We're trying to decide whether to offer and ebook for free as an email list building tool or sale it while maybe providing a portion for preview. This will be our first attempt at distributing an ebook and we only have about 400 on our email list. Thoughts?

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This is a great question!

As you might imagine the answer isn't clean and clear cut. 

1st I  would say commit to a goal. 

Deciding what result you want to accomplish with this ebook.

1. List building /lead nurturing.

A free ebook can help with list building and relationship building as the content can be broken out and stretched into content to fill your email marketing campaigns, videos, audios etc.. to help buils know, like and trust.

2. To boost sales.

The ultimate endgame is to make money. The path you take just varies. With a free ebook the path is slow and strategic. With a paid ebook the cycle is much shorter.

2nd Consider Your Funnel/Buying Cycle

People often talk about having a funnel with price points at each level to accommodate people. Just having a funnel isn't good enough these days.

People go through 5 different stages of decision making when it comes to hiring or buying something.

I created an info-graphic that helps you to place the right content and offers at the right buying stage. (See attached and let me know of it helps).

3rd Consider the pros and cons:

Benefits of a free ebook:

  • More downloads than paid ebooks
  • No need to be unique or in depth, but the more in-depth the better the perceived value will be.
  • Generates leads you can market to and build relationships later that "could" turn into revenue.

Paid ebooks

Paid ebooks are typically composed of information that isn't easily found on other blogs or free material around the web.

It would help to do some research and see what other businesses like yours are doing and answer these questions:

  • Are others giving away for free what you want to charge for?
  • Are there other, more in depth and popular free versions out there already?
  • As you consider the competition, you are going to have to follow their lead?

Imperfect Action:

It's easy to get caught up and paralyzed by weighing the pros and cons of how to publish your ebook. So, I would suggest to take imperfect action.

1. Use it for list building and offer for free if after your research you feel it's not meaty enough and add to it and re-purpose into a 2.0 paid version.

2. Offer a paid version and offer discounted or free versions as incentives or bonuses for people who purchase

I hope this helps, Let me know if I can help further :)


Hi Kenya,

This is excellent information. You are correct, we are debating the pros & cons. I think the goal is the area of disagreement. I'm interested in list building, but my partner wants to use this as an immediate income source. We are repacking a list of tips we just distributed over the past 21 days. This will be our first attempt and our current email list is only at about 400.

So, assuming you've released eBooks in the past, how did you approach your very first eBook? Do you think it's more important to build a list or try to generate income? Also, have you experimented with advertising in an eBook to distribute it for free while potentially generating an income?

Oh I get it.

Well there are ways to monetize a free ebook, You can always build in affiliate links to any resources you recommend inside the ebook. 

The other thing to think about is if it's content that people can find on their own for free, it may be hard to sell. There are ways to uplevel value for example, you can sell it as an "enhanced ebook", which is an ebook enhanced with video or audio content that enhances the readers experience.

The other thing to think about is the people you are targeting? If they are people who are in debt, what are they willing to pay for help to get out of their situation and at what point in their decision making process.

A neutral ground could be to package it for sale and plan out periodic promotions throughout the year where people can get special discounts. That way if it is not performing like you like you can still get something out of it. You could hold contests or promotions for list-building where people can get free copies for a limited amount of time.

It's easier to start for fee and offer discounts and sales. But, it may be harder to suddenly start charging for something that's been provided for FREE.

Re: Your question. My strategy is a long ball approach. So, I've typically released ebooks for free for list building, nurturing and brand awareness. Your list is a path to income. If, they've subscribed it means they're open to you communicating with them.

At the end of the day it's all about testing what works for you and your audience. If you've got a 21 day track record with your list, I say selling your ebook is a great test.

See what happens. Again, you can always be creative with your marketing to hit other goals as well!

You are fantastic! Thanks so much for letting me pick your brain.

The 21 days was actually on Facebook not an interaction with our list. We haven't started marketing via emails yet. I've read that moving people from FB to your site is less effective than gathering emails directly via FB. Have you ever sold an ebook. I'd love to know what your response to free books was vs books for sale. I'd like to get an idea of what we'd be giving up from a list building potential if we tried to sell right away.

I don't think I'd like to charge for this at all. I've been reading so much about the relationship building benefit to providing premium content for free. My goal ultimately is to have people subscribe to our upcoming subscription site. I think using good content like our 21 days tips as a way to move people through that funnel would serve us best. Grant it, I know you are only getting one side (mine LOL), but thanks giving me food for thought (and fodder to back up my side of the argument!!!)

Too funny!

You are welcome! And thank you for posting this. It helps me better understand the things people need to know about creating content to grow their business :)

Yes, if you do not have a list yet, I would recommend giving it away for free. re-purpose it later for sell.

FB community is good, but they are not really committed to you. Subscribers have already completed a transaction by changing their email for your information. Now, you have been given permission to communicate your message and they'll be more likely to take action.

You always get more traction from a Free ebook than a paid one. Because people love FREE. But, people will buy if they perceive there is value there.

Seth Godin provides one of his books "The Idea Virus" for Free and he is a well known published author. The catch is, it's free only in ebook form. You have to buy it if you want the physical book.

In today's game you have to think creatively. And you have to think like your audience and their thought process when it comes to making a purchasing decision.

For example, If I was to come across your ebook here would be my process.

1. I'm aware I need to get out of debt and I come across your ebook so I;m aware you exist to solve my problem

2. I see your book is for sale, so I begin to research and see if I can find the information you are selling somewhere for FREE (because this is the internet)

3. I begin to evaluate the options I've found to see which is best.

4. I either decide to purchase your book or I found comparable information somewhere else and I choose them. And If I am not on your list, I don;t know you so I'm gone forever.

5. If I've purchased from you, I will more than likely do business with you again and go deeper into your funnel and tell friends about it.

You're on the right path. I just hope your partner doesn't hate me for giving you more

Be sure to keep me updated on what you decide.

She probably will! You and me both. Ha!  But the question is can I get her to back down without pulling my hair out!!!!! I know that's not how I should look at our discussion process...but it is. :)

That is such a good point about people looking to see where they can find the information for free and then we loose them forever.

Seriously, thank you very much.I've been posting this question all over the place and this is by far the best feedback anyone has offered. God bless you! I will definitely keep you in the loop. We plan to release it March 31.



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