Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why I am NOT Crazy

I just gave away 7,801 copies of a book.

Some feel this is insanity. Why give it away? The answer is complicated and not necessarily a good argument for my mental clarity. The same week I gave this book away, I also offered the second book in that series discounted to 99 cents. Crazy? I wish I was nuttier, actually.

I missed my goal of book give-aways, and books sold at discount. I intended to give away 10,000 books. ON THE FIRST DAY. I wanted the other four days to get that number closer to 20,000 or even 30,000 copies.

But, why? What good does giving away so many free copies achieve? you may ask.

Because no one knows me. I am a very small speck of plankton among hundreds of thousands of plankton. I want someone to notice me. I need to glow. Grow abnormally large. Send off book-reading pheromones. Develop a book-reader-attracting mating call.

One sure way to do that is to give away something.

People LOVE free.

But, you may argue, doesn't offering something for free devalue your work?

You may have a point. I am willing to take that risk. Because of numbers.

I have been in sales all my adult life and I live by numbers. "X" number of presentations will produce "Y" opportunities to close a sale which at "Z" close rate will result in "AA" number of sales at "BB" average revenue which will earn me "CC" dollars of commission. I intended to use a similar method of success for selling books.

See, that is the difficult part for me. I am the creator. The author, editor, publisher, cover artist, social platform manager, literary agent, sales manager, and public relations specialist. I wear a bunch of hats. Sometimes that is the part that wears me down.

So, when I produce a great story, get it edited, go through the hard work of packaging it, formatting it, creating a cover, writing the doggone blurb, pricing it, getting it beta-read, and then uploading it to the online book stores, I expect results. I have so much control over everything. That is what I LOVE about independent publishing. I have control. Well, over everything except people buying it.

I am looking for raving fans. Fans that tell other fans. I am risking my neck by tossing my book out into the maw of the free book binge. There is a whole culture of book collectors who look every day for new free books. Some of these people are voracious readers. Not all of them will like my book. That is risk number one: my work will be downloaded and read by readers who are not my target audience.

Risk number two is the devaluing of books we discussed earlier. Not just my book, understand. All books. It has come to the point now that we indie authors have conditioned folks to think that a "cliffhanger" in a short work is a cheat. That we are trying to milk them for all the book money they have. In a way, I suppose that would be nice. I will take milk money, too, if they will depart with it. But, this pervading perception that free is a springboard to capturing readers is exactly correct. It is what we want. Are you not entertained? Try my book for free. It is the first in a series. The other six are priced competitively in their genre for their length.

Are free books conditioning readers to not purchase? I don't think so. Most of the readers who fill their ereader devices full of free downloaded books are the same people who read books from the library, buy books from used book stores, and borrow books from friends regularly. I don't begrudge them their buying habits. They are not the audience I seek. For every one of these readers, there are potential buyers who snatch up series like they were going to out of print tomorrow if it is in a genre they like/author they like/ or set of covers they like.  Those readers are my audience. Or at least I hope they are.

Which brings us back to why I am not crazy.

My number theory about book selling is simple. I think that for every 10,000 books I can give away, 80 to 100 people will buy at least one other book in the series. Not only that, I believe that within 6 months, I will get: 10 new book reviews on the free book alone; 40 new subscribers to my newsletter; an additional 100 or so sales from carry through from book 2 to 3, etc.; 20-40 new sales at every new release, and 20 new Twitter/Facebook/Google+/Goodreads followers.

Those numbers are conservative and only refer to the readers who originally downloaded the free book. It does not take into account that with enough quick growth (several dozen sales in one day, for example), my titles will shoot up the best seller lists and gain more visibility. More potential sales. More potential reviews, newsletter subscribers, followers on social media, more website hits, and more reader engagement. It is a snowball. The thing is, to make that snowball grow in diameter, I have to pack the core and roll it down the hill, hoping it will pick up momentum and attract more mass.

Offering my book for free is like packing that snowball core. Ten thousand downloads is a bunch of potential readers. Not all will stick. Hundreds will never get around to sampling my free offering and may even delete it later to make room for more free books. Those ereaders have a capacity, you know. Hundreds of the people who DO read the free sample will just nod, smile, thank me silently, and read the next free book on their to-be-read pile. Then, some will read it, love it, and want more.  Leave a review, sign up for my newsletter, tell a friend, share it with a colleague at work, write a book blog about it, or simply visit my website and get a copy of another book. Soon, the snowball is rolling down the hill and picking up speed. Maybe before it gets to the bottom and sits for weeks melting it will get really big. That is the plan, anyway.

How many potential readers will join the snowball? Less than 1% is my guess. Which is why 10,000 is such a crucial number.

Am I crazy? Probably. I intend to make the first book free permanently. OK. Not permanently, permanently. Just permanently for now. Beginning in April, actually. For an indefinite time.

So, if you have the patience, you can save 99 cents and get the book free if you have not already downloaded it. MANIC MONDAY is the first novella (which means under 250 pages) in my 7-part series called THE JAKE MONDAY CHRONICLES. It is an espionage thriller in the vein of Jason Bourne and James Bond.

You can pick up a copy of MANIC MONDAY or any of my novels HERE.