While there are obvious arguments against doing this, here are a few where it makes sense to do so.
Getting an Audience
If you’re a brand new writer, you need an audience and charging for your work will be a roadblock for anyone new considering spending their time with your book. When sold on hard back or paperback, you don’t have a choice, there’s a price so you might as well make some profit from it. For digital or having on a website, the additional cost is zero, making it now a possible choice.
It’ll be Free Online Sooner or Later
If any of your work ever becomes popular, you can almost guarantee it will be pirated and made available on hundreds of sites anyway. Look at music, it’s been like that for a long time. So, if that’s the online road, so be it, take control of it by posting it on your website first.
People Will Buy to Have on Their Own
Even though it’s available online, having it together in one place or format under their control is different, such as for sharing with others or reading when not connected such as traveling or outside on a sunny day. Here are some effects with different formats:
- Hardcovers: Increasingly a rarity, still an option if desired and having your content online probably has zero impact. People that buy hardcovers aren’t doing it for the price other being a potential collectors edition.
- Paperbacks: People still buy paperbacks to be able to read in all types of offline situations and it’s the cheapest format available.
- eBooks: This you could say is the biggest threat of reduced sales by making all your content available online. Then again, people will still buy an ebook to have on their own, read from a digital device but not necessarily connected.
- Audio Books: People listen to audio books usually in completely offline environments or at least while they’re doing something other than reading, ie the whole point of an audio book. If anything, making your content online and having and Audio Book format available will only help sales in this format.
In conclusion, while it may have some negative sales impacts, making your book available 100% from your own website does have valid merits and shouldn’t be completely discounted. You could do a compromise, such as if you’re planning on releasing 10 books anyway, why not try it for the first few.
When is it not appropriate? Maybe once you’re already established and don’t feel the need to have new readers so much. Or just by word of mouth is large enough and additional online visitors isn’t relatively significant. Or if working with a publisher handle 100% of your marketing activities and you’re involved with anything, including the website. That said, if you’re brand new, it can be one of the easiest things you can do to make it attractive for new audiences to consider your work.