Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Thursday News: Smart Bitches’ Romance Book Workout; Debating free; Indie bookstores...

Image via Big Stock Photo

Image via Big Stock Photo

Then 18 months or so later (2011), Samhain did another promo of that same book and it was like double the numbers of downloads of the time before.

But here’s the thing – it pushed the following book, a book that was published in 2007, onto the USA Today list (as in people got the first book free and then BOUGHT the next in high enough numbers that a book published in 2007 sold enough to hit a list years later). My numbers for the rest of the series and for my entire backlist jumped in a major way as well.

There have been a lot of free books I’ve downloaded and never read but free can be used to increase readership. So can low cost (or sale priced) books. I argued a few years ago that free books could be less effective that low priced books.

Thoughts?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

34 Comments

  1. Ros
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 04:51:53

    For me, the issue with Sharon Sala wasn’t that she objected to her books being given away free, it was the way she was so rude and dismissive about other authors who choose to give things away. There are a whole host of reasons why authors might give their work away – promotion, yes, but also as thanks to readers, or just for fun if it’s a short story, or missing scene etc. Apparently that offends Ms. Sala. I daresay she’s never taken advantage of a promotional giveaway at the grocery story either.

    It didn’t help that she also chose to point out that people sharing books with friends and family, buying used books, or borrowing from the library doesn’t benefit her.

    ReplyReply

  2. library addict
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 05:07:23

    I’ve also downloaded more than a few free books I’ve yet to read. But the whole free books/free first book in a series HAS gotten me to buy other books by those authors. So it does work as a promotional tool. For me personally, it’s worked more with the free stuff than the low cost books only because I would have to be inclined to want to try a series first before I would buy a book (even for a small price) and seem more inclined to try an author for free with less scrutiny.

    I also often go out and buy books by authors I first read from the library. So I don’t really see the free promotional giveaways as much different other than it’s convenient for me as a digital reader.

    ReplyReply

  3. Lia
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 05:22:14

    I agree. Giving the first book away on a serie has gotten me started to read the rest of it as well, or made me buy other books from that author.

    I can understand her reluctance to ‘work for free’, but sometimes you have to speculate to accumalate.

    ReplyReply

  4. KT Grant
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 06:08:04

    How is another author giving away their books for free harming Sharon’s business? Because readers will only read free books and in turn not want to pay for Sharon’s?

    ReplyReply

  5. Ros
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 06:18:59

    @KT Grant: I think that’s what she thinks. There are (according to her FB page) over 50,000 free books on Kindle. And, to be honest, after her ranting, I’d be inclined to trawl through all of those before I’d consider paying for anything she’s written.

    ReplyReply

  6. KT Grant
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 06:21:43

    @Ros:

    Maybe her sales have one way down and needs to blame it on something?

    Also, she approves of libraries and has no problem with that. So free books on Amazon bad, but libraries that allow people to read by borrowing for free is good?

    ReplyReply

  7. Bronte
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 06:54:03

    Now that I’ve gone back to school and am on a much tighter budget I’m not willing to spend 8 or more dollars on an author that might suck. Reading reviews only gets you so far because there are always individual variations in taste. Generally speaking if I’m trying a new author I want the book to be low priced (not more than 2 or 3 dollars). If the author is great then I’m happy to pay more from then on. A few authors that have hooked me with low priced books are Courtney Milan (lots of great reviews, wanted to try but didn’t until her 99c novella unlocked) and Tessa Dare..

    ReplyReply

  8. Las
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 07:20:51

    What bugged me about Sala’s rants was how she framed the issue of free books as a moral issue. According to her and her fangirls, it’s wrong both to offer and to read free books, because authors–hell, writing in general–will suffer for it. There’s no reasoning with that type of thinking.

    Also, I found it funny that she seems to believe that a book being loaned to 10 people means 9 less people bought her book, when it’s much more likely that if the book hadn’t been loaned it wouldn’t have been read at all.

    ReplyReply

  9. Ellen
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 07:23:48

    My other “passion” is DVD workouts. When an instructor her/himself puts a free **quality** workout on YouTube or their own channel/website, I will support that instructor in whatever way I can, including preordering their next commercial effort, something I rarely do for workouts or books.

    In today’s economy, people are less willing to take a leap of faith. If you support me, I will do my best to support you.

    As concerns Ms. Sala particularly, I liked her older stuff but not so much her newer stuff. That is one reason I haven’t bought anything of hers lately, either new or used.

