Sunday Scribbles: The Benefit of Free Books - Melissa Schroeder

Sunday Scribbles: The Benefit of Free Books

I believe in free books. As a promo tool, I have used it almost from the beginning of my career. There were a couple of reasons I did that. One, no one knew who I was. I had to let readers get to know me, and what better way than with one of my books. Two, it was cheaper than other promos, like ads and mailing stuff. I was on a tight budget.

I am always amazed when I hear other authors say they don’t like giving away books. Are there some readers who abuse it. Yes. Just like every other free thing there is in the world. But, it also gives you a chance at gaining readers. When Samhain put ALH Sex up for free for the first two weeks of May, the sales of all my other Harmless books went through the roof. Plus, I still sold 9,000 copies of A Little Harmless Sex. I can’t tell you how many free books were downloaded because Samhain has never sent those numbers to me. But based on what I know now, it must have been amazing. Either way, the Harmless series sold 18,000 copies that month. One month! So I know the free book works.

This past week I took a gamble. It wasn’t easy because I am a Capricorn and we don’t like taking them. We don’t like to do anything spontaneous unless it is planned in some way. Yes, I know that being spontaneous isn’t supposed to be planned. Cappy’s just don’t like that. So, when my book, Callum, was doing exactly what I expected, I knew I needed to do something. I am very good at knowing what a book will do–at least one of my books. I knew that it would not sell like a Harmless book and it is a new subgenre for me, and NOT erotic. I had a few reservations about putting it out for free. Because I am self-published, I cannot list it for a free promo on Barnes and Noble. While other people do not sell that well there, I do decently. Yes, I could have gotten there free other ways, but that would leave me without earnings off a book I just released. I am just not willing to do that. At the time of writing this blog, Barnes and Noble still has not addressed this issue other than whining that Amazon is trying to corner the market. They are, that is part of business. If you want to compete, pull your head out of your ass and pay attention.
But I digress as usual lol. Okay, so to get it free on a major place, Amazon, I had to accept the terms of KDP SELECT. The book has to be on there exclusively for 90 days. During that time I have FIVE days I can put it up for free. I also have it placed in the borrowing library where my books available to anyone with a prime membership and a kindle device. The reader has the ability to borrow one book a month. Then, based on the borrows and number of books in the programs, I get a % of the fund they set aside. So, it made it into the top 10 of Contemporary Romance for free, top 20 for Free Romance and the top 30 for overall on Amazon’s free list. And, the whopping total of downloads is:


That’s right. As of right now, almost 17,000 people in the US downloaded it. The other countries added another 2K on top of that. Now, those are free, and many of the people might never read it, because it is free, and they might hate it. But the proof is in the pudding. I have almost made as many sales the last two days that I did in the whole month it was on sale with Amazon. I have finally cracked the top 2000 in sales rankings.

UPDATE: I have cracked 1000 on the sales ranking and have now sold more than twice as many copies in three days of sales since it went off sale for free, than I did the entire first month of sales. I think that says it was a good idea.

This is not going to last. I know that. But the reviews have been good and most people seemed to be enjoying this. It also gives me the ability to release Angus this summer because I have already gotten people emailing me about that book. 
I have read or listened to people complaining that they put out a self-pub book and OMG it didn’t make me a million bucks. First of all, no book is going to make that for you right off the bat. It is time to move back into reality land. Secondly, if you are a published author moving into self-publishing, you have to understand that while you might not have gotten a lot of promotion from your publisher, you did have the value of the name they have built. They get buzz as a publisher overall. Since you are now the publisher, you have to create that yourself. If you don’t, they are not going to automatically follow you. It will for some people. Don’t take that chance. 
Now, I am back to writing now and will be hanging out in both Alaska and Hawaii over the next couple of weeks. I am going to be doing some different promos with pricing, etc with my releases in late Spring and I will let you know how those go.


Categories: Self Publishing

14 Comments on “Sunday Scribbles: The Benefit of Free Books

  1. This was well put, Mel! And another thing a lot of authors don’t realize is that once you have a reader hooked, it is so much easier for us to continue purchasing your books. I have received a lot of free books & then went on to purchase the entire series from the author! It gives us insight into what they are like as a writer!
    And as for you, free or not, I am hooked! But it did start with a free book: ALH Sex! Now, I can’t even say how many of your books I have, but it increases all the time!

