Rumour has it…

I spend a lot of my time (way too much, probably) checking out what other indie authors are up to.  I read their blogs, catch up on their status updates on Facebook, re-tweet their tweets on Twitter, and so forth.  It is all part of this learning curve that is self-publishing.  We are all still learning, are we not?  Because it is an ever-changing business, and no one is exactly sure what works and what doesn’t.  We all see some things that seem to work pretty well for other authors, but does that mean they will work well for us?

For example, there is much heated debate right now about Amazon’s KDP free promos.  Some authors hate it and refuse to use it, while others swear by it.  So why the polarization?  Why the divide?

Other than the recent accounting confusion over at Amazon regarding free downloads popping up several days after my free promo, I like the KDP program and doing the free days.  For me, it’s put my book Breath of Air in the Top 100 Paid Contemporary Fantasy category (a category with nearly 7,000 books in it, I might add) consistently for almost two straight weeks.  But, on the flip side, I had to give away nearly 13,000 free copies of my book to get there.  Was it worth it?  As of right now I’m going to say yes, yes it was.

Now whether or not all of those people who got my book for free will either a) bother to read it, or b) read it, like it, and write a review, at least my name is out there.  My book cover is visible on many people’s kindles.  So hopefully if they catch an advertisement for my book or see the cover again somewhere, maybe they’ll remember that they got that book for free all those weeks ago and that they should pick it up and read it.  I don’t know.  I haven’t been at this long enough to really say for certain what results to expect.  And even those authors that are well versed in the KDP program (which is less than a year old, by the way, so no one should really be calling themselves an expert) can’t say for certain what everyone else’s results will be if they offer their book for free.  All we can do is give it a shot ourselves and see what happens.  It’s all one grand experiment 🙂

Then there’s the argument of how many free promo days to use out of the five, and in what sequence, and even if you should use them all.  All I know is that I did a two day free promo on a Saturday/Sunday the first time I tried it with little advertising, and had 15% the amount of downloads I had when I did it for one day, on a Tuesday, with heavy advertising.  I had the book listed on every free book site I could find (Pixel of Ink being the most important, I think) and so it was visible in several places for impulsive readers to snatch up.  This was key, and my book shot up to #11 in the Free Kindle store, #1 in the Free Fantasy list, #1 in the Free Contemporary Fantasy list, and #8 in Free Genre fiction.  That means that people surfing for free books on Amazon were highly likely to find my book on the first page of at least four lists (and fantasy is a huge genre!).  So I’d say that is pretty significant coverage for getting both my name and my book out there.

So why are some authors wary of giving their books away for free?  I get the “well I worked hard on this book, and I don’t want to just give it away for free” argument, but at the same time, didn’t you write the book in the first place so people would read it?  Maybe some authors wrote their books to get rich, but I certainly didn’t.  This is my hobby, my passion, but I still keep my day job because the money isn’t what matters to me.  It’s lovely, and I’ll take it 😉 but it isn’t the purpose behind why I write.  If my books are good enough to make me millions of dollars, then that’s great, but it won’t change who I am or why I do what I do.  I’ll still be running my father’s business, going to the movies with friends, taking long drives with my husband, etc.

And so a few thousand free downloads of my book doesn’t bug me.  In fact, I found it pretty damn cool to see my book listed beside Nora Roberts new book The Witness on Amazon’s bestsellers page (mine in the free column, of course) but how friggin cool is that?  My book, beside my idol’s book.  And without doing the promo, that wouldn’t have happened.  The free promotion helped kick start my sales dramatically, and even got my second book selling much better than it would have otherwise.  I just don’t think you can Facebook enough, Tweet enough, or blog enough to get your book out there.  Being on the Amazon lists is really where the readers are and where they will find you.  And if giving away some books is how you get there, then I say go for it.

But of course everyone has their methods, and we are all trying to make them work for us.  I would be curious, though, to find out the ratio between authors who love free promos and authors who hate them.  I bet more authors take advantage of the promos than refrain.  I mean, how could you not?  It’s excellent exposure, and it helps you build the much desired reader fanbase that will continue to seek you out and buy your future books.

So I’d say it’s well worth it 🙂  We write because we love it.  Don’t forget that, ever!

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.

~Ray Bradbury

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2 thoughts on “Rumour has it…

  1. Well said. Goal number one (well, after writing the book) is to get eyeballs focused on the book. The more core fans you have early in your publishing career, the exponentially more you’ll have later.

    And even if the goal were money, it would still make sense to give away one book for free to get people to buy the next seven. This works for crack dealers and food companies at sample stands at Costco, so why wouldn’t it work in book publishing? I recall Robert Jordan gave away half of his first Wheel of Time novel, and look where thaf led to. No wait, I didn’t mean that pine box, I meant the success of his Fantasy novels.

    • Exactly because you have to give people an incentive to take a chance on you, and the best way to do that is to give them a no-risk option so they can get a taste of what you can offer. It doesn’t surprise me that some big name authors have done free giveaways as well. And like you said with Costco, it’s obviously good business practice to get samples out to the public so that word of mouth will carry the product (or book, in my case) to the forefront of peoples’ notice 🙂

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