Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Marketing: Let's Talk Free Books

There is no doubt that if you are reading this blog you have noticed that there is a HUGE market right now for free eBooks. An author has taken months of their time and encompassed their talent to write a book...and they are giving it away. Yep, that's what you're seeing and I am one of those guilty parties.

The Executive's Decision went free in November of 2011. Why did I do that with my best book to date? Why would I put a book out there with only one other book in the series out? Why not? I saw the trend. I needed an audience. What was a few day?

Um...everything has its lessons! IF you make your book free on Smashwords toward the end of the week and your book is in their premium catalog it will be sent out to the many distribution sites that use Smashwords. What that means is your book, which was free on Smashwords, will now be free on many many many more sites! (BTW this is not the good part of my story...this is the part where I went, OMG!!!)

Panic. Backtrack. I had only hoped for a few days after Thanksgiving. C'mon, I had a plan. Now my book is out there for free everywhere. But wait. Its now on bestsellers lists on little sites. Okay, okay, I got it fixed back to paid, but now that so many free copies have gone out the second book is starting to sell like mad! Oh look, even not on free now the book is selling in paid bestseller status. WHAT IS THAT? I got my third book in the series up in time to do a presale and it has gone bestseller in presale? Oh yes, that is what happened.

So now I have bestseller status. I have ten emails a day coming in asking when the next book is going to be out.

Hmmm, maybe free will keep selling everything else.

So I bite the bullet. The Executive's Decision has gone free, perma free. Amazon has picked it up as a free matched book. Awesome! And so begins all the sales of the other books.

Will this happen on every free book? No. And the reason is it still has to be a good book. I have thousands (yep, I said thousands) of reviews. Some hate it. Free books are raked over the coals. Be prepared for that. Again, if you've read my blog you know I don't read reviews. But readers do and even the horrible ones make someone want to read it just for the "is it that bad" factor. And for free, what do they have to lose. But a bad book is a bad book and it will not move other books. So don't just write something you'd only give for free. Make sure it is of "sale" quality.

Do I recommend if you're just starting out to do this? Yes and no. This is what I mean.

Do Not spend all your time writing a free book. Amass a collection. If you're writing a series, when you have a few under your belt, give away book one.

If your free book is your only book you're doing yourself a disservice. The point is to drive business to the next books.

How about short stories or novellas? Yes this can work, but again, the focus is on a free book to hook readers to the author so they will buy more. Make sure you have something to back it up.

How about that Kindle Prime days offer or Book Bub? Use the tools you can. I don't like making my books exclusive to Kindle. I do VERY well on iTunes directly. But, when you're playing with this the Kindle Prime is a good place to feel it out. Not only will they help boost you a bit, lots of sites have built themselves on offering free advertising or prime placement for a nominal fee for free Kindle books. If you're looking for bang for your buck...go Book Bub. Be aware they have some strict rules. You have to have so many reviews and such and they don't take everyone. But if you're lucky enough to be picked up you will see your numbers soar! (A run can cost from $20 to $600, be prepared.)

Free books. I say it is a win win situation for the self-pubbed (or small/independent published.) Free still needs to mean quality and it means a lot of promotional work. But if you have more books, your writing is consistent, and you can handle some critics...then it just might be the way to go.

And just a note. The Executive's decision is still free after all this time. I have 14 books out currently and it helps to open the door to all of those sales. During my BookBub days I had over 100,000 downloads on my first run and over 60,000 on my second (and it trickles down.) So do you have a book--I mean a few? Give it a try. You might not have to work for free after all.

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