Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Give It Away, Give It Away

I've read many thoughts about giving away books for free and there are a whole host of opinions. It seems it comes down to whether it was successful or not for that particular author. Here are a few quick thoughts on my experiences.

Both volumes of my Cash & Miles Adventures have been offered for free at different times. I began with Vol. II because Vol. I was doing well and I wanted to boost sales of the second collection. During the freebie offer, there was an unexpected increase in sales of the first volume, but that makes sense, right? If you have the second installment of a series, you probably want to know how it started. After the offer closed, Vol. II entered the Top 100 sales charts. I had several readers on Twitter thank me for the free book and mention they bought my other title.

Kinda, sorta the same for MANHUNTER'S MOUNTAIN written by Wayne D. Dundee--a Cash Laramie story with a new author taking the reins. To introduce this first novel (in what I hope will be an ongoing series), I gave it away free for a few days. A couple thousand folks downloaded the book, which helped to expand its horizons through the Amazon charts and recommendations panel "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought." Both these things brought my eBook to the attention of folks who might not otherwise see it. MOUNTAIN has re-entered the best sellers charts several times, and I feel the success goes back to that free giveaway in January.

So I'm going to try again with our latest release, BULLETS FOR A BALLOT written by Nik Morton. We'll see how it works out this time but, so far, giving away books for free has been a good move for me. What has been your experience?


Skinner said...

Some quality thoughts.

I do think audience size also has to factor into the decision, but, in the case of a crowd-too-small, free is the better option anyhow.

Ron Scheer said...

It makes perfect sense to me as a consumer.

Charles Gramlich said...

The next kindle book I publish will be handled this way. So far I've not given anything free, other than through contests.

David Cranmer said...

Skinner, Good point. Writers have to decide if it's right for them.

Same here, Ron. I buy a lot of books and click faster for the free ones. And if I like the book I will go back to the author and purchase more.

Let me know how it turns out, Charles.

Sabrina E. Ogden said...

I've heard mostly good things from this. Ultimately it depends on the author, but if this is working for you David, then that's all that matters. =)

Kevin Burton Smith said...

It's a valid strategy for some, if the aim is to get the word out, but it's certainly not for everyone.

I've known several writers who've used the strategy to great success. But "Free" only works if the book is good. Fortunately, you're covered. And you're working a genre that hasn't been completely swamped by a tsunami of self-published excrement.


For others, though, "free" too often means "poorly written" or "unedited" or "I'll throw this up and see if anyone downloads it."

As an editor and reviewer, I'm offered free ebooks and stories all day long, and I hate to say it, but even at $0.00, some are still priced too damn high.

But a good story, well-told? I'd pay for that. I have and I will.

Will Murray said...

I'm new to all this, but offering a five day freebie on SPANISH NEEDLE seemed to boost sales on TEJON TRAIL.

Evan Lewis said...


David Cranmer said...

Kevin, "tsunami of self-published excrement." Big chuckles here, sir. Well said. I'm wondering if the alternative will be to price books higher in the near future? Go in the opposite direction and folks will flock to quality higher priced books? A possibility?

And I receive a lot of free books and I understand where you're coming on that note.

Thanks for your input, Will. Love those titles.

I hope you enjoy, Evan. Let me know.

David Cranmer said...

Thanks, Sabrina! I missed you in there with the last batch of comments. These eyes are getting old. :)

eleanor said...

From the POV of someone who has spent years doing PR & marketing in the publishing industry, I'd say that the biggest thing to consider is your goals. Increase readership? Name recognition? Increase sales? Better leverage for a future publishing contract? Frequently, these things coincide, but not always.

The biggest success that I've had are earlier books in a series or by an author when a new book is about to come out. The trick there is that the the free book should make people eager to read the new book, so the give-away needs to be timed close to the new work. The goal, in that case, is always to get people buying the new book.

Hope that helps.

Mark R. Trost said...

I decided to offer my novel for free. In one day moved up 430,000 spots, 13,748 downloads and landed @ #10. My other 2 books had tremendous increases of sales. Free works

David Cranmer said...

Your advice helps considerably, Eleanor. And I can agree that timing is critical. I offered one book for sale (not mentioned in this post) by itself with nothing going on, and it was less than successful. So I am glad you mentioned that angle and I appreciate you stopping by.

13,748 downloads is impressive, Mark. That's 13,748 folks who now know your name and might not have grabbed your book otherwise.