January 29, 2013
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At some point, I’ll go back to my regularly scheduled programming — whatever that is. But for now, some random thoughts on offering a book for free.
When I published my short story collections (The Marfa Lights and Other Stories and Shady Acres and Other Stories) early in 2012, I offered them exclusively in paperback on Amazon and for the Kindle. I sold enough copies of the books to cover the minimal costs I had. Yes, the lack of upfront costs is the beauty of self-publishing these days. Kindle Direct Publishing has an option available that allows you to offer your book for free for up to five days — as long as you offer your e-download exclusively through Kindle Direct Publishing. Which means no to the Nook, no to all the other e-readers. For three months. I offered my short story collections for free for a couple of days. They each got a couple of hundred free downloads and that was about it. No new reviews. No increase in my meager sales.
This summer I decided to branch out with One Night in Bridgeport and publish it on Smashwords as well. Smashwords offers e-downloads in every available format. I sold two copies via Smashwords. To people I knew. There were no independent sales there. So, last week, I suspended it on Smashwords and enrolled Bridgeport in the Kindle Direct Publishing program. I offered it free for two days — January 27 and 28.
In 48 hours, 5,935 people downloaded the book for free. That’s more than 100 an hour, more than one per minute. I’m somewhat stunned. Thrilled. Eager to see what results from this. Almost 6,000 people downloaded my book.
During the course of the two day free download offer and the seven hours since it ended, here’s what has happened. I’ve sold eight downloads of Marfa Lights and Shady Acres after months of not selling any. And, after the free download ended, I sold four downloads of Bridgeport and one hard copy of the book after not much activity with that book in recent months as well.I also have a couple of new reviews of the book up on Amazon from people I don’t know. They’re positive reviews. KKonrad gave it five stars and said, “One of the few books you can’t put down and you didn’t know how it was going to end. I can hardly wait for the next one.”
So, why free? That’s why. Let’s hope there are a few more sales before it dies down. Let’s hope Amazon sees how popular it was in the free download, that I get more positive reviews, and something clicks.
As for future free offers. The next time I offer the book for free, it’ll be in conjunction with the publishing of my next novel.