  2. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve “purchased” a free book from Amazon by an unknown author and after reading it immediately went and purchased everything else she or he has written. I buy a lot of books somewhere in the neighborhood of 50+ a month so when I get a free one it’s a bonus to me and you can bet if I like the author I’m going to support that author as long as they keep writing. If I don’t, I’ll chalk it up to an experiment that didn’t work. Honestly though, I just don’t see how it can’t be a win/win for month authors. Congrats Melissa, both me and the hubby have enjoyed the Harmless series very much!

  3. Latochia, As a reader, I completely understand that. Since I became a digital only reader in 2008, I find myself purchasing the entire backlist of someone I barely know after reading one book. The hesitation of some authors to try this always surprises me. It does delicious things to your backlist more times than not. And, it is a fantastic way to get a series like Clan off the ground.

  4. Slick,
    Exactly. I understood that Callum was something new for my readers so I wanted to let them give it a try. Plus, I knew there were a lot of people who did not try me before because erotic is not their bag. I wanted to give them the opportunity. Backlist is the key, but you have to continue to grab new readers, and this is one way to do it. So glad you love Harmless:)

  5. As always a very informative blog Melissa. I have been checking out alot of free books lately and like everyone else I end up buying a whole series based on the one free book. I always shop by author’s names and free books is a great way for me to try someone new. I really have to be careful with my book budget so I rarely spend money on a new author or even an established author if I have never read their work.

  6. Great info, Mel and I became a major fan of your books ever since ALH Sex was free on Amazon & have never stopped. Since then, I’ve bought all your books on your backlist and have read almost all of them plus any current releases. This is a great way to introduce readers to authors they don’t know and I, too, tend to buy all books from backlist once I’ve discovered I enjoy the writing and become a faithful reader.

  7. Thanks for putting Callum up as a free read. Beverley Kendall wrote that after putting up a free read her other books make significant jumps in ranking from the increased sales.

  8. Celtie,
    Thanks. I am trying to share the info so that other authors will think about it. As I said, so many authors will NOT give a book away. Even as a grand prize to something. I have always found that to be very odd.

  9. Phuong,
    Thank you. It took me a couple of weeks to make the decision to do it right now. I knew pulling it off ARe and B and N was a gamble and i knew I would have people upset with me. Again, given the option, I would do free books on B and N, but they just don’t seem interested in it. Plus, they make it damned hard for the readers to find them.
    I am so glad you found ALH Sex 🙂

  10. Jane,
    It does. People talk to me about losing sales. This isn’t a lost sale. This is a way to gain sales. I never understand why people think they are losing sales when they are downloaded for free off Amazon. Even if I just get a quarter of the total downloads as new readers in the future, you are talking about 4K readers. Even 10% adds almost 2K there. So it is worth it. Give people a chance to read you and if they like you, you will gain a sale, I can promise that.

  11. As usual Melissa you are very insightful about this industry and nails it right on the head. I don’t know how many “free” books I’ve received which led me to reading and buying a series. Several in the past year in fact; as well as downloading your new books and then buying more of yours. I would advise those authors to join twitter, join email groups . Thats how I find information about authors. Janette

  12. Congrats Mel on so many downloads! Now there are so many more people who know what we’ve known all along! The lady gives good book! 😉 As with everyone else I so agree! If I see something is free from an unknown author (to me) I will try it and if I like it I will buy the rest of the series b/c I always wanna know what happens next! Really liked Callum n can’t wait for the next installment!

  13. Awesome Melissa!
    I know I tell everyone I know that your books are worth the money regardless, and free or not I get them…*S* Your books are like a serious addiction, and I personally wish I could promote for you more..:)
    Hey …seriously,if you ever get here to the interior of Alaska…just get let me know and I’ll meet up with you in Fairbanks…but I don’t think you’d want to visit with my 5 + feet of snow her eon my mountain right now…just saying…*S*


  14. If I try a free book, and really like it and find out it’s part of a series, I’ll go and buy the rest of the series. I HATE reading series out of order. So that is one way to get readers to buy books.

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