Tossing my recent self-pubbing and e-pubbing experience out there

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merrihiatt

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Edited 11-18-11 -- Before you begin reading this thread, I would like to apologize if I, in any way, misled anyone to breach their terms of service contract with Amazon KDP. I now realize that KDP states its authors should not list a lower (or free) book on another sales channel. This could be done for the purpose of price-matching to get an e-book listed as free on Amazon. I would never intentionally advise anyone to breach a contract.

____________________________


I have a romance trilogy available in paperback and e-book (CreateSpace, Smashwords, Kindle Direct Publishing) and wanted to see what would happen if I offered the first book in the trilogy free as an e-book.

I thought there were folks who might be interested in what's happened in the last 48 hours after offering the free e-book.

Here's my Kindle Direct Publishing report as of a few minutes ago for October.

amazonkdpoctober2011reportcropped.jpg


The free book has been downloaded over 10,000 times and the second and third book in the trilogy have seen an increase in sales (105 of the second book and 95 of the third book).

I'm not sure what all of this means long-term, but for now the free book is listed at #12 on the Top 100 Free Kindle Books list. How long it will stay there remains to be seen.

Oh, and I should mention that the two other books in the trilogy are offered at $.99 cents each.
 
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Saul Tanpepper

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Thanks for sharing.

I think it's safe to say that people like free. The question is, will the bleedthrough purchases of your other titles make up for lost sales of the free title? Willing to share your numbers from before the promo?
 

merrihiatt

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Sure. I began self-publishing in September, so only have one other month of sales to show a report for. Here it is.

amazonkdpseptember2011sales-cropped.jpg


What I'm watching more than the free downloads (although it's fun to see those numbers) is how offering the book free impacts the other two books' sales. In the long-run it may make no difference or it may very well make a difference. Only time will actually tell if this was a good strategy or poor planning.

I didn't know if anyone else here at AW had tried offering the first book of a series or trilogy free to see how it impacted sales of their other books, so thought it might be of interest.
 

J. Tanner

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I think your results speak well of the concept.

It also exhibits a certain amount of series loyalty rather than author loyalty. Maybe over time those people will convert, but the sales of your 1 and 2 listed books would be really daunting for someone who's got mostly stand-alone books. The other thing that would be interesting to know is how well it would have worked if you'd prices the other books at $2.99 vs $0.99. It's tough to make any real money at the lower price point even with some modest success like you've created.

Good luck. I hope you've generated enough volume that the Also Bought marketing kicks in for you decently. That's the long-term play in the strategy and it's been dodgy for some and amazing for others.
 

merrihiatt

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Good point, J. The "Also Bought" popped up with the second and third book in the trilogy for over 24 hours. Now I see that it has shifted to other free books that are being offered and that people have purchased. The other two books in the trilogy are still selling, but not as rapidly as they did initially. Here's another screen shot taken just a few moments ago.

amazonkdpoctober2011at600pm-cropped.jpg


The $.99 cent price point is certainly not a money maker unless I sell hundreds of thousands of books. My main goal was to gain readers, since I am an unknown author. I am currently working on another trilogy (the first book should be out in Spring 2012). With any luck, the readers downloading books now will want to read more and I'll have the new trilogy ready for them, along with the other book and two short stories that are already available. This is my hope. No telling what will actually happen.
 
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J. Tanner

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If you're gaining readers from the experiement it should show up eventually in the sales of those 3 non-series books you've got (assuming they're also novels, same genre, same pricing.)

The lack of movement on them assuming it persists after the rush and after there's been time for people to read the series books should be an indicator of inneffectiveness in building name-brand loyalty. Of course, in the long run I think your numbers speak that it worked well (compared to the alternative of continuing your first month's sales rate over time) for the series regardless of whether it eventually builds your brand too.

Unless you're just a hobbyist (like me!) you can't get by on a cycle of an 80K ad to sell modest numbers of two 80K products at $0.99.

That said, I've seen it snowball to amazing results for a few (assuming accurate reporting) and hopefully you end up one of those lucky few.

In addition to my continued daliance with magazine/trade publishing I plan to try out a similar self-pub strategy when I have some series material completed to support it so I've been watching these experiments closely. Thanks for sharing.
 