    ReplyReply

  10. carmen webster buxton
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 07:34:04

    I really wonder what this author thought would happen when she posted her rant against free ebooks. Did she expect self-published authors would say, “Gosh, I didn’t realize my attempts to break into the market was harming you, so of course I’ll stop right now!” I have a novel that’s the first of a 2-book series that I has been free in the Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and other stores for months, and while I am well aware that not everyone who downloads it reads it– and that not everyone who reads it will like it– on the other hand, I know that the sequel to it sells better than any of my other books. When you have no name recognition, and no publisher behind you, of course you’re going to use every tool available, and offering ebooks for free is a wonderful tool.

    ReplyReply

  11. Lynnd
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 07:41:59

    As a reader, free and low cost book promotions have cost me more money than I care to think about. I download the free or low cost book and if I like it, I buy everything else I can find by that author. Without that free or low cost book, those sales would not have happened. Maybe I should thank Ms. Sala and her followers for their agitation against these promotions – it would save me a fortune! Loss leaders have been a staple of effective sales and marketting forever – just ask Walmart and Target.

    ReplyReply

  12. Caro
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 08:10:12

    If all or a majority of an author’s books were free for a promotion, yeah, that might hurt them. But if they’ve got Book Three or Five in a series coming out, I’ve never read them before and Book One is free, yeah, I’ll click if the series even vaguely interests me. Note I said, “even vaguely”. And, no, I won’t read it immediately usually. But if I read it three, four or even six months later and enjoy it, I’ll likely buy another one. If I don’t enjoy it, or don’t get around to reading it, the author hasn’t actually lost anything because I probably wouldn’t have made the purchase at full price anyway.

    ReplyReply

  13. Caro
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 08:14:07

    @Lynnd: Those promotions have cost me money as well. Thanks to them, I bought more books in 2012 than in 2011, despite going virtually all digital (we need to purge our house for more space) and I’m reading more new authors than I did a year ago. I think I’m going to have to put myself on a tighter book budget for 2013, though; the figures are a little scary.

    ReplyReply

  14. cleo
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 08:28:29

    Thanks for the bowling link – that’s pretty cool.

    And I loved the Lauren Dane post – especially her point that “Books sell books.” I’m a little cautious about free ebooks (having downloaded a couple really awful ones) but I’ve also discovered some good authors through free giveaways. For me, it’s the word of mouth and the reviews that convince me to click download.

    ReplyReply

  15. Isobel Carr
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 09:41:07

    @Ellen: Did you see that David Gandy released a workout ap? It’s for men, and I don’t really want to do it, but I’m tempted to download it just to watch him …

    ReplyReply

  16. Estara Swanberg
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 09:44:36

    In a recent conversation with Andrea Höst (wholly self-published), she remarked that her most sure way to generate new readers today is her periodically making Stray, the first book in her Touchstone Trilogy, free.

    Especially on Amazon, where she has the most sales, even though she also publishes all her books at Smashwords (she believes in not supporting a monopoly in ebook shops) and as POD books.

    She spent her own money to get And All the Stars on Netgalley and it HAS lead to an increase in book reviews by book bloggers (maybe even to the fact that AAtS is now nominated for the 2012 Cybils - Ana from the Booksmugglers had her on her radar far earlier [that's where I discovered her first], so that doesn’t factor in AAtS hitting Ana’s 2012 Bestof list) and, apart from the Touchstone books, it is her most rated book on Goodreads, but she says the actual SALES numbers she has from AAtS don’t really justify the cost of Netgalley offering.

    TL; DR: another piece of evidence supporting the idea that self-published authors do well to at least occasionally have free books, especially first ones in series.

    ReplyReply

  17. Nicole
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 09:49:31

    I kind of lump free and inexpensive books together, in that, if a book is less than $3, I will take a chance on it if it sounds interesting to me. And if I like it, I will buy all of that author’s stuff, since I’m a pretty loyal customer. I am not discouraged if the first book in a series is free and I have to pay for later entries. Likewise, if a free first book is crappy, I’m not going to waste my time with the rest of the series, even if those titles are free, too. The only thing that frustrates me is when the middle book of a series is free and the previous titles aren’t. For some reason, I’m less likely to buy into that series than if all the titles were for sale. I know, I’m weird.

    ReplyReply

  18. may
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 09:56:59

    Free (or very low cost) books are an amazing marketing tool if you’re an author with a back-list. I have tried a lot of authors I wouldn’t have taken the chance on for $8, and I’ve found some authors who are now auto-buy for me. Suzanne Enoch comes to mind right off the bat – I read one of hers free and was so hooked I ended up buying nearly all her extensive back list that I would honestly have not considered before reading that one book I loved.

    ReplyReply

  19. Tamara
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 09:58:57

    I gave away a novella and saw at least a temporary increase in sales for all my work. More importantly, I’ve seen reviewers comment that they hadn’t heard of me before they picked up the free book. Offering a book for free pulls at least a little new interest in your direction, especially if you’re an obscure writer producing niche stories. I’ve even had one or two readers write me to say they always thought historicals would be too stuffy a read, but my free story convinced them otherwise.

