Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Free Books Driving Series Sales

Hi, all.

I just did a cover reveal for the fourth novella in my "Deeds of the Ariane" fantasy series:

I wasn't sure I'd be writing the fourth story, since the first three didn't sell much at all in 2012. (My Pajaro Bay series has been turning a nice profit but this series was just sitting there like a bump on a log doing nothin'.)

So after Tina Folsom visited my local chapter and mentioned that she made the first books in her series free in order to drive sales to the rest of the series, I decided to try it. I had nothing to lose, so why not?

It took a while, but after Lark's Quest: The Search had been free on Barnes & Noble and iTunes for a while, price-matched it to $0.

So did it work? Well, the cover above is the answer. The fourth book is now a *much* higher priority for me, and will get completed this year, since the first three are now selling almost as well as my other series.

I'm not sure making a book free would be worth it if it's a stand-alone. That used to work (I did it with my first book in the KDP Select program last year, and it drove the book up on the bestseller lists for a while last spring).  Amazon seems to have changed the way they calculate free "sales", so making a book temporarily free doesn't seem to have as much impact long-term as it used to.

But if you have a series, and would like to raise visibility, making the first one free for a long time (not the KDP Select 1-5 day limit, but weeks or months at a time) seems to work, at least for me.

So that's my little tip for the day--sometimes giving something away can make potential readers aware of you, and then, if you're lucky, they'll check out the rest of your books.

Happy writing, all.



Paty Jager said...

Barb, I agree. I think if you have a series making the first one free or in my case ,99 it helps to up the sales of the rest of the series. If you get them hooked with the first book then they will pay for the rest.

On another note: I am awaiting the proof of a print copy of Secrets of a Mayan Moon. When I approve and order more I'd like to do the giveaway at Goodreads, so if you could send me any suggestions I'd be grateful!

Genene Valleau, writing as Genie Gabriel said...

Hi, Barb! Beautiful cover! Glad making the first of the series a free book boosted sales. Didn't realize you could have books free for an extended time. That's a good technique to remember. I'm gathering ideas for my Halo Legacy Series for a marketing blast when the last contracted book is released in July, so I appreciate any tips. :)

Barbara Cool Lee said...

Thanks, Genene. Yes, you can make your books free long-term by making them free on another site (Smashwords or iTunes), and then having people report the free price on the book's Amazon page. Eventually (took me two months) Amazon might price-match it. So it's not a technique that works for short-term use; you have to decide you're going to have the book/story free for a length of time.


Barbara Cool Lee said...

Hi, Paty. I know I promised to send you the notes for the talk on Goodreads I'm doing in July, but I haven't even started to prepare for it! So here's a quick summary of giveaways:

It's easy to set up a giveaway. Just go to your author dashboard, and click on giveaways. In the upper right corner is "list a giveaway." Click that and fill out the form. Allow several days for the giveaway to be approved, so set a starting date several days from when you fill out the form. Giveaways start and end at midnight Pacific time, so if you ask for it to end on the 12th, for example, it will end at 12:01 am on the 12th (midnight of the 11th). This can be important if you're timing other promotion to go along with the giveaway.

Decide if you want lots of people to add your book/become aware of it, or if it's more important to you to get lots of reviews. People have different opinions on which is better. I go for the adds myself. Since most people have never heard of me, I figure every time someone adds my book to their to be read list, that is a new potential reader. That's the kind of visibility I'm going for. That means I give away a single copy of my book, and run short giveaways so one of my books is almost always a "newly listed" or "about to end" giveaway. I've gotten 10,500 adds since using this method, and I now show up very high on the "most popular authors" tab under giveaways. (On the other hand, if you want to rack up a lot of reviews quickly, run one giveaway in which you give away 20+ copies of your book--you'll get many reviews in the weeks after you send the books out.)

I tend to run multiple short giveaways for the first book in my series (about 10 days or so), and longer giveaways for the later books in the series (30-90 days). That covers both bases. I generally get the most adds in the first two and last two days of the giveaway. And I notice that the first book in the series always get the most entries and the most adds to the to be read lists.

(Another note--you can check your stats on a book at any time by going to the book's page and clicking "Book Stats" in the upper right corner. Look at "click for breakdown" and you'll get a day by day list of how many adds/ratings/reviews you've gotten in the last six months. You can download that into a spreadsheet if you're obsessive like me. BTW, you can do this for any book on Goodreads, not just your own. So if you'd like to see how you compare to the bestsellers, you can click and see how many adds they're getting.)

You can give away any book you have on Goodreads (as long as it's a physical book--no ebook editions). If you are listing a giveaway for a book older than 6 months, just don't put the release date on the form. Leave it blank and it won't reject the book for being too old.

Try to promote the giveaway a bit--mention it in blogs, twitter, facebook, etc. In my experience most entries do come from people just finding my contest in the giveaway list, but it never hurts to promote it a bit, too, and you can introduce potential readers to Goodreads, which is a good thing.

Don't add the entrants or winners to your mailing list! Goodreads doesnt' allow you to spam entrants or winners at all. They'll get really annoyed. Also don't write to the winners or demand they review your book. Most will, but they are not required to.

Those are the main tips I can think of off the top of my head. I will send you a copy of the whole talk when I get it figured out!

Hope that helps.


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