This past weekend, my novel Meets Girl was free at Amazon. I shared a link on Facebook and tweeted about it late last night, and in both posts I’d mentioned I’d previously forgotten to, but that was only mostly true. I did, in fact, forget to mention it on Saturday morning (I was getting ready for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy’s 2012 Hat Luncheon, which was a blast). I remembered it later that day, but by then I’d realized it was a good opportunity to conduct an experiment.
I see a lot of authors, and especially independent ones, participating in Amazon’s KDP Select program and taking advantage of the five free days the 90-day period of Amazon exclusivity grants. The two most important participants in publishing are writers and readers, and I think the program is great for both; readers get access to a ton of free books by authors they might not have heard of before or tried, and authors get new readers.
I see enough authors doing so, in fact, that it seems like free books are no longer news. Every day, my Twitter stream is filled with another author linking to a free book. Unfortunately, that’s sometimes all they tweet, ever, but that’s another issue entirely.
So this past weekend, without my mentioning it until very late Sunday night, nearly 400 people downloaded my novel. The promotion ended last night around midnight with 451 downloads.
I’ve seen many authors manage ten times that many downloads. Usually through some shrewd promotional strategies that may involve Twitter but usually involve a mention from well-known websites like Pixel of Ink.
I’ve watched for mentions of the promotions I’ve done. I’ve sent a few notes ahead of time, but only a few. Honestly, one of my considerations there is that virulence and promotion don’t go hand in hand. They may complement each other, for sure, but I really don’t think one can promote one’s way to viral. One of my other considerations is talking to everyone I know who owns a Kindle and understanding how they find and buy books, and most of those people I know don’t read insider websites or participate much in Kindle’s forums. Honestly, I’d figure I’d be considered by most a Kindle power user, and I don’t go to those places. I think reviews and word-of-mouth are still most important, and I think social networking has become one of the best ways to increase both (often if one stops thinking of it as social media and starts thinking of it as talking to a bunch of people. Because that’s about what it is. And do you really want to talk to someone who pretty much says the same dozen sentences over and over, or only talks about a single topic? Of course, I’m as guilty of this as anybody. I’m working on it).
One important aspect of my exploration of free is simple: something always is. Through some strategic scheduling, the hope is that there will always be something free at Exciting Press’ Amazon store. That’s the intention, in fact, and the days when there is nothing free (like today, unfortunately) pretty much come down to my own scheduling errors and the lack of attention I paid to a drop-down menu (sorry about that, but hey, check back tomorrow! Check back every day, in fact, because it should work from here out!). Paulo Coelho recently announced he’s going to sell all his e-books for a mere 99 cents, but I figure, you know, free is less than 99 cents, so that’s good.
Given that something is always free, and has been for the past month, I’ve now got a lot of experience, and I can tell you a few things. For example: the free poetry Exciting Press offered to celebrate National Poetry Month didn’t do nearly as well as our short stories and essays and everything else. I think all those nano-collections ended up being downloaded at least 50 times each, but that’s over the course of a week each, and that’s not a big number. Maybe people don’t much like poetry. Maybe a collection of four poems isn’t really all that attractive. I’m not sure, but I know they didn’t do as well as other stuff.
I’m also not sure timing makes much difference. We’re using a couple-days-here, few-days-there strategy, for the most part breaking up those five free days, and as such I’ve picked different days of the week. Some may be quieter or louder than others, but for the most part not by a whole lot.
I’m interested in hearing if other authors have found this, too, and also if anyone else has drawn any conclusions from what works and what doesn’t? Because, of course, if we can figure out what doesn’t work, that gives everyone a much better shot at figuring out what does.