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CACTUSWENDY

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I think that is great. You stirred up the interest and found a following. Keep up the good work.
 

izanobu

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I've found from my own experimenting with free that sales of the free book go up afterward as well. I had a novella that sold maybe 2-3 copies a month (at 1.99) and after it was free for a couple weeks (with 3200 downloads roughly) it has now sold over 50 copies in last two months. The short story collection I had free for a week has also seen sales so far (about 30 in the month following the week it was free).

I am just now experimenting with a novel being free, but it hasn't gone back to paid yet. Had 8k downloads in the three days it has been free though, which is a lot more than the shorter stuff got after a week or two, so I'm hopeful. Next I'll be experimenting with the first book in a series, but that'll be in December and January since I want to try to hit the post holiday crowd.

Thanks for sharing your experience and numbers :)
 

merrihiatt

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J., I know what you're saying. I was hoping to see the two short stories and the other romance novel (Kat Burglar), inch up in sales, but that hasn't happened. At least not yet. I may be rushing things a bit. People haven't even had a chance to read the first book, let alone the other two in the trilogy. I know I download a lot of books and don't read them all right away (some I've opened several times, but have never actually read past the first couple pages). They're still on my iPad Kindle app waiting for me.

Thanks, cactuswendy!

Thanks for sharing your experience, izanobu. I appreciate hearing what other authors are doing, as well.

I find the whole process fascinating and have to tell myself to stop checking the Amazon KDP figures every ten minutes. I know this wave will crest and then decline at some point, the question is when and how will it impact other book sales? Time will tell, but I want to know now! Ha!
 

valeriec80

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Also riding the free train. Really helped bump the sales of my series back up after they'd slipped considerably from selling hundreds a month to twenties a month. Now they're back up to selling hundreds (for now.) I really think it is currently the best way to get exposure and build a reader base for an unknown. (I figure, however, that it will stop "working" soon, much the way having a leader at $.99 doesn't mean much these days.)

I haven't experienced much crossover from my series to my standalones, even those in the same genre as my series. Of course, I'm really only looking at about six months since the series started to sell well, so I don't really know what the future will hold. I'll also be interested to see what will happen when I publish the last book in my series. Will my readers move on once there's no other stories about those characters, or will they "miss" me and try my other stuff? Time will tell...
 

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I've found from my own experimenting with free that sales of the free book go up afterward as well. I had a novella that sold maybe 2-3 copies a month (at 1.99) and after it was free for a couple weeks (with 3200 downloads roughly) it has now sold over 50 copies in last two months. The short story collection I had free for a week has also seen sales so far (about 30 in the month following the week it was free).

I am just now experimenting with a novel being free, but it hasn't gone back to paid yet. Had 8k downloads in the three days it has been free though, which is a lot more than the shorter stuff got after a week or two, so I'm hopeful. Next I'll be experimenting with the first book in a series, but that'll be in December and January since I want to try to hit the post holiday crowd.

Thanks for sharing your experience and numbers :)

THe process of setting something to free on Smashwords and then using the "report lower price" link on Amazon to get a book free has been discussed a lot.

But many people have reported significant trouble with getting something free to go back to paid using the same method due to so many stores being set to free and cross checking each other for the lowest price. Can you explain your process in detail, or any "trick" you might have to get it back to paid?
 

izanobu

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I don't have a trick. As soon as it goes free on Kindle, I set it back to paid in the SW store. So far each time it has taken about a week to a week and a half for things to trickle through to B&N, which Amazon matches pretty quickly.
So sorry, no tricks here. Just making it free, waiting until it goes free on BN and Amazon price matches (usually seems to take 2-4 weeks) and then setting it back to paid and waiting again. It definitely isn't a quick process, but that's okay. It isn't like this takes more than a minute of my time and so far the results seem worth it.
 

merrihiatt

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Interesting. I wasn't planning to switch my freebie back to paid until the ranking dropped significantly. It's #7 right now on the Top 100 Free Kindle Book List (#2 in the genre specific category) and this is the beginning of the third day of it being free (was listed free on Wednesday evening and made it into the Top 20 by around noon on Thursday). I didn't have a set amount of time allocated for it to be free.

