last two in the series, I received a lot of emails about my rambling but (as usual, there is a “but”), while the emails are great, why not share your thoughts here at the bottom of this post and get the dialogue flowing?  I’m sure your friends, neighbors, and anonymous strangers would like to see more viewpoints.

If you missed the first thread regarding a sloppy book description, you can read it and comment on that thread if you click here or type in into your web browser.
If you missed the second thread regarding judging a book by its cover, you can read it and comment on that thread if you click here or type in into your web browser.

As background, about two dozen or more independent authors send me notifications each day of their books going free on Amazon wanting me to publish it on my largest blog.  I’m more than happy to do it, as I have been called lazy at times in the past and having someone else tell me about a free offer decreases the amount of time I have to run my manual methods of seeing what is free for a particular day. I reject about 75% of the book submissions for about half a dozen reasons – if I’m rejecting them from a promotion standpoint, you can certainly bet potential readers would do the same if they saw most of the books being submitted to me.

Continuing my “Top Something” list of to avoid promoting because either (a) similar promotions tell me it won’t be that successful because few people click on it – despite a book being free, (b) my blog readers tell me what they didn’t like about a certain thing or feature, or the somewhat reliable gauge of (c) my gut tells me not to do it, this time is having a freebie promotion of #2 or #3 in a series of books.

The purpose of this thread is not to debate the positive and negative of having a freebie offer, but putting anything besides book #1 in a series on a free run.

For example, let’s suppose you have a book series that has six volumes in it (or more than one book in a series).  Of course, you’re going to do anything you can to promote the series as, after all, you want to hook a new reader into enjoying the series and purchasing the rest of the books so that they can get their fix and you can receive some royalties.

Many authors submit book #2 or #3 in the series for free, and it is clearly stated in the book’s description as “A continuation of the XYZ series” or “the continuing tales of the XXX thriller!”   About three years ago I quit promoting books like these.  Why?  It just seemed to bother the blog readers – heck, it bothered me, also.  I don’t know too many people who will take the time investment to start book #3 of a series as they don’t have the background of the characters, plots, themes, etc. developed in Book 1 and Book 2.

As a result, a lot of people skip over it and move on to the next deal – and the independent author doing the promotion is scratching their head wondering why their freebie promotion wasn’t “successful.”  When I try to tell that to the author who has asked me my opinion why things didn’t work out like they wanted, a lot of folks don’t believe me. The blog readers have told me what they prefer, and seeing anything but book #1 in a series as a freebie is not what they want to see.

In the majority of cases, Book #1 in a series is the best one of the whole lot: you took your time with character development and plot (among everything else).  You have laid the foundation for reader involvement – they feel attached and have a connection with the characters and want more, more, more.

My recommendation is to make the biggest push and best impression you can with Book #1: in addition to a good tale, have an outstanding cover, make sure your book description is a home run, has had the benefit of at least one editor, and, not to be overlooked, every single page of the Kindle version has been proofed for typos.

At the end of the day rather than one successful freebie run with residual sales for a day or two post-free, the name of the game is to create a bit of buzz around your work and have a long runway of book sales that last several months if not longer.  If you can hook your prospective readers into the beginning of something – rather than starting in the middle – I’d be willing to bet your overall paid sales over a period of time will increase.

We all need to find a way to get prospective browsers to turn into habitual purchasers: people will look for any excuse to not buy your offering and will move on to something else in their quest to find a new good book or favorite author.

Side Note: authors Toni Dwiggins and  Monique Martin are about the only exceptions to my nitpicky “rule” on books in a series.  They do everything I have said not to do – for example, they continually run #2 in their series as free and describe them as a continuation of a story in their book descriptions – and they knock it out of the park each time.  Part of me says it’s because they have such a good book description it compels people to give it a shot, part of it is probably because they have some book #1 readers who saw #2 as a freebie and grabbed it, book #2 can stand by itself, or maybe it’s because they have a book cover that grabs your attention.  There are probably a bunch of other reasons, but what you can boil it all down to is they are pretty darn good writers.  Just an example that my hypotheses aren’t 100% reliable!


