Give your stuff away and you'll profit from it.
Take the thriller writer Joe Konrath. He recently wrote on his excellent blog, a Newbie's Guide to Publishing -- where he offers his insights into self-publishing and how others should benefit from doing it -- that giving away books has helped sales of his books:
I recently got the rights back to Whiskey Sour, and last month gave away 100,000 copies on Amazon.
In April I've earned $18,000 on Whiskey Sour.
Reread that. It is April 14. And I made $18,000 on just Whiskey Sour in those two weeks.
Just gave away 100k copies, now earning $1,285 on it daily. That one book. It has also, as you can guess, helped my other titles sell well.
No, I don't fear free. And if someone found a way where I could give away 10 million copies of Whiskey Sour, sign me up.
Copyright issues, piracy and digital rights management concerns are all over the publishing world. But you can make money as an author if you know how to market yourself, to be true to yourself, to make yourself essential to a reader.
Now, Konrath writes fiction -- and he's one of the best examples of an author who used to be published the old-fashioned way who's found success doing it the new way, by self-publishing. And he's also canny about the use of free distribution of his works. What he does would apply to any author, including those who are writing books to expand their business: free distribution helps spread the word about one's writing and message. Konrath is the one who ultimately profits from making his writing available at affordable prices (his e-books, when they're not given away free for special offers, are quite reasonably priced, at $2.99 or $3.99 or thereabouts).
Now, I am in the process of publishing a series of e-books about branding, marketing and publishing (the latest is The #1 Way to Increase Your Close Rate: Define What You Stand Against, and I'd begun by giving the books away. This is my strategy: get people interested in what you say. You have nothing to lose by introducing your ideas at little or no cost to an audience of people who would want to come back to learn more.