    Offering a free novella is one of the best decisions I’ve made since being published.

    ReplyReply

  20. Joanna
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 10:41:34

    @Estara Swanberg: Perfect example Estara – I clicked onto your link to Stray and liked the description and positive reviews so I will download it (since it’s currently free!) and give this author I had never heard of a try. And since it’s the first in a trilogy if I like it I will happily buy the rest. I consider that just good marketing – if you’re not Stephen King or J.K. Rowling you need to build name recognition and this author appears to be doing a great job of that.

    As far as Sharon Sala, I too haven’t read any of her books in a while, and I certainly don’t feel now like I need to rush out to see what I might have missed!

    ReplyReply

  21. Brian
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 10:53:39

    A free book that sounds interesting can me take a flyer on something I might not normally give a look at all. I’ve gotten several first in series books that have led to me purchasing the entire series after enjoying that first book. That said, I also have hundreds of free books that I’ve grabbed but not read. If it sounds like something I might like someday then I’ll grab it if it’s free. The problem, for me at least, is with free it still has to really grab me as something I want to try NOW. Otherwise it’s likely to get lost among the huge amount of freebies I’ve grabbed and added to the “pile”.

    A discounted book (say $0.99 to $2.99) takes a little more to get me to grab it. If I’m spending actual money on it, even $0.99, then it often (not always) ends up higher on my TBR list. A highly discounted first book has the same effect on me as a free one, in that I’ve liked them and grabbed the rest of a series, I’m just less likely to take a complete flyer on something that costs me money.

    An example of a successful discounted first book is Yorkshire by Lynne Connolly. When Samhain first published (re-published?) it they offered it for $2.25 instead of it’s current $5.50 price. At the time I had read very little historical romance, but it sounded interesting and I’ll read virtually any genre a few times, so I grabbed it and ended up liking it so much that I now have 25 Lynne Connolly titles (one is actually a Lynne Martin title) in my Calibre library. Would I have eventually discovered this author, who is now generally an autobuy when she puts out a historical, without the discounted book? It’s possible I would have later discovered her through the same book when it was later a freebie for awhile, but I’m not so sure. Now that made it successful in getting me to be a reader, but I have zero idea if the promotion would be considered successful by the author.

    Free or discounted, I already have more books available to read (almost 6,000 at Amazon, nearly 1,000 at B&N, over 300 at Kobo and hundreds from other shops) that I’d never have to spend a dime from this day forward and I’d have something to read (even at 300+ books per year). The challenge for authors is more that their book has to be The One to grab me and say ‘read me now’ and it has to click with me. If it does it’s very likely that their free or discounted book will result in a very good return on their promotional investment.

    ReplyReply

  22. Lada
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 11:04:30

    I definitely differentiate between free and low cost books. Those $0.99 books can add up and I’ve been burned enough by good reviews that I depend on trying new-to-me authors for free before committing to buying. Since even Jane has admitted to her standards falling (sobs) when it comes to self-pub, I’m much more inclined to try a free book rather than spending my pennies on an unknown quantity. There is something very satisfying about discovering something new for free and immediately being able to buy more of that good thing.

    ReplyReply

  23. carmen webster buxton
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 11:30:06

    After I posted the above comment, I tripped over this blog post that I think is relevant. A self-published author described her experience with Amazon Select giveaways and gives hard numbers for sales. More relevant for writers than readers, I should say, but then I are a writer :)

    ReplyReply

  24. Moriah Jovan
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 11:52:11

    I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that because Sala’s not self-published, her biggest issue may be that she has no control over her titles at all and is feeling the pinch.

    I swore I would never do KDP Select, but I did it in July for book #1 with the onset of my serial and let me tell you–it was one of the best marketing decisions I ever made. After that, I priced book #1 permanently at 99c. HOWEVER, I will also say that this is really only useful if you actually have a backlist, which I do now. But I write long books, slowly at that, and so I think now the serial is actually driving my sales. What I got for that free period was eyeballs because I made an Amazon list.

    If you don’t have a backlist or if you’re a slow writer like me (or you write one long book instead of 14 titles/year), the free thing probably isn’t going to get you anywhere.

    ReplyReply

  25. Hell Cat
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 13:43:06

    @Ros:

    It’s a pity that’s what she thinks since I’ve previously liked her, buying her in paperback. But I don’t support someone whining. I enjoy free books because often I can find an author I hear about but don’t know if I’d like them. Please see my love of Moira Rogers since Crux was free. Now I get why the team are so popular. And I purchased all their Arcana series to the 5th book before Impulse came out as an ARC to me. For me, it pays off. There’s a definite lack of awareness among potential readers it seems.