Thoughts? Comments? Complaints (you certainly won’t hurt my feelings)?  Fire away in the comment field below – if you are reading this on your e-Ink Kindle, you can type in into a web browser and enter your thoughts!


Thanks for listening!

Michael Gallagher


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  1. says

    You are so CORREDT. I have purchased or received free a series book one and then went a head and burchsed at the amazon price for book 2, 3, and 4. I would not start a series in the middle of lit nor would I purchase book one in a series never kowing if the rest of the series were free or had to be purchased. Dick Hohnbaum

  2. Calvin Rittenhouse says

    You're 100% right. I have read series of books, but I begin with the first one. For example, the Stepanie Plum stories, beginning with One for the Money and going on to around number 14. Even for free, I do not begin in the middle.

  3. says

    You are so correct! Also, I now have so many free books on my Kindle that I won't even consider one unless it has more than 50 reviews, unless it's from an author I've read before and liked such as Michael Prescott.

  4. Tessa Dagger says

    Occasionally I'll snag a freebie middle-book in a series, IF I'm assured by reader reviews that it's a strong stand alone. I've discovered awesome series that way and fell head over heels in love with authors like Annette Blair. But without a doubt, I will DEVOUR the rest of the series and often branch out to their books in other series if I get hooked on the first of a series– as I did after reading The Wild One ( (which is still free, if you're wondering!).

    Totally correct assessment, thanks for passing along the feedback of your "customers" to the authors. So many fabulous authors out there that I can't WAIT to support by buying their work after getting a free taste…. but it has to be the right taste. Thanks!

  5. E Ann Black says

    Sometimes the 'middlebook in a series' truly is a grabber. I favourite author by reading a book that was not part of a series. I found his other books in used book.stores and on Amazon. His writing was so impressive that i wanted to readthem all – and did. He is bringing those old books back and the price is way up there but it is worth the price. Harlan Coben, a truly great writer.

  6. says

    I do agree with that comment with the second or their books in a series. Its very frustrating when trying to find a good read and you find that u have to purchase the first book. Ive been wondering why isn't there any free books for crafts or hobbies? Like scrapbooking;crocheting;beading or knitting?

  7. Margaret White says

    I usually get book one for the good read it is and then wait until the series r free.because with today's money problems everyone can't afford the next 2or 3 of the family on a budget.I wish someone would invent a app.u could download for free that would tell us when the next book in our series was available for free.Thanks Mike for all your information and hard work you do with the authors to give us free books.

  8. says

    I agree about book promo needs to #1 in the series. There are often references and remarks that give background about characters or situations that I would have missed if I started with #2 or #3.

  9. Cheryl Fegan says

    I couldn't agree more with you. The cover is what catches your eye and drags you in. While you cant judge the book by this it is the first thing you see and has to catch a readers eye…even more so in the digital age. I also skip subsequent books in a series when offered for free. If it sounds particularly interesting I will check out the first in the series. If the book is reasonably priced I would consider purchasing but rarely does this happen. Thank you so much for your blog, it has brought soooo many more books and variety to my kindle.

  10. Monique Martin says

    Thank you for the kind words, Michael! I'm always glad to be the exception to the rule. :) But truly, I wish I knew why. I know many readers echo your feelings and feel very strongly that they will only pick up book #1 when it's free.

    While there are exception, and I was lucky to be one, I've left Select and have book one as a permafree enticement to the rest of the series. I think it's the best overall strategy for freebies other than pulsing free if you have a large body of work.

    Thanks for all you do!

  11. says

    The other 'exception' weighing in here… My books are pretty much standalone, although featuring the same characters in the same profession (forensic geology), but I do understand the preference to read any series in order.

    Thanks for the boost for both books!

  12. Audrey Dorofy says

    Unless it is entirely clear from the description or reviews that later books in a series can stand alone, I will NEVER start reading at the later book. Too annoying when I know none of the necessary backstory. I will get book 2 only if 1 is also free or I already have it.

