First, thanks to Pat for asking about how my self-published estories were doing and inviting me to blog about my experience. I appreciate the opportunity to clarify my confused thoughts.
Backstory: Last year, I had a contract for a YA fantasy book to be published in May 2014 and felt a need to build a platform to promote it. You know. The endless Twitter-Facebook-GoodReads-Google+-etc. thing.
The marketing gurus I read said “giving away books or deeply discounting them help you make sales for your other books.” Since I’m the type that likes to pull my weight, I spent a year building a platform that includes giving away some fantasy estories as well as trying to sell 99c estories set in the same world as the coming book.
Only the indie publisher imploded before the publication date.
Results of my marketing efforts? I now have five 99c estories self-published and four premafree ones compared to two of each when I started.
The questions: “Did I waste my time and money? Did I gain anything from the effort? Am I just another writer complaining: “Free books only draw freebie hounds.”
First, in spite of all my marketing efforts, you need to know I’m a pipsqueak writer. My “short reads” make a few sales each month compared to the hundreds I give away. My free Kindle short stories rank in the top 100 in a couple esoteric free short read science fiction and fantasy categories on Amazon. My paid stories sit around the 1,000,000 rankings. A best selling author, I’m not.
So, how has my experience measured up to what the gurus said?
1. “Freebies draw traffic to your other publications.”
Not that I can tell or the process is as slow as molasses. But there may be something to the opinion. My sales have more than tripled. But, without doing the actual math, I’d say the ratio is roughly fifty freebies to one sale.
2. “The teaser effect: if you give away ebooks, you’ll generate interest in your print books.”
Unfortunately, I’m can’t test that proposition. I don’t have any print books, and my estories are either novelettes or short stories.
3. “If you get people to read some of your stories, you’ll build an audience that will buy your for sale ones.”
Again, I can’t get excited. Though once I did sell each of all my paid stories on Nook on the same day. Usually, my sales come in onsies and twosies.
Building an audience might very well be true. I haven’t promoted my latest free short estory—Hear That Damn Owl?—except showing the cover on my Twitter banners. I’ve been too busy writing to have time to post it on the various promo sites. Still, the story ranks in the top hundred in its freebie category.
4. “The Give-Away is one of the most important tools in a writer’s marketing arsenal to find new readers.”
Did try it when I first published a couple titles. It may be true, but I can’t see where the jumps in my free downloads were followed by a significant increase in sales for either the new book or the existing ones. The estories with give-aways do have more reviews, though.
From what I read on author blogs who complain about freebies not doing any good, I suspect there’s a bias set for people who decide to do the Kindle Select program [which I don’t] for six months. Select gives them a larger share of the sales but puts the muscle of Amazon’s promotion system behind them.
Sorry, I don’t have any definitive answers. I’m still working my way through the conundrum. Still the faint taste of “success” in my mouth has me thinking maybe I should take marketing more seriously. But it’s time consuming. I’d rather write.
I do know one thing. When I first started this marketing exercise, I was happy to sell five-six books a month. Now, I grumble when I don’t sell 30.
Guess that means my answer to doing freebies is a qualified “yes”.
Kay is giving away her four Andor stories on Smashwords which offers downloads in several formats. Just leave a comment on this post before Friday midnight February 20th (Mountain Time) to be eligible.
Hooked by comic books at an early age, M. K. Theodoratus’ fascination with fantasy solidified when she discovered the Oz books by L. Frank Baum with his strong female characters. She has traveled through many fantasy worlds since then. When she’s not reading about other writers’ worlds, she’s creating her own.
Most of her stories are set in the Far Isles where she explores the political effects of genetic drift on a mixed elf-human population. Lately, Theodoratus has been setting her stories in an alternate world of Andor where demons stalk humankind.
You can learn more about Kay and her stories at her website and her excellent blog. She can also be found on almost all of the places writers and readers hang out, including Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and You Tube. When you go to her Amazon Author Page, you can see all her available stories and the beautiful cover art lined up next to a full bio. She also has a presence on Smashwords.