I’ve been thinking about this since the week before last. The free or cheap book as a marketing tool. It has both pros and cons.

On one hand, you’re ensuring the book gets out there. People will download it, it might get rankings, it helps spread the word. On the other hand, you’re possibly saying your work is cheap and worthless.

I’ve noticed that when I look at these things, I go at them like a consumer. When a free book is offered, I do download, especially if it’s only for a limited time. But there are a couple of problems with this.

1. Will I read the book? I already have a “to read” list that is long. I worry sometimes that I’ve downloaded a book that I might not like. I try to only get books I am actually interested in. Sometimes I download a book and I just find out that when reading it, I don’t like it. That’s something else completely. At least I gave it a shot. What I worry about is downloading a book that I just never look at again.

2. Am I really supporting the author? This is where I diverge on my views with free and cheap books (which to me is anything $2.99 and under– anything over and I notice I give it some thought). A free book I feel guilty about because as far as I know, the author gets nothing (unless I love the book, then I am telling all of my friends– ALL of them). But at least if a book is set to cheap, I can purchase it and feel like I’m supporting the author even if I don’t read it right away. And if the book is cheap (we’re talking $1 here), I will still tell my friends in the off chance that it’s something they’re interested in. (This worked for Hungry for You and The Naked Gardener. Both of which a couple of my friends picked up after I mentioned it on Twitter before I’d even read them. And both of which I enjoyed immensely. Seriously, pick up Hungry for You!)

So as a consumer I find that I prefer to spend a little money to offer my support rather than downloading for free. Contests don’t really work on me, though I see they work on other people. And sales or deals encourage me to buy quickly, but that doesn’t mean I will actually read the book in a timely manner.

I’m a reader who reads for fun when I get the urge. I read a lot compared to others, but I’m still average with my reading. (Less than one book a week, though if I find a book I really like that’s easy and fun to read I can read it in a day or two.)

What do others think (as consumers)? Get sucked in by a free book? Do you read them? Would you rather pay so that you support the artist? Do contests work for you?