Why I used my Kindle free days when I had decided not to

The Background

I originally signed up for the Kindle free days to be part of the promotion for the launch of the wonderful Jawbreakers anthology in May. I had only launched Housewife with a Half-Life a few days before so perhaps it wasn’t the best time to give it away for free but being part of a British nationwide launch perhaps gave me a wider audience/exposure that I would not have had otherwise.

What are Kindle Free Days good for?

Since Housewife was my debut novel as A.B.Wells I was interested to read how Kindle free days had helped some self-publishers gain extra readers and sales subsequent to the promotion. But there seemed to be some caveats. This strategy seemed to have worked best for those who were a) releasing books in the earlier ebook days before the deluge of ebooks and free offerings b) for authors who already had a following from traditional publication or earlier books c) for authors who were trying to promote a series or later books (they would give an earlier one away free.

But that wasn’t me

As the end of my Kindle free period approached, I realised that I did not fit any of these criteria. My comedy in the universe was a new departure, both from my literary work as Alison Wells (published in anthologies and known on the blog) and was the first book I had to offer. So what could possibly be gained by using the FREE DAYS.

All that work for FREE?

Another issue that has been much discussed is the concept of FREE itself. Some self-publishers enjoy the idea of the work being the thing, making it available in a democratic way and being read is the most important thing. FREE is part of the FREEDOM of being Indie. Other self-publishers, while applauding these sentiments are also concerned about whether a constant supply of free books engenders the expectation of never having to pay,  particularly for ebooks. While people would be happy to pay €10 euro (about $11 £8) for a paperback, an electronic version may not seem as valuable (and is easier for both the writer and the reader to discount in both senses of the word).

I’ve sold about 80 books in real world transactions (in bookshops or direct) and made a reasonable return, especially of course on the direct sales. My initial price of $2.99 dollars and its equivalent allowed me to be on the 70% royalty on many sales for the ebook. Again a reasonable amount. As a first time author without a track record, realistically, breaking even might be a goal, much as the accounts of bestsellers are thrilling and are always hoped for. I had costs, for sure, several hundred pounds/euros for a designer and editor, marketing materials for my real world launch and initial outlays on purchasing 160 books to sell to bookshops and direct. I personally don’t have an outside income (at the moment I’m at home with my four children). We live on my husbands wages. I need to cover costs at least. The book took months to write and a year to edit and bring to publication. All writers know how much work goes into producing something of quality. Again, why give it away for free?

So why did you change your mind?

Ideally I would have used the free days when the sequel The Meaning of Life is Monday was out. But Kindle free days are to be used within three months. It’s now or never. So what made me change my mind?

1: The possibility of widening my reader base

I’m in this for the longer term. I may need to get my skates on and release further material that people can click on when they finish Housewife but I will still reach new people who might visit my blog (there is a hyperlink in the ebook!) and find out what else I write and when it will be out. I might reach a particular person who will enjoy my book, become an advocate, write a review (make the movie – okay one can dream. Matthew McConaghy as Fairly Dave (the kilted spaceman with luminescent emotions would be interesting 🙂 )

As a marketing hotspot

Running Kindle free days gives me an event around which to talk about my book and blog about things like Kindle free days and to link to my new publications of short collections of short stories (under the name Alison Wells) that will be out in the next few days.

I might just go up the Amazon charts

While like Nicola Morgan I’m not a fan of tricks and games used to push books, such as constant self-promotion on Twitter, online, befriending just to sell, garnering reviews that aren’t authentic, the free day option is a legitimate tool to try to make your book stand out from the crowd. I believe in Housewife with a Half-Life. I have other books in drawers that I didn’t believe in so much. I engaged and editor and designer and did everything I could to make the book as good as I could. Other people believe in the book. I think it’s a heartwarming and uplifting read and I want to give it the best chance I can.

Last time Housewife with a Half-Life was free for one day, was downloaded 500 times but I didn’t see many follow on sales. I don’t know what will happen this time. Maybe I’ll come back and tell you later. But despite my reservations, I hope that Housewife with a Half-Life can benefit from this little boost and that if you read it you’ll enjoy and come back and tell me.

Update: August 2012

As a matter of interest, at the end of my 4 kindle free days I had a total of 3000 downloads and have seen consistent sales since then, not in huge numbers (tens) but beyond what was happening before the free days. While on Kindle free Housewife with a Half-Life went to number 3 in sci-fi free and close to (tantalisingly close to) the top 100 kindle reads in .com and .uk. From talking to other authors I can attribute the continuing extra sales to Housewife with a Half-Life having become visible in the “also bought” lists. So in terms of gaining visibility, the Kindle free days were successful.

Let me know what you’ve decided to do with your Kindle free days and how it’s worked out for you or any of your thoughts on the concept of FREE.

A last little marketing plug. Note: Housewife with a Half-Life is no longer free but it’s just 99c/77p until the end of August.

Here are some of the things people have said in the reviews:

“this book was recommended to me and really didn’t know what to expect but wasn’t able to put it down, fantastic, funny and pure comedy from start to finish 10/10”

“A brilliantly humorous book which had me laughing from the start!”

Amazon UK

US/Ireland

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6 comments

  1. I agree with you that the free days creat a marketing hotspot, that’s why I’m planning to put my book for free next weekend, hoping tto boost sales a bit more, especially after I have got it professionally editted. Who knows what might happen

  2. There are many factors, lots to do with Amazon algorithms, some with luck, some with the genre of the book and your existing profile as an author. We can learn from it. Good luck to both of you in your efforts. I know how much hard work goes into all of this!

  3. I find I have a constant trickle from my books. I’m published in all sorts of ways – traditional, indie, self, online and have a few e-books out. I’ve just reread Nicola Morgan’s blog post on that theme and I’m with her all the way on that. it’s more important to me to carry on writing as long as I’m not actually losing money.
    I’m considering free days. I have one project that will probably all be free. Info is more important than cash. So, payment by feedback,
    I think if you need to make a living from it you have to be pragmatic and do what it takes. Problem then is it becomes like any other day job, possibly worse, where you are only allowed to write what is commercial and have to spend a lot of your time on marketing and promotion. At least when you combine it with a day-job, albeit one you hate, you can still concentrate on writing what you love.
    I take heart, though from Jane Austen, Beatrix Potter, Virginia Woolf and Louisa May Alcott. Brilliant writers. Struggled at first. But wrote what they thought was important.

  4. Thanks for posting your rationale and the results. I am debating the use of FREE in marketing, and you mentioned many of my thoughts. I really appreciate being able to learn from other’s experience.
    Great job on posting some reviews for your book at the end of the article. I think I might go buy it!

    1. Thanks Astrid. I’m just learning as I go and will be interested to see what your experiences are. Thanks for your interest in the book! 🙂

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