This past week, Amazon price matched Intoxicated, making it free across all platforms. All in all, it wasn’t as lengthy of a process as I expected it to be. I believe that I started on 5/7/15 by changing the price at Smashwords, then waiting for the trickle down effect to take place.
Every day since the book went free at some of the bigger sites (iBooks, B&N, Kobo), I clicked over to Amazon to see if they noticed. I reported my own lower prices quite a few times, even though I’ve heard that it’s not effective if the author does it. I did enlist a few friends to help, but I’m not positive that more than two other people reported the lower price.
The tipping point in my eyes is when I uploaded Intoxicated to Google Play as a free download. Not because I plan on selling tons of books there, or even uploading the rest of the series there, but solely because I stumbled across advice that suggested this was a surefire way to get Amazon to make your book free. And the logic makes sense. After all, Google is, well, Google. Imagine when the search engine results pulled up for your book, showing free at Google, and paid at Amazon. With the way Amazon dominates the ebook market, it’s not good for them to be publicly undercut.
Sure enough, within two days of my book going live on Google Play, it was also free at Amazon. I had achieved success, and didn’t even know it until I saw the first three free downloads hit on my dashboard, a lovely green color among the (very) sporadic red line of paid sales.
As I expected, perma-free works better on Amazon than it does on other outlets. Though making it free at other retailers has guaranteed at least a few downloads per day, the response elsewhere has been nothing like over at Amazon. It was fun the first day to periodically check my dashboard to see the downloads climbing by what I considered to be leaps and bounds. Mind you, I did nearly no promotion of this – just a simple tweet, a Facebook post, and a mention over on Tsu, so most of the downloads came from people stumbling across it themselves.
For the first two days of free at Amazon, I did so much better than I expected. Intoxicated hit right around sales rank 1,200 of all free books at its peak (at least what I witnessed) and was also (just barely) in the top 100 of both the Romance and the Women’s Fiction categories. Pretty good for an experiment.
The interest has subsided since, which I fully expected. I’ve submitted it to a couple of free book websites for editorial consideration, as I’m hoping I can get some promotion at no charge. I’ve just started a targeted Facebook ad for the next week, but am not throwing a whole lot of money at it. So far, I am the only click, because I couldn’t stop myself from trying it out to make sure the damn thing worked.
What’s my goal here? Ultimately to get people to take a chance on my series by reading the first one for free. And the early results are promising. Prior to Amazon setting it to free, I’ve had a few paid sales of Book Two at the other retailers. And a purchase of the rest of the series at Smashwords, each subsequent book selling two days after the last. And since going free at Amazon, I’ve gotten one new review of Intoxicated, and paid sales of Book Two each day.
Still not setting the world on fire, but it’s a start. I’ll take it.
I might have been inspired by Korn’s “Prey for Me” when I named this blog post, and that might be the reason that particular song has been stuck in my head for the past couple of days. But I digress.
This week’s blog post is about ebook pricing. Yes, I know that this has been covered before by countless other people, but it’s been front and center in my mind as of late. As most of you know, I’ve recently joined social media network Tsu, which right now is more or less a happening place for book bloggers and authors alike. A side effect of this has been my one-click finger getting a massive workout.
Like most readers, I’ve always been enticed by a sale.
As an author, I’ve always questioned the practice of offering up something that you’ve worked long and hard on for nothing, or for rock bottom prices.
Since I’m not Amazon exclusive, I’ve not been able to take advantage of their free or countdown days. But I have experimented with coupon codes on Smashwords, offering the first book in my series for free. The first time I did this, I received a respectable amount of downloads – and my book got pirated. Each time since, I’ve experienced diminishing results.
As my series has progressed, I’ve debated pricing the first book at perma-free, as has been suggested by multiple sources.
Popular opinion in the self-publishing community indicates that the allure of free has lost a bit of its luster. But it’s still a widely used marketing tactic by many people to get their book on the Kindles of others. Whether or not they’re actually read once they get there is another story.
Myself, I’d rather just charge a respectable price for my books and get fewer downloads if it means that the people that do purchase my novels will actually read them. An impulsive download at free will likely get pushed to the bottom of the stack when a reader has a choice between it and an ebook that they’ve paid money for. I know that’s how it works for me.
That being said, I’m seriously considering putting out a free companion book once my series is completely finished. What’s the difference here? My intention wouldn’t be to attract new readers, but to cater to people who are already fans. What it would include would be every single piece of bonus content that I’ve written for each one of the books: character interviews, top ten lists, alternate scenes. Things which have already been posted here, but which readers may not remember or might not know about. It would be simple to put together; it’s already on my computer and I would just have to curate it. I’ve even got a name for it and a cover concept.
If that idea flies – which I’m almost positive it will – I’ll report back on the success of it. I’m curious to see if a free book at the end would have any effect on sales of those that have come before it. It may piss a lot of people off that will download it just because the price is right.
Then again, I might not be the only one who thinks backwards.
I enjoy free publicity. I’m sure most authors would agree with me on that aspect of things – that’s why we contact local media, insert book links on our email taglines, sign up for contests, participate in giveaways, etc. Every little bit helps, right?
In addition to the free stuff, I also dabble in the paid marketing. It’s no secret that I work with a tour company to promote my books upon release and to pimp them out to bloggers for reviews. They do legwork for me that I either don’t have the time, talent or courage to do on my own.
You’d think that free and paid would be opposites, sort of like the colors black and white. But more and more, I’m noticing that the lines are blurring and what starts off as free doesn’t always end up being no charge.