I have also heard from a couple of people that it was difficult to get the price changed back. I'm glad you didn't have any problem.
 
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Terie

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Merri, congrats! And just think: you made substantially more money just in the first month than you ever would've if all of the books had been 'published' by PublishAmerica for the full seven-year contract. :D
 

merrihiatt

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Terie, that's the truth, isn't it?! I was thinking last night about the difference between self-publishing and being "published" by PA. Huge differences, starting with an affordable price to a better cover to an overall great experience (as opposed to being told I was a Nora Roberts wannabe). If I find an error, I can upload a new version of the book. I won't be asked to pay $99!!! And, I know how many books have sold and can check whenever I want.
 

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Thanks for sharing this, Merri! Illuminating. Makes me wonder if I should write with a trilogy in mind and try something similar. I know for myself if I start reading a series I am more likely to finish the series before I start reading other things by the same author. Problem is that when I write I don't think in terms of trilogies even if I have the same characters resurface sometimes.

I also like the idea of offering for free for a short time. This is common in music, where teaser tracks are offered for free until the album is released, but for stand-alone books I'm not sure it would work as well. My full is being read by an ebook publisher (not self-pub) so I don't think I'll have the freedom to change the prices if they end up taking it.
 

merrihiatt

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Thanks, Chris. I agree, this formula works better for a trilogy or series -- to get readers to know an author, then hopefully want to read more.
 
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I don't have a trick. As soon as it goes free on Kindle, I set it back to paid in the SW store. So far each time it has taken about a week to a week and a half for things to trickle through to B&N, which Amazon matches pretty quickly.
So sorry, no tricks here. Just making it free, waiting until it goes free on BN and Amazon price matches (usually seems to take 2-4 weeks) and then setting it back to paid and waiting again.

Hm. And you distribute to all the other SW premium partners and they all went free too in the interrim?
 

izanobu

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Tanner- I do distribute to all the SW partners, but I don't know if they went free in the interim. I have only ever seen Amazon match B&N, so that's what I pay attention to. The sales that happen on Apple and Kobo and the like from SW are growing for me, but still a small % of my overall sales. Most still come from Kindle and B&N.
 

merrihiatt

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Latest stats. This marks approximately 72 hours since the free e-book was being offered on Amazon.

amazonkdpoctober2011at545pmon10-22.jpg


It seems that it's running almost 2% sales (.0184) for all the other books combined. I'm rounding for easier math calculation (it's easy to do twosies in my head). To sell 1,000 e-books, I would need to have readers download 50,000 copies of the free e-book (if this theory ends up holding water for more than a few days).

I'll report back again tomorrow with an update.
 

merrihiatt

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Latest stats as of 10/23/11 at 6:20pm.

amazonkdpstatsthrough10-23-22cropped.jpg


The approx. 2% theory is still holding. The e-book is sliding down the Top 100 List, although still in the Top 20 as of this posting. It has been approx. 96 hours since the e-book was first listed as free.
 

Aylaa

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I read your first post, and I don't know if you answered this, but how did you make your ebook free on amazon?
Did you go through the "match price" button? Or did you email amazon?
 

merrihiatt

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I did the "price match" with a link to B&N, where it was listed free. I didn't get a response the first time I hit the button, so I e-mailed Amazon. They said they didn't "price match" all titles. I thought my plan had been squelched. Then I decided to try it again (later in the day), so I hit the "price match" button again and provided the link again. Around 6 or 7pm that evening, the e-book was listed free at Amazon. It was free on B&N because I used Smashwords and set the price at free. I also used Kindle Direct Publishing, so the e-book was already listed on Amazon for a few weeks. It took about two weeks IIRC for it to be listed free at B&N.
 

Aylaa

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thx. Ya apparently Amazon doesn't like to list items for free, go figure.
 

merrihiatt

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Latest stats as of 6:15pm today.

amazonkdpoctboer2011through10-24-11at613pm.png


The e-book has dropped out of the Top 20 and is now #33. I assume it will continue to slide down the Top 100 Free Kindle Books List.

The 2% theory is still holding true, for the time being (exact number is .0207). My current "dream" goal is 50,000 downloads of the free e-book. In theory, that would create 1,000 actual sales (if the 2% theory continues to ring true).
 
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