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My Self-Publishing Adventure Episode Twelve – Is Free Too Much?

How’s this for a business model? An independent developer invests thousands of hours over several years creating a product. He pays hundreds if not thousands of dollars for testing and packaging. When the fruit of his labor is finally ready for the public, he gives it away free.

Insane, right? Yet this is what indie authors commonly do. It has almost become an industry standard. It is, in fact, one of the major selling points of KDP Select. Giving Amazon an exclusive for the digital edition of an author’s book for ninety days allows the writer to give that book away for up to five days — free — for nothing.

Of course, the author hopes that thousands of people will obtain a free copy and love it so much they will tell their friends and write glowing reviews. I mean, who would turn down a free masterpiece? The answer, apparently, is ‘most people.’

But back to the point of sharing my adventure, I’ll tell you what I did and what happened.

I decided to make Defying Fate, the combined digital edition of my first two books, available only on Kindle and therefore eligible for KDP Select. This allows U.S. Amazon Prime members to borrow it free. (As far as I know, no one yet has.) It also allows me to reduce the price to $0 for up to five days as a promotion. I decided to do this because I have taken advantage of these types of promotions when other authors did them. I downloaded several free books that I probably would not have purchased otherwise. Some I liked. Some I didn’t. I wrote reviews on those I did. The reviews were a kind of ‘thank you’ for the free book, and they may help both book and author get more attention. Who knows? Someone might see them.

I planned my free promotion for the first two days of July 2012. They fell on a Sunday and Monday. My thinking was that some people would be planning time off work that week in conjunction with the 4th of July holiday and might want something new to read.

I began promoting my free promotion (yeah, I know) a couple of weeks in advance on my blog, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Each day I’d send at least one tweet telling the world that my free days were coming, and I sent additional Tweets each day it ran. I got a lot of help from Twitter friends who retweeted my tweets to their followers to help me get the word out. They are some sweet tweeters.

The technical part worked well. The free promotion was simple to schedule from the KDP site, and when the day came, the price dropped to $0 on Amazon sites for the U.S. U.K. Germany, France, Spain, and Italy. When the scheduled promotion ended, the price returned to the regular $4.99 (or the applicable equivalent in Pounds or Euros).

There was only one glitch I heard of, and that came from a nice lady in the Netherlands who could not download from any of the Amazon sites. This may have more to do with Dutch law than Amazon policy. I really don’t know. I sent her a copy.

So how did it go? During the two-day free promotion, there were 186 downloads on Amazon.com (U.S.A.), 28 downloads on Amazon.co.uk (U.K.), and 4 downloads on Amazon.de (Germany). That’s it, just 218 worldwide. To be honest, I had higher hopes.

I am unsure what to conclude. For one thing, I don’t know how these figures compare with others who have run KDP free promos. I also don’t know how the promotion affected my book’s ranking. Actually, I’m not a big fan of rankings. It implies that books are in competition. They are not. I am not competing for readers. I don’t want people to read my book instead of a book by some other author. I want them to read my book in addition to books by other authors.

Still, 218 seems like a low number to me. I may be in denial about this, but I’m sure this is a damn good book. Of course, only those who read it will know that, and my promotion just might result in a few more people who will do that. This is a good thing, and the promotion could be considered successful if only one more person ends up actually reading the book.

But why didn’t more people grab a free copy? I don’t know. Maybe my cover sucks. Maybe the book blurb on Amazon is uninteresting. I don’t think either is true, but my opinion on this is hardly unbiased. I simply may be overestimating the number of people who would enjoy a lighthearted epic adventure. I can only speculate about why, but a few things come to mind, two of which have much to do with perception and little to do with reality.

Again, this may be another case of denial, looking for ways to point blame anywhere but at my own work, so let me say once again that I may be dead wrong. My book may suck like a fusion-powered vacuum cleaner. All I can say without qualification is that I like it.

Whether denial or a rational hypothesis, these things occurred to me as possible explanations for why there were not more downloads.

