Tuesday’s Child, PJ Sharon, coming to you from the lovely Hills of Western MA. I trust you all had a memorable and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. Thanks to everyone who helped me spread the word about my Heaven Is for Heroes FREE book offering over the weekend. I was able to gift dozens of e-books to military families and meet some new readers. I LOVE giving books away! But I’m a little concerned about the consequences of all this giving away of free books. How much is too much?
Sigh…you can never get too much of my beau Alex, here…when digression is a good thing. Back to business. As I was saying…
When I published my first book last September, I was rightfully focused on recouping my investment, managing a budget, and making enough money to produce the next book three months later. By being diligent (that included making my family and friends buy my book) I was able to break even by January and start loosening the reins on my militent book selling. Fortunately, the third book, which came out in March, cost me much less to produce, allowing me to break even on my investment within the first month of it’s release.
It wasn’t until I entered Savage Cinderella into the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program that I saw the opportunity to make my book available for FREE. With KDP Select, a ninety day agreement to offer the book only through Amazon, I could put the book up for free for up to five days within that three months. I had been watching my Indie Romance Ink pals do very well with their free promotions. (I have to say here, I feel incredibly fortunate to belong to such supportive writing loops. I would not be able to do any of this without them. I’ve learned so much about the inner workings of publishing, marketing and promoting that would have taken years to learn on my own.)
Several YA and Children’s authors in the group organized an event in April that ran for three days (see my experiment here). During those three days I had 28,000 downloads of SC in five countries. I was blown away by these results and noticed a consistent boost in sales of all three books for about the next three weeks.
Just when the numbers started to decline, I was approached to join another group of authors. This time with the WG2E (Writers Guide To E-publishing) in another give away. I still had two more FREE days to use up, so I jumped on board with the WG2E Street Team. Sixteen authors worked together to promote an amazing Beach Book Blast event. There was a Twitter party, crazy cross-promotion through FB, a deluge of tweeting and retweeting, a Kindle Fire giveaway, and a constant sense that everyone was working in sync to move mountains.
It was an awesome experience. During my two FREE days with the BBB promo, I had over 11,000 downloads and have sold 120 books in the past four days. I also reached the Amazon Top 100 Kindle Free book list, gaining the exposure that every author hopes for. My best ranking during that time was #30 in the Kindle Free Store, #3 in Love and Romance category, and #4 in Children’s e-books. Woohoo! I was thrilled, and I’m only sharing so you’ll know what’s possible.
I love that I am reaching so many new readers who might potentially want to read other books I write. Every writer writes, if only in part, for the joy of stirring an emotional response from an audience. It’s an amazing feeling when someone tells you that they loved your story or that you touched their heart in some way. But there are also those who think your book is “unbelievable and stupid.” I appease my bruised ego by counting my sales and waiting for those royalty checksJ A few negative reviews are well worth the pain for those short bursts of increased sales after a FREE promotion, and the momentum that gets generated in sales of your other books. If timed right, it can give you a pretty good payout over a few months.
On the downside—and yes, there is always a downside—for all of those downloads, a certain percentage of readers will never read the book because they have downloaded more FREE books than they will ever have time to read in this lifetime. It’s also a heck of a lot of work being a part of or running one of these promotional events and you are super lucky if you can hook up with some indiustrious people willing to collaborate. Otherwise, it’s tough to get these kind of results all on your own.
Another possible side benefit of doing a FREE promo is that you can pretty much plan on getting a bunch of reviews, something that is generally a challenge for new authors. Great! Right? Um, no…Quantity seems to win over quality in this respect. I had 10 new reviews, some of which were very nice, others, not so much. With 25 reviews, SC has an average rating of four stars, for which I am very grateful, but there are some unhappy readers out there and that is always hard to take.
I think many of the negative reviews come out of the fact that a cross section of people who download anything that is FREE may not be your target audience and may not be a fan of your genre. Don’t be surprised to see some returns. That’s right, for every ten books I sell or give away, there are at least one or two returns. That means that for every fifty books I sell, five to ten are returned. No idea why, but I hear other indie-authors say the same thing so I don’t worry about it. I don’t worry about negative reviews either. The majority of comments are wonderful, and I’m pretty comfy here in my thick skin.
But the biggest downside of going FREE is that the glut of free books on the e-book market are making things very tough for authors who need to charge $7, $8, or even $9 for their books to ensure that publishers, agents, and distributors get their cut. Being an indie, I can set my price, and most indie authors are fine with selling a 75,000 word novel for under $3.99. Why would anyone want to pay for books if they can get so many inexpensive or FREE books? Is it devaluing the work of authors? Will readers come to expect books to be free? Will people with e-readers fill them up with so many free books that they will just stop buying them? I’m sad to say I have more books on my Kindle than I will ever have time to read. This is a definite deterrent for me buying anything new or even downloading more free books.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m very pleased and satisfied with my results, and I don’t think that people will ever stop buying books, I’m just pondering the future and wondering what’s next?
So how do you feel about FREE books? For, against, or neutral, and why?