Case in point, there are several websites around that offer to promote self-published books and authors. Some of them are little more than directories of authors who all have the same dream: to get noticed. Some of them offer places to feature excerpts or a little insight into your novel; others provide a place for readers to post reviews and recommend your work to friends. In my formative years (read early 2013), I signed up for a couple of them, figuring it couldn’t hurt. It also didn’t help one bit, as I realized that readers aren’t the ones trolling those sites. Authors are, and we’re preaching to the choir.
A number of these sites are free. Or at least they were. But I’m noticing what I feel is an alarming trend: more and more of them are beginning to charge fees. Or sites that do offer free services are now touting upgrades for a monetary cost. And spamming my inbox with messages announcing the great results I can obtain if only I pay their low monthly/quarterly/annual fee. I won’t name names, because the point here is not to badmouth any specific group or site. But I’ve seen several, so you’ve likely run across some of the same ones.
Is it because they’ve upped their game, or because they think they’ve found a cash cow?
I get it, really I do. People see an opportunity to make money and they grab it and run. If authors are flocking to your site when things are free, perhaps a good portion of them will pay if you ask them to. I don’t blame anybody because I’d like to turn a profit as a result of this endeavor, too. And these sites may offer legitimate services to authors that may work. But because I’m not yet independently wealthy, I have to decide where to spend my money. I’ve been burnt before, and I am less apt to believe glowing reviews (even from people who I’m familiar with). I need to feel that there’s going to be a good chance of me personally getting results. If it doesn’t feel like a worthwhile expenditure, no amount of hype will get me to change my mind.
Of course, even the big names aren’t exempt. We extoll the virtues of being on Twitter, having a Facebook fan page, or being a Goodreads author. The free aspect of social media works great for most of us, but you can spend money here, too. I won’t go into things like buying 15,000 followers for $35; I’m talking about sanctioned spending where the money goes straight to one of the three entities. In fact, during the creation of my Facebook fan page I felt like someone at their corporate office was reaching through my laptop screen, trying to convince me to pay for likes or promoting posts. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I thought about it, and even checked into the pricing. I still haven’t completely ruled it out.
For every cautious author like myself, there’s probably one or more that will throw money at these outfits like change into a wishing well. This makes me sad, the feeling that there are those of us out there who want this dream so badly they lose sight of the work involved. There’s more to becoming known, respected and successful than simply writing a check or draining your Paypal account.
Current ebook marketing strategies advise authors of a series to offer the first book for free. The reasoning behind this is that people will be so captivated by your storyline that they will gladly shell out the funds for your new release because they have to know what happens next. This, of course, assumes that the people who have downloaded your free book actually read it.
The glut of free ebooks has given rise to the book hoarder. This person has thousands of books on their Goodreads shelf marked as “to read”. The likelihood of them ever reading your particular book – let alone remembering that they have a copy of it – is slim to none. Their intentions are good but time is finite and the allure of that “buy for free” button is just too much to handle. So they keep adding and adding. Let’s face it: if they never get around to it, they’ve lost nothing.
Call me crazy, but when someone downloads my book, I want them to read it.
The best way to ensure that people will have a vested interest in finishing your book is to charge real money for it. People hate to waste money, even if it’s only a dollar or two. The trick is to get them to pull the trigger when there are so many free alternatives out there.
Ultimately, I didn’t set out on my self-publishing journey to become rich. I’m not taking out loans to finance my novels or spending money that I can’t afford to lose on them. At the same time, I did set a price for my work so I’m not treating it like a hobby. If there wasn’t a part of me that didn’t want to make a profit doing this, I wouldn’t spend hours formatting, editing and proofing my books. I wouldn’t maintain a website or a Twitter account and I would do zero marketing. If my only goal was to have people be able to read my stuff, I’d upload the Word document the minute I finished it and offer it at no charge. Then everyone could see what my beta readers do.
I’m not entirely convinced that free is the way to go. Sure, I’ve dabbled in it and as a result if you’re into the whole downloading things illegally scene, you can get book one for free any time. I’ll probably still continue to offer book one for free during the sitewide promotions that Smashwords puts on twice a year. And we’ll see how the whole first book was free thing pans out for me in a couple of months when number two comes out. But I’ve decided that all future releases will never be included in these events – at least not at free. This isn’t a response to the piracy debacle, but rather my stance on the value of a free ebook.
After all, the free book ploy is exclusive to the ebook industry. If you walked into your local brick and mortar bookstore and demanded to see their free titles, you’d be laughed at. If I’m putting the same amount of time and effort into my work as a traditionally published author, shouldn’t I have the right to get paid for it as well?
In celebration of Read an E-Book Week, my new release Intoxicated will be available for free from March 3-9 only by clicking here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/289658?ref=AliciaReneeKline
Just enter the coupon code that comes up on the book’s page during checkout and you’ll be good to go! Please note, the free promotion is only good through this link and only at Smashwords. I’m live on Amazon now and pending to be on Apple, B&N and Sony (among others) very soon. If you go to one of these other retailers, you’ll pay the regular retail price. After the free promo ends, I’m planning to compile a list of links for everywhere my book is sold.
If you do take advantage of this opportunity, please seriously consider writing a review. Since my book was just released this past week, it would be a major help to have as much feedback generated as possible. Of course, also feel free to come back here and comment as well, or connect with me on Twitter. I want to hear what you have to say and am looking forward to having some spirited discussions!