by Lucy Marsden
Note from Lucy:
Today, rather than geeking-out about some aspect of craft or genre, I thought I’d shamelessly capitalize on the recent success of friend and fellow writer, Ruth Cardello. Since the release of her second self-published romance FOR LOVE OR LEGACY two weeks ago, Ruthie’s sales have been phenomenal—a circumstance that she ascribes, in part, to her decision to give away her first novel, MAID FOR THE BILLIONAIRE, for free.
Lots of authors on Amazon are giving away short stories and prequels, but the decision to make a first book free is still considered radical. Here’s Ruth herself, to answer questions about what going free with the first book seems to have done for her and other self-published authors:
Free? Are those authors crazy?
Yes, crazy smart.
Giving your first book away is the most powerful promotional tool you have to get your book into the hands of hundreds of thousands of new readers. People like FREE. The new generation of readers has an almost limitless selection of books to choose from. Plenty of good books get lost in the shuffle. To be read, your book will have to be “found.”
But, Ruth, I’m going to use coupons and strategically give them to romance groups as an incentive for people to read my book.
Coupons are wonderful, but how many are you going to give out? Twenty? Two hundred? A thousand? In the four months that MAID FOR THE BILLIONAIRE has been free on Amazon, about 200,000 people have downloaded it. Let’s be conservative and say that one fourth of those people liked it and will purchase book 2—that’s 50,000 people.
FREE made MAID FOR THE BILLIONAIRE visible. Four months after publication, it remains in the top 10 in the Contemporary Romance Amazon ranking. It’s still in the top 10 on iTunes. How much would you pay for this kind of visibility? Eight-hundred to one thousand people download the first book in my series every day. Let me repeat that, because if you’re still wondering if putting your book up for free is worth it, then you need to consider how my reading base is expanding every day from this one single promotion strategy: Eight hundred to one thousand new readers every day.
Do they all love me? No. Will they all return to buy book two? Hell, no. But if only a fraction do, I’m still making $300—$500 a day on the sale of my second book. Every day.
How long are you going to leave MAID FOR THE BILLIONAIRE up for FREE?
It’s up for the foreseeable future. For now, there is no reason for me to charge for it, since it continues to bring new readers to my other book.
I hear you, Ruth, but won’t putting my book up for 99 cents deliver the same impact?
My numbers suggest otherwise.
Four months ago, before I put the book up for FREE, I was selling one hundred books a day at 35% ($35/day sales). I was pretty happy with those numbers, and was a little nervous when MAID finally did go FREE. Some of that reticence dissipated, however, when almost instantly, 35,000 people downloaded it. I just released my second book in the series, FOR LOVE OR LEGACY, and it’s shot up the ranks with high sales. In fact, it’s only been on sale for slightly over two weeks, and I’ve already made about $7,000.
You might be right; this approach might not be for you. It’s only one of many promotional strategies that self-pubbed authors are experimenting with, and the bottom line is that if you want to make it in what has become the Wild Wild West of publishing, you need to keep yourself informed. That doesn’t mean that you have to follow my formula (which isn’t even mine ... it was already being discussed by various authors on blogs), but it does mean that you need to aggressively seek out what people are doing, and compare their results. The market is changing at a remarkable speed. Today’s best advice might not be relevant next month. That’s why writers should network and share. We can all benefit from helping each other out. We need to stay informed.
So, what happens if that well dries up and Amazon doesn’t match Smashword’s free pricing anymore?
It’s already getting harder to go FREE on Amazon, and the option may not be there in the future. For now, the gamble is paying off for some new authors. It’s a strategy that is still worth considering.
What do you think the next big promotional trend might be?
I don’t know; but if you find out first, email me at Minouri@aol.com, and we’ll call it even.