  1. Word of the promotion did not reach enough people. I am not a social media superstar. I don’t have thousands of followers or subscribers, and I didn’t buy any advertising. It is quite possible that fewer than a thousand people ever saw anything about my promotion.
  2. There are some people, perhaps many, who assume that free things have no value. I consider it a sad comment on our society that value is equated with monetary cost. There are many things that I believe have true value, but money isn’t one of them. It is good for buying stuff, but much of the stuff that can be bought has no real value either. Be that as it may, ‘free’ may be a sign to some that the book isn’t worth reading. After all, if it was, I wouldn’t be giving it away, right?
  3. Then there is the indie stigma. There is still a perception that indie published books are not ‘really’ published, that they have poor plots, lousy prose, loads of typos, and a random approach to punctuation. In short, if it’s indie, it’s bad. Even it is free, an indie book isn’t worth the time.

Unfortunately, the only one of these an indie author can influence is the first. I probably won’t. I don’t want to peddle my books or myself, and I don’t think I have much talent when it comes to marketing. There is only one way that an author can avoid all three of these problems — traditional publishing. This is why I have decided to pursue this route for my next few novels at least.

Defying Fate – Free Kindle Promotion 1 and 2 July 2012

For two days only, Sunday 1 July and Monday 2 July 2012, you can get a free Kindle edition of Defying Fate, a fun parody of fantasy adventure epics, from Amazon. This special Kindle exclusive contains both The Warden Threat and The Warden War in one convenient download. There are no gimmicks and no qualifications. Just go to Amazon on one of these two days and snag a copy for your Kindle, then sit back, read, smile, and enjoy the journey.

Defying Fate is a charming and witty science fiction parody of epic fantasy adventure stories. Set on a planet much like earth, this tale follows the exploits of Prince Donald of Westgrove as he discovers that the true nature of the threat to his kingdom is not what his father, the king, believes it to be. With the assistance of his cynical guide, a goodhearted bodyguard, a beautiful messenger, and a couple of ancient androids, he tries to prevent three nations from going to war.

Technically science fiction, Defying Fate is almost an anti-fantasy, which pokes a fair, or perhaps an unfair amount of good-natured fun at the serious tone and dependence on magic common to many epic fantasy adventure novels. This book turns all of these common fantasy stereotypes on their collective heads for readers who may be looking for something fresh and different. Often insightful and frequently funny, this book is a great way to spend a leisure weekend.

Get your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005E1JBBO

My Self Publishing Adventure – Episode One – Initial Release and Promotion

  As promised, here is a short update on my ongoing self publishing effort.

I published my first novel, The Warden Threat on Amazon and Smashwords on September 10 2011. The process for both was quick, easy, and free. I couldn’t be more pleased with that aspect of it.

My promotion strategy, such as it is, is to price my books as cheaply as possible and announce their availability on social networking sites. This includes only Twitter and Facebook, since these are the only ones I currently use.  I’ve been sending tweets about it a few times a week and I’ve posted a couple links on Facebook. I also put a link to my website on my email signature block so my friends and relatives will be aware of it. I’ve established accounts with Goodreads and MobileRead and I’ve introduced myself in their forums.

So how has it worked so far? Are people buying my books? Well, the short answer is “no.” At least not for money. The one success story is Smashwords, where I made The Warden Threat free until 30 September. In the two and a half weeks it’s been available, there have been 137 downloads. I don’t know if any of those who have downloaded copies have read them though. So far it has gotten no reviews or ratings. On Amazon, where the sale price is $0.99, there have been no sales and no reviews.

My plan forward it to continue what I’ve been doing hoping that some of those who have downloaded the book for free will read it, review it, and tell others what a truly amazing and wonderful story it is. That’s my hope. My expectation is that I’ll continue with what I’ve been doing and maybe get a few sales at $0.99 before the end of the year. I expect downloads on Smashwords to end once the free download offer is over at the end of the month.

That’s my experience so far. If you have self published your stories as ebooks, was your experience similar? Do you have any suggestions?

Related Posts:

My Self Publishing Adventure – Episode Two
My Self Publishing Adventure – Episode Three – Building a Platform
My Self Publishing Adventure – Episode Four – Managing Expectations
My Self Publishing Adventure – Episode Five – Gaining a Following
Why I Chose To Self Publish
Self Editing – Advice And Apology

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