Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Free, my favorite price...

Sometimes other writers ask how I feel about ebooks being made available for 99 cents or free. My answer? I think it’s great, under the right circumstances. I’d hate to see a world where all books are priced this way, but as it stands now it’s a valuable marketing tool, especially for older titles and series. In this economy, where people have limited entertainment dollars, it’s a terrific way for readers to sample an author’s work without breaking the bank.

When I first started out self-publishing in 2009, if a book became free, it was so rare that the message boards lit up with people spreading the word. I specifically remember that James Patterson’s first book in a series (Maximum Ride, I think) was free for quite some time and that book, and the following books in the series, rode to the top of the list and stayed there  for what seemed like forever. Smart guy, that Patterson.

That was then, this is now. Does free/99 cents still work for book promotion? In my experience, yes, but you have to get the word out. Just making a price change won’t do it.

Recently, my novel, Edgewood, the first in a three book series, was free for five days, ending May 1st.  Ads were taken out on three sites: BookBub, Awesome Gang, and Other sites noticed and picked up the promotion at no cost to me.  The end result? In five days, Edgewood was downloaded more than 33,000 times. In addition, the next two books in the series got a huge bump in sales, something that warmed my heart, because it meant that readers enjoyed the first book and wanted to continue reading.

By the end of the promotion, I’d more than made up the cost of advertising via the sales of books two and three. Better yet, I’d gotten several nice DMs and emails from readers who loved the books. And to top it off, all three books received new positive reviews. So you see, it’s not all about money, although I can’t think of any writer who would turn that down. It’s also about connecting with readers, which is priceless.

An added bonus to the surge in sales is that it has improved the books' ranking overall putting them higher on the category lists on Amazon, which increases their visibility. In theory, this promotion could continue to give the Edgewood series a boost days, weeks, or months from now.

Of course, some who downloaded the book may never get around to reading it, or, (and this pains me, but I have to be honest) will start reading, decide it’s not for them and delete it off their Kindle. I can live with that, because it goes hand in hand with giving other, more interested readers a chance to try my book for free.

This month, two of my older titles, A Scattered Life and Easily Amused, are being featured for 99 cents by my publisher, Amazon Publishing.  In another promotion, my kids’ book, the very charming (if I do say so myself) Celia and the Fairies, is $2.00 this month. 

Again, I’m gaining readers I'd never have otherwise. And these are books from 2010.  In the past, books that were three or four years old might be out of print, but now in the age of digital, they’re available forever. 

In the last five years, there have been drastic changes in the publishing world, especially in the way promotion is done. I’m a hybrid author with some books self-published and others published through Amazon Publishing, Brilliance Audio, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I've also had books translated into several different languages. I try to keep up with publishing news. I read the articles, the blogs, and the message boards on a daily basis, and still I feel like I have so much to learn.

One thing I’ve noticed is that authors today are very willing to share information with each other, something I love to see. A rising tide lifts all boats, as they say. 


Karysma said...

I only heard about Edgewood because it was free. After I finished it, I immediately purchased the next two! I just finished Absolution. I loved all the books and sincerely hope there are more to come! I just can't believe their stories are over yet.

Karen McQuestion said...

Hi Karysma,

Wow! Your comment is just the kind of thing authors love to hear. Thank you--I am honored.

I'm currently working on another book but I do have another idea brewing for the Edgewood series, so there will be another book, (but not in 2014, sad to say).I so appreciate that you took the time to leave a comment. Hearing from readers fuels me to write faster. :-)

Karen McQuestion said...

Oh, and another thing--thanks for verifying that the free promotion did indeed give the book more visibility. I knew that in theory but it was nice to know on a more personal basis.

Price McNaughton said...

What do you think about offering a book at a discount pre-release and then stabilizing the price at release? I've decided I'm going to offer mine pre-release through smashwords and I would like to offer a discount on purchases up to release date, but I'm not sure how kindle folks will feel about it. I would do the same thing with Amazon, but they don't currently offer that option.

Karen McQuestion said...

Hi Price,

Thank you for leaving a comment. I've never actually tried that strategy, but I wish you well. It's so hard to know what to do!

Vince said...

Glad we could help you get some downloads! Sounds like your ad for Edgewood did pretty good.

Karen McQuestion said...

Yes--every single person who clicked on the free download is my hero, because it gave the book a boost in the rankings. So thank you for being part of that. :-)