Score: 84/100 (8.4 out of 10)
The latest installment from self-publishing guru and advocate Dale L. Roberts explores the topic of distributing permanently free (“permafree”) books, primarily on the Amazon shopping platform. He is able to present this information in an interesting and concise way that leaves target readers hungry and thirsting for more. And perhaps that works in both the book's favor and disfavor.
On one hand, the author gets straight to the point. He tells us what permafree books are, how to get them onto Amazon using a price-matching hat trick, and how to leverage them to build your brand and/or to draw attention to your other books. Roberts walks the talk, even offering this book for free.
For better or for worse, this book definitely comes across as a free book. It is, for all intents and purposes, a lead magnet. It is similar to the lead magnets you would receive from signing up to a website's newsletter, providing just enough information on a topic to wet your appetite while withholding just enough to coax you into wanting to get more from the distributor.
You aren't owed a single, solitary thing when you pay nothing, so this book is technically worth infinitely more than its price tag. At the same time, it simply can't stand alone when compared to a normal book or one of the many heavy-hitting non-fiction books in this contest. The adage goes that you should “cut the fat” and exclude all unnecessary details that could detract from your work or distract from its message. They don't tell you that a little fat adds flavor to the steak—the “marbling” so to speak.
So, what's missing because of this brevity are a lot of the great personal stories the author could've shared about using permafree books. Yes, he does briefly mention his own permafree book, “The 90 Day Home Workout Plan” and then that he increased his sales by 30%, but that's pretty much where the personal stories begin and end. The unfortunate thing about this is that Roberts is well known for his magnetic personality and interesting stories as seen on his Self-Publishing with Dale YouTube channel, so it just feels like a slice of Swiss cheese compared to his other works.
Ultimately, this book is really only about 25 or so pages long, and these are small pages. These pages fly by like PowerPoint slides in a presentation, and before you know it, you abruptly hit the conclusion and then the “About the Author” sections. It's not just brief and concise, it's very abrupt.
Abrupt is probably the best word to describe the tail-end of this book. It essentially ends with the author describing a service called “NoiseTrade” which helps you to collect subscriber e-mails in exchange for your permafree book. It was quite interesting to learn about. The author had us leaning in attentively, then the conclusion happened, and that had us thinking, “Wait, was that it? There aren't other websites or services we can use to leverage our free books?" Well, there are, but it's possible the author didn't have a partnership with any of them specifically, didn't feel comfortable having his name attached as an endorsement to these other websites/services, or simply didn't think it was necessary as Google and other search engines are available for that sort of information.
Earlier in the book, you are provided a little information on mass distribution services like Draft2Digital and Smashwords. That's helpful. However, there are a few things about this chapter that are challenging. First, it doesn't seem like these two services are really relevant to permafree books specifically. They're more so here because the author believes they are good services to use as distribution channels in general. “In general” is the key phrase there. The section on these two services entirely consists of what's good or bad (pros and cons) about these services. It has little specifically to do with permafree book distribution.
It's almost like saying, “So are you waiting for your Amazon package to arrive? Let me teach you about freighters. Did you know that they're some of the biggest ships ever built? Some are bigger than aircraft carriers or the Titanic! Some of them cause more pollution than others. Did you know they can carry tons and tons of goods? Maybe your Amazon package could be on one of these freighters, especially since they're a relatively inexpensive and efficient way to transport goods from one place to another.” But that doesn't answer the questions, “Where is my package and when will I get it?”
Second, and probably most importantly, the reader is told about these two services being helpful for permafree books but not told how to make them free using those services. We're just told that it's possible and that it might be faster or better to do it there. We can only assume that you (an author of a permafree book) can somehow access some sort of dashboard on these two platforms, then change the price to $0.00. That's common sense, right? Well, for a newbie or someone who is digitally/technologically-challenged, it really isn't. Imagine if you were a bicyclist and some guy just gave you a motorcycle and said, “You can ride a bike, right? Drive this motorcycle, it can't be that much different.” You wouldn't know where the ignition was or how to turn on the headlights. Likewise, there aren't clear steps or instructions provided to change the prices on these two distribution platforms in the book. However, we are provided steps to change the price on the KDP platform. Is it similar? Is it the same? We don't know, but we can assume so cause the author goes right into it after talking about Draft2Digital and Smashwords.
These missing details and instructions seem like miniscule complaints, but more details and instructions are to be expected with a niche book like this. Say for example you wrote a book only about the $2 US bill and nothing else. Shouldn't that book include the history of the $2 bill, who's on the $2 bill, what's happening in the art on the back of the $2 bill, why the $2 isn't nearly as popular or widely circulated as other bills, whether or not we will continue to see $2 bills in circulation or if they'll be cancelled, etc.? If you're going to write about one subject that's super-duper niche and specific, then be thorough and exhaustive about it. Compare that with the idea of writing a book about all bills and/or coins in the US currency, in that case you'd probably be a bit more brief when talking about each one because you know you have a lot of content to get through. In the grand scheme of things, this book is the equivalent to a few chapters from a much larger work. It just doesn't stand on its own.
To this book's credit, it is beautifully presented, especially in terms of the formatting. It is also grammatically solid. The best thing about this book is that the author is able to speak from personal experience. He has walked the talk and paid his dues through trial and error, so when he describes his sales increasing by 30% each month, we believe him. This whole entire book is a demonstration of how “it” is done. The author tells us that a perfect permafree book should be about 10,000 words and 30 pages, well guess how long this book is? The author recommends using Draft2Digital, Smashwords, and Noisetrade, well those are services that he has used to make a living with his author business, and it's a rather successful author business, one which he makes a living on.
So, what we have here is a terrific example of a lead magnet and just enough to keep you coming back to purchase and read more Dale L. Roberts content or to check out his YouTube channel!
You can get this book for free on Amazon! If you're an indie-author, we highly recommend that you do!