  13. says

    I love the free books and often buy the others, if I like the authors style. I just wish they knew how to correct their grammar. The one I'm reading now is atrocious. I'll not buy another of his books because of it.

  14. Grace McMillin says

    I don't download anything but the first in a series nor do I download an offer of just the first few chapters. Thanks for your blog and your app!

  15. Jan Lee Eppler says

    I love getting the second or third in a series for free, IF the first was offered for free earlier.
    I will not order a book with typos in the description or in the sample pages, especially COMMA SPLICES, which make me crazy.

  16. Donna Dubert says

    You are right, Michael, I will not get a free book in a series that I have not read the first one(s) but if it sounds really good I may go get a sample of the first one or buy the first one and get the free second book too. But offereing a third or fourth one free when makes no sense unless it is an author you are following anyway and will read everything. Then like I said, I get the free third book but that is because I have already read the first and second one. Sean Platt and David Write are authors I follow, David Estes is another.

  17. says

    Appreciate all the work that goes in to these daily deals. While here, I'd like to ask people not to give away an ending to a book in their reviews. Read Second Sight, book 1. Some reviewer gave away the plot between Katie and Jared when reviewing book 2. NOT the right thing to do. I will not buy book 2 I know how it ends. Not fair to the author.

  18. says

    Michael you are right, but sometimes I will skip that first in a series free book even though it sounds good because being on a strict budget I'm afraid to get hooked and not be able to get the next book. I lucked out the last time I did this and was able to borrow it from the Amazon library. It definitely is a two sided issue!

  19. Regina Tychan Beitel says

    Totally agree. I just wanted to thank you for what you do. I have had the opportunity to read so many books that I otherwise would never have found nor been able to purchase. Your great work is truly appreciated.

  20. says

    I'm in kind of a strange situation because my 'second' book, No Good Deed, was my first book for more than two years and has done well as a freebie. I have a prequel now and have done the freebie thing with it, but I have still done better with the No Good Deed.

  21. says

    I see what you're saying but when I ran the 3rd book in my series for free it got a ton of downloads and a lot of my most positive reviews are from people who picked it up and and loved it then bought the other two books in the series. I'll admit that when I decided to set it up for free I was nervous because I like to start at the beginning of a series. However, I also like to believe that all my books can stand on their own so I went for it. I'm really glad I did because I've found a bunch of new readers. It's also changed my mind about having to read things in order and I've been downloading later books from series ever since.

  22. says

    I agree with you Michael, as an author about to launch my first book in a series I totally understand the strategy of giving it away for free to capture reader’s interest and then hopefully create loyal readers who want to keep reading other books in the series and who are prepared to buy them to do so. An author has to make a living too and as I sell my ebooks around $2.99 and as most ebooks are around a similar price, I do not feel that I would be gouging a reader when they buy successive books. They would be voting with their dollars and that’s the feedback I need as well, good or bad!

    So I totally agree with your policy of not promoting any book in a series going free except the first – of course readers might just glaze over when they see book 2 or 3 going free if they have not read book 1 yet. And authors shouldn’t rag on you when it’s their own lack of understanding of reader habits and preferences.

    It’s a tough business and yes, as authors we all are desperately trying to do whatever we can to get our books out there, but there are constructive things to do and not so constructive things to do – I know, I have made many mistakes myself but am learning fast :)

  23. says

    One of the challenges to a good writer is to make each book stand on it’s own, without annoying rehashing of previous books.

    I’ve found several favorite series when I acquired a book out of order. My initial Dresden Files book wasn’t #1, for example. Ann McCaffery’s Pern series was the same. If it’s good and stands on its own, I’ll go back and purchase the others.

    I can kind of understand your hesitation to only carry the first in the series since you probably don’t even bother to look in the books you promote. Blanket decisions usually aren’t optimal, but if well thought out, may cover the majority of cases. Grade and high schools use them all the time.

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