I feel like giving it for free to as many people as possible, however the changes of getting it in the hands of as many people as possible may be very costly and if I sell it then that can cover the costs of reaching more people with the message.
This is a hugely important question. Thanks for asking it. You have to first understand the goal of your book. Book sales are a terrible return on investment for 99.99% of authors. The real value is in growing your business and creating new opportunities for more substantial returns. You can often put the same amount of energy into selling a book (and gaining a few bucks) as you would into creating a new client (depending on your business that can be substantial revenue).
So know your goals. If your goal is to use your book as a lead generator for your business, then sure, you want to make it available for sale wherever people buy books (at least online), but you want to get that book into the hands of as many potential clients as possible. So plan on giving away lots of them for free. To do that, you're going to need a printing partner who knows how to get you fantastic bulk discount rates so you're spending no more than a few bucks a book.
What you also have to consider is that if your book is going to be your calling card, it has to be exceptional. Not good. Not alright. But exceptional. It has to capture the essence of you. Your voice has to resound through the writing. And it has to be a page turner. So hire the right expert or team to help to ensure you are showing off your brand in a way that excites the kind of people you want to attract.
Feel free to get in touch with me for more thoughts in this direction. This is the world I live in.
This is a great question. The best way I can answer it is to say that the world of indy book publishing is closely following the direction that the indy music world went about a decade ago. The bands and artists who were willing to "give away" their material actually became huge stars, and the artists and labels who were afraid of "theft" suffered at the hands of Napster, and a public that increasingly wanted "free" music.
In the publishing industry, this takes the form of ebook giveaways now. If you have invested very little capital in putting your book together (I have a great case study in mind of a client who spent $53 on her book editing, production, and publication), why not give away as many as possible, and count the number of books "in distribution"? We have one author who recently "gave away" 37,000 books in one day on Amazon during a promotion. What is he now able to say? He has 50,000 books in distribution. How many has he actually sold? Probably around 800 at this point, but that will continue to climb as the 49,000 people who downloaded his book free over the different giveaway days "actually" read his book, and recommend it on to others, or buy a paperback copy for themselves.
Let's look at the opposite case study that I always cite. I have a former client who unfortunately had spent nearly 1/2 million dollars on his book project before he started talking with me (no, I'm not kidding). He was able to rise to the top of a prominent bestseller list as a result of what his "book publisher" did for him, but how much money or influence did he get as a result of putting a 2nd mortgage on his house for that 1/2 million dollars? Very little. Or, I should say, just about as much influence as the person who spent $53 on her entire book process.
All of this is to say, there is great scholarship out there around how much to charge for your book, and it can be a great "business card" – but that is an old concept. Instead of a "business card" – think of your book as your album or record that will get you fans. Build up your social media presence, build up your readership, and you will then build a community around this. That community will allow you to fulfill your dreams, whether coaching, authoring, speaking, dancing, or building ships.
(Please don't mortgage your house or invest more money than you can afford for a "hobby".) And, my personal belief is that if you don't have fun, it's not worth it! If you succeed in getting your message out to 10 people or 10 million, you are changing the world. So, blessings to you on that great mission!
As background, I managed a publisher for 5 years and I have owned a publishing company (RockBench Publishing Corp.) for 6 years. Very few people make money on their books. I have written four, and have made money on two of them, but even that is rare. In most cases, you write a book because it gives you a bigger platform. So when you answer this question for yourself, don't think about the money you make from the book itself but from the opportunities that the book provides. In that context, the rule of thumb is to give away one book for every two books that you sell. But it's not quite as simple as that, because money is the currency of respect, and there's very little branding value in giving away a free book. You get tons of mileage, though, from giving away a book that they would otherwise have to pay for. So here's the answer: price the book normally, and then give away copies.
Have you considered Crowdfunding your book? If enough people have read it and believe in your message, you could use their testimonials to crowdfund it (lots of new websites who can help you here). I use my book to build credibility and to get me in the door of larger companies, then I "throw" in the book as a freebie when I'm negotiating my fee to come in and speak or train. Hard to explain my other thoughts through email (plus I need to know more about your subject, the book you've written, how much you're spending to publish it, etc.) so feel free to call me chat (for free, of course, at least for the first 30 minutes). 510-537-0107.
First off, is it a digital book or hardcopy?
Now, a few questions to ask yourself.
How do you hope to leverage this book? Is it a means to grow your reach (e.g. email subscibers for your blog or promotional)? Or are you looking for cash? Books are most often used as a way for you to position yourself as a thought leader in a space so that people will seek you out and pay you for your expertise. From this, you can aquire notoriety, enough to potentially get sponsorship deals or endorsements and bring on clients as a consultant. This could look like 1:1 work, courses or seminars.
The number one question you need to answer is how you intend to leverage what you hope to create with this book. It's not a matter if it's ok or not to give it away for free, but rather, does it serve your goal? And what is that goal?
Hope this helps and happy to clarify further if you have any questions.
Offer an ebook version instead, and get your readers/visitors to sign up to your mailing list in order to get the free download. Giving something away for free like this is a FANTASTIC way to build your list, and building your list is really the best way to build your author career.