As I have noted, the entire text of It Takes a Worried Man is available to read for free online. I popped a google analytics code on there, and I thought I'd share some of the data I've gotten in case any of you are pondering conducting a similar experiment.
All but about two total hits on the site have come from referrals from facebook, twitter, or goodreads. (Thank you again to everybody who has directed people there! You rock!). I'm very lucky to have a network of awesome people who have been willing to promote this book. If you're starting fresh, I think you'd have a bit of a harder time driving traffic. I know very little about SEO (except the acronym, which I like to throw around so I look smart), but literally 2 hits on the site have come from search engines. So I guess I would say just putting up a page and hoping people will find it through search is probably a bad strategy.
This is pretty interesting. Half of all visitors to the site leave within 10 seconds. This means they've clicked on the link and seen the page and that's pretty much it. But a third of visitors are staying for over a minute, which means they're staying long enough to read something, and ten percent are staying for over ten minutes (the point at which google stops counting). Those ten percent of visitors account for half the page views on the site, so they're really reading a fair amount while they're on the site.
A cool thing that google analytics will allow you to do is to rank the pages by the number of visits. As you might expect, the first couple of pages are the most popular, and it goes down from there. I suppose this might be interesting with a novel because you could see exactly where people tend to stop reading. I thought the "where are they now" part would be pretty popular, and so it is, but it's the 8th ranked page on the site. The "buy" page is 88th out of 99 pages, but I'm not going to draw any big conclusions from this because I assume that most people who do buy are doing it on their e-readers and not on the web.
Ultimately, making the book avaialble for free on the web seems like a decent thing to do. It gives people a chance to sample the book, which will probably lead to more happy customers. It's kind of tough to tell exactly, but it looks like the number of people who read the whole thing on the web is about half the number of people who have bought copies. (And some of those may be the same people). I really don't think there's much to lose in doing this. The question for your free book website, as for all websites, is how do you continue to drive traffic there? If I figure that out, I'll let you know.