    ReplyReply

  26. Kaetrin
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 18:40:33

    I love authors, I love to support the authors I like best but I don’t read to keep authors in a job. The idea that my main role as a reader is to keep the author in funds is insulting to me.

    ReplyReply

  27. txvoodoo
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 18:59:04

    I can’t even list how many times I’ve gotten the first book in a series as a free or very cheap promo, and then bought the rest of the series almost immediately. At least 5 times a year, usually more. Yes, it depends on the first book being good enough/attractive to my interests, but it turns me into a loyal consumer.

    ReplyReply

  28. Liz
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 19:16:08

    Cheap works better with me these days than free. I’ve downloaded too many books that are just BAD for free. BAD. Really, really BAD. I have this huge junk pile of free books that I’m starting to weed through: am I ever going to read this? For real?

    But there are tons of books I’m interested in–I read a lot of review sites, as I’m sure most of us do. If something shows up for $1-$3, I will often take a chance. And then, as Brian said above, that book tends to go higher up on my TBR–and if I like it, I try to support the author.

    (And when it comes to YA books, I *really* support the author, since I buy for book clubs for my school & talk to other teachers in the district.)

    ReplyReply

  29. Wahoo Suze
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 21:31:06

    I’m really starting to wonder about the financial acumen of people in publishing. As nearly as I can figure out, the payment scheme for authors for mainstream-published books is a shell game. Royalty statements come out quarterly at most, and amounts are reserved against future returns, and I sincerely doubt that any such author has any way of knowing how much money any given book has made for him or her, never mind the publisher.

    Self-published authors know how much each sale is. The accounting seems to be MUCH more transparent. Self-published authors are coming out and saying that freebies increase sales, and they have evidence for it. The authors who come out against freebies (and rant about digital publishing and pirates sapping their sales) all seem to be mainstream-published.

    I’d like to sum this all up in a pithy statement, but I don’t really have one. A free book, if it interests me, will make me take a chance on an unknown author. It’s purely a loss-leader, which is a well-established, successful marketing technique. I really don’t know why anyone would object, especially if she has a big backlist.

    ReplyReply

  30. txvoodoo
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 22:44:33

    @Wahoo Suze: I’m with you.

    I get that it’s difficult for many authors to do the self-promotion, but considering how much they’re being required to do it even WITH publishers now, it’s a fact of the future.

    I don’t know why that person objects, except maybe she’s just firmly convinced of her own infallibility? ;)

    ReplyReply

  31. henofthewoods
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 23:59:55

    Add another person who loves/hates getting a good free book. Sometimes I don’t want to even spend $0.99 on a likely candidate book because it means I have to add another charge to my credit card/another dollar amount to track in the budget. But when I enjoy a free book, I may very well go back and buy the whole series or other unrelated titles. I love being able to buy an entire back-list at a low-cost (something less than $7.99 per title) and I am more likely to buy 10 books at $5 than 5 at $8 (since it feels like a bargain). I have racked up some cash at Baen after using their free library, and they also have authors that don’t interest me at all. But I don’t spend some absurd amount of cash finding that out.

    If free books killed publishing’s financial incentive, library systems would have already killed publishing decades ago.

    ReplyReply

  32. txvoodoo
    Jan 04, 2013 @ 00:06:07

    @henofthewoods: “If free books killed publishing’s financial incentive, library systems would have already killed publishing decades ago.”

    WORD. Back when I haunted my library (before I became housebound), I’d borrow, read, then buy – even the books I’d already read.

    At least I can get samples on Amazon. That can be enough to figure out if I love or hate an author’s style.

    ReplyReply

  33. Brian
    Jan 07, 2013 @ 13:16:53

    @Estara Swanberg: Thanks for mentioning Stray. It sounded interesting so I grabbed a copy since it was free and I’m about half way through it and liking it so far. This will likely result in sales for the author of at least the other two books in the trilogy.

    ReplyReply

  34. Cassandra
    Jan 18, 2013 @ 02:04:48

    It’s human nature to value something we’ve paid for higher than something we were given for free. I once watched a doco about a water pump developed in first world nations that was designed to help farmers in third world countries. When they gave it away nobody wanted it, but when they sold it (for like $1US, or 1 month’s local wages) the locals saved and scrimped for it, then helped their friends and relatives by the same.

    That said, FREE is one of the most attractive and exciting words in the English language and will guarantee you attention and traffic.

    Makes perfect sense to me that you might sign up for the Free titles, but then toss them aside unread and unloved :)

    ReplyReply

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

%d bloggers like this: