About a year ago, the BBT Cafe authors put together a short story collection, The Corner Cafe, as an author sampler and to test Amazon's KDPS free days. As a result of that project, I've watched other authors and publishers implement their assorted approaches to this marketing method. I'm signed up for three e-letters hawking free and inexpensive Kindle books, and review them daily, and also occasionally use NetGalley. Here are some thoughts (based largely from a reader and reviewer perspective) on how I view the free e-book marketing tactic and its evolution:
1. Giveaways and samplers work as well as they have since the idea was first conceived (which historically probably goes way back). If the product is good, the experience pleasant, and the customer has a reason to come back and spend money, they will. Is the concept watered down as more free offers become available? Probably, but this will hurt an inferior product most. Cream still rises to the top.
2. Free e-books work best if they are the first books in a series, especially if the genre is one the reader loves. I can't count how many first mysteries I've downloaded since Poisoned Pen Press tried this approach, but I continue to follow numerous authors and buy their books. Also, I'm a sucker for any kind of how-to or cookbook. So if you have a special free book you're using for promotion, I'd suggest you format it with lots of info embedded about your other books, and links to all your sites online. This is a proven sales tactic with me. More than once, I've finished a Kindle book, read a description of another title, clicked over to Amazon from the live link, and made an impulse buy. (Actually, I've made hundreds of impulse buys for my Kindle, but that's another confession... er, I mean, story.)
3. I've become much more circumspect about what I download to my Kindle. The book description in the daily e-letters has to be compelling. If the writing is bad there, forget it. If the blurb doesn't tell me enough about the characters and plot, forget it. If the description uses three sets of ellipses, forget it. However, if description is solid, I'll even jump genres. For example, I got a Carola Dunn regency novel for free, and was so enchanted by the witty dialogue (which turns out to be a hallmark of regency romance), that I continued reading and *gasp* buying more of them. Now I'm reading modern romance too. *double gasp* If anyone had forecast this behavior a year ago, I would have rolled OTF and laughed MAO. I blame it all on that one pivotal regency novel offered for free. (And I'm happy to announce Carola will be joining us as a regular blogger in 2014.)
4. One reader tactic I've developed is clicking over to the buy page, and reading the negative comments. If there are mentions of too many typos, poor English, and bad formatting, I usually pass. Those are telling reviews. If a poor review says something stupid like "I thought The Cat in the Hat would be a fashion book...", then, of course, I ignore and download the book anyway. My point: don't worry about a bad review or two - just make sure it's about the right thing.
So as a reader, does a free Kindle book sell more books? Well, yeah. I do like seeing more books from authors I've discovered - either ones they already have in print or releasing soon, so don't make me look for you. Give me links to your information at the end of your e-book. One-trick ponies who keep giving away and trying to sell the same ol' book aren't an attraction for me. So maybe your free books should be marketing your next book? If you haven't jumped into the free e-book game, I'd recommend you give it at least one whirl. It might not give you thousands of direct sales, but it will most certainly heighten your name recognition, which will boost sales of all your books over the long haul. You are in publishing for the long haul, aren't you?
|Dani Greer is founder of the Blood-Red Pencil. This week's to-do list includes painting icon murals with her husband for an eastern orthodox church, processing picture book and middle grade manuscript submissions for Little Pickle Press, and marketing BBT Cafe authors at the new social networking site on Facebook. In her spare time, she'll be tucking her garden away for the winter. Please connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.|