Is Giving Away 1200 Books for Free a Good Idea?

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This article was written by Jason Arnopp and first published on his personal blog on 18 November 2012.

His latest novel ‘Beast in the Basement’ is available from Amazon here and was reviewed by Caroline Goldsmith for Byte the Book here.

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Yesterday, I made my book A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home free for the day on all Amazon sites.

As this was a first-time experiment for me, I thought it might be interesting to hold a quick ‘postmortem’ (as we always used to call the weekly examination of the last issue of Kerrang!, way back when I worked on that magazine).  This might also be useful for other Kindle authors who are considering the same ‘free day’ course of action.

First of all: a word on how you set up these free days on Amazon.  You have to join the KDP Select programme, which has been controversial for some.  It requires your title to become digitally exclusive to Amazon for 90 days, during which time Amazon Prime members will be able to rent your book for free (while you earn a fee for each rental) and you can also make your book free for a maximum of five days during this period.  You can then schedule a free promotion by entering the date and the price magically drops to zero (roughly) when you want it to.

The day went very well.  At the final count, I gave away over 1200 free copies of A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home in 24 hours, which strikes me as a result for an event with no paid advertising.  The book reached #3 in Amazon’s Kindle Store Horror chart and #101 in Kindle’s overall Free chart.  When you consider that Amazon now offers thousands of free books every day, the latter isn’t a bad achievement (and in fact, in the early hours of morning, as the promotion was about to end, the book finally breached the Top 100 and hit #87).  Here are some worthwhile things to note:

  • When you announce via social media that something’s free, folk are more likely to very kindly RT a tweet or share a Facebook update.  This is almost certainly because they’re no longer passing along a sales pitch, but instead offering their friends something for nothing.  An opportunity.
  • Various sites are set up to tell readers about cheap or free ebooks.  It’s well worth telling these sites about your free promotion in advance.  Some of the bigger sites require several weeks’ notice, while a couple I encountered only wanted to hear about it on the day when the book was already free.  A few of sites which helpfully ran editorial pieces on the A Sincere Warning… promotion were Book Goodies, The Kindle Book Review, EFreeBooks.org and Snickslist.com. Some sites also offer ‘guaranteed placement’ features at the relatively low cost of $5 or $10.  Before you hand over cash to them, it’s worth assessing their popularity by glancing at how many Twitter followers they have, for instance.
  • A Sincere Warning… is a 10,000-word short story and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who seemed to read it straight after downloading.  Some wrote new Amazon reviews, which was great.  Many tweeted that they “won’t be sleeping tonight”, which is always a compliment for a ghost story.
  • One thing I hadn’t prepared for, was how grateful people are for a free book, even in this age of rampant freebies, legal or otherwise.  Plenty of people thanked me via Twitter, which was nice.  I tried to thank everybody back – and also those who took the trouble to retweet plugs.
  • There was a discernible knock-on effect to sales of my other Kindle fiction book, Beast In The Basement, which began to shift more copies than usual and entered the Top 100 charts for Thriller and Horror.  The back section of A Sincere Warning… carries an advert for Beast, which may have been a significant factor in that knock-on effect.
  • Many of the effects of a promotion like this may not be immediately obvious.  People may not read the book for days, weeks, months, years, before potentially spreading the word to friends or writing an Amazon review.  The main thing, though, is that your work is now sitting on the devices of a fair deal of people who might not otherwise have encountered you.  For instance, a few people downloaded the book via Amazon Japan, a market which I hadn’t so much as scratched up until now.  Getting your work out there is important for any author.
  • These promotions probably lose effectiveness through repetition.  If I ever run one again, it will be after Christmas.

Sorry if you missed the promotion.  You’ll be glad to hear, though, that the regular price of A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home – a supernatural story which takes place in YOUR home – is a mere £0.96 (€1.18 or $1.49).  If you like, you can pick it up at the links below:

Amazon UK
Amazon US

Amazon Germany

Amazon France

Amazon Italy

Amazon Spain

Amazon Japan

Official page ScaryLetter.com also has details of the Bespoke Deluxe Paper Edition: a personalised, physical letter sent to your home address!  Nothing better to scare the life out of you.

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