Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Power of Free

by Matt Sinclair

I've been a journalist a long time now, but I can still be surprised. (Ok, in fairness, I'm a trade journalist, so there's still lots of things that can shock me in industries outside what I usually spend my energies on.)

Still, I was shocked to see what power can be had by giving away books for free. If I might wax semi-poetic about a book I've published in my role as the President and Chief Elephant Officer of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, we have just announced our first "free days" via KDP Select of Battery Brothers, the YA debut of author Steven Carman. If I may say so myself, I think it's a great story about two boys who love baseball, and a captivating story about overcoming adversity for Andy Lembo, the protagonist of the tale.

I'd been working on ways to get the story out in front of more people, and Steve and I agreed to use today, Thursday, and Friday as the first of our "free" days. We also partnered to promote the book through other sites that let readers know when books are free.

Too soon to tell whether there's been success? Yes and no.

Yes, because we still have most of the three days during which the book is free.

No, because when I checked how we were doing, I was shocked to see that we'd already topped four hundred "purchases" of the free book. In fact, between the time I started writing this post and now, we went from three hundred to four hundred.

As a small, independent publisher, EBP doesn't usually hit a hundred purchases of a book in a day, not even for our incredibly durable first anthology, Spring Fevers, which still "sells" 35-60 copies a month; it's been free for two years.

Yes, it's still too soon because the goal of free days is to get more people to buy the actual book when it isn't free. The proceeds of Battery Brothers are going to a nonprofit organization, the Sunshine Foundation, which is the original wish-granting organization. Obviously, we need to have proceeds in order to give them to the foundation.

No, it's not too soon, because this experience is already proving -- to me, at least -- the power of free. Getting the word out about this book, and all books, ultimately, is a partnership between the publisher and the author. It's in our mutual interests to share news of these books we love with readers who don't already know about them.

Free can help make that happen and let those characters imbue the lives of readers everywhere. They deserve it. If nothing else, Battery Brothers has been seen by literally hundreds more people than had seen it yesterday. Sharing it with readers for free has made that happen. Let's see how much farther the book can spread the power of the words within it.

Matt Sinclair, a New York City-based journalist and fiction writer, is also president and chief elephant officer of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, which recently published Battery Brothers, a YA novel by Steven Carman about a pair of brothers playing high school baseball and about overcoming crippling adversity. Matt also blogs at the Elephant's Bookshelf and is on Twitter @elephantguy68.


cleemckenzie said...

I just read that Rush Limbaugh gave 15,000 free books to schools. Now he's got that little award and he won it over some top contenders.

Gina Gao said...

This sounds like an awesome thing to do!