Is FREE Anyway To Sell Books?

Is FREE Anyway To Sell Books?

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Everywhere you look, there is an advertisement for a free product. Just click the button, and the free product will be yours! In many cases, the so-called free item is a ruse to get you to pop in your credit card so the company can bill you for something at some point. Not so much with free books. As of September 17, 2013, there were an estimated 62,967 free books on Amazon. No strings attached. It turns out that writers are jumping on the “free” bandwagon as a way to sell books.

So what in the world is perma-free? It’s just what it sounds like, something that’s permanently free.  If you’re just now hearing about this concept for the first time, you’re probably scratching your head and saying, “I worked hard on that book! Why would I want to give it away?” If you only have one book, you probably wouldn’t.  But if you have several books or even better, a series of books, giving the first book away might be the optimum marketing tool for attracting the most readers. While it seems counter-intuitive to give away a book with the hope of attracting readers, proponents of this marketing strategy have varying opinions on its effectiveness.

Greg Standberg shares his experience with perma-free ( http://bit.ly/1qlYna4) pointing out that offering a free book makes sense for: Selling future stand-alone books or books in a series. He’s not the only writer using this strategy.  Brian Cohen wrote a free companion novel for a course on his website.  In a guest post (http://bit.ly/1qgEq6A), Cohen describes his perma-free experiment, stating: “In August alone,  there were close to 40,000 downloads of my little-book-that-could. The book stayed in the top 100 for several weeks before dropping out. It has yet to leave the Kindle Top 500 since.”

Should you ever offer a book for free even on a limited basis? The answer: It depends on the book and your intention for making it free.  Last year, I wrote a poetry book, Dangerous DANGEROUS WOMENWomen, for personal reasons.  Anyone who writes poetry knows that this is not a well-selling genre, particularly for an unknown writer,  so my decision to give it away was really more about sharing than earning.  This book will always be free on Smashwords.com, but Amazon still lists it for .99¢, because I couldn’t elect to make it free on Amazon. No doubt, this little collection of ten poems has fallen through the pricing cracks, because it simply isn’t on the ranking radar, however, these discrepancies in pricing underscores the potential for a writer to have a free book on one site, and the same book with a price-tag at other sites.  Though filters exist to correct this discrepancy in Amazon, readers are instrumental in getting the free price match implemented by notifying Amazon that the book is free elsewhere. Lower-ranked books with little traffic may never be reported for price correction.

After a day spent researching free books as a marketing tool, I’m coming down on the side of offering free books under certain circumstances:

1) Offering a free book works best if you have more than one book, and preferably no fewer than three books.
2) Release two or more books at a time.
3) Plug your second (third, fourth…) books or parts of a series in the front or back matter of the first book and vice versa to drive traffic back and forth.
4) Expect that some people will download your free book and never read it or buy anything you write. Apparently some people just like “free” stuff whether they’re really interested in using it or not.
5) The big FREE tag on your book is sure to increase your website traffic and, with a little luck, your Amazon ranking.
6) A free book has to be of the highest quality to drive readers to books you want to sell. That may mean investing in a professional cover, editing and proofreading services and paid promotions if you don’t have the skill-set to do it yourself.  Readers have to want to click the link on your back-list (or the next book in a series).

What do you think? Are free books a solid marketing strategy or do they dilute the overall book market? I’d love to hear what you think.

 

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How I Lost 20 Pounds and Gained 50,000 Words

How I Lost 20 Pounds and Gained 50,000 Words

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Back in March, I was stuck.  I wanted to write, or so I told myself and anyone else who would listen, but I routinely bypassed my writing desk.   I wanted to lose weight, and yet, I sat in front of the television with a bowl of ice cream nearly every night.   Stuck in a job and feeling powerless, I watched my self-esteem shrink as my clothes grew.

And then I lost my job.

This is the part where you’re thinking that the bowls of ice cream get bigger, right?  Surprisingly, no.  Awash in a sea of confusion with what to do with so much free time, I realized that, when my job went, so did all of my excuses.  I could write or I could talk about writing.  I could lose weight or I could eat ice cream and wonder why I was over weight.  Rather than feeling stuck and overwhelmed in my job, I was now overwhelmed with more than a little fear.  Fear that my writing wouldn’t be good enough or that, no matter how hard I tried, I would fail to lose weight or get published.

Like many people stuck in a wrong career choice, I made the best of it, but once the job was gone, the noose around my neck squeezing the creativity and the hope out of me loosened.  Over the years, I have survived several bouts of unemployment, and I knew (prayed) this was temporary.  The luxury of what, for the moment, seemed like an infinite degree of free time, the opportunity to dive head first into my writing projects, might never come again.  True to the neurotic writer stereotype,  I tangoed with a fair amount of guilt for being…well…happy that I had some time to write.  While being unemployed wasn’t necessarily new for me, something about this period of unemployment seemed different.  Like a lost opportunity regained.  A lost love rediscovered.   If I wanted to write, really write, it seemed like it was now or never.

So, I made the most of it.  I got up at 6:00 a.m. each morning, readied myself for the day, kissed my husband as if it were any other work day and walked down the hall to my writing desk.   I worked from 7:00 a.m.  until 4:00 p.m., learning my way around social media sites, setting up a website, blogging, researching and writing.

Losing weight was a little easier and more straight forward than writing.  I downloaded an app to my phone called Lose-It and tracked my calories and exercise.  I started going to the gym two to three times per week.  If you’ve read my other blogs, you know that I’m a fan of spinning.  Dragging myself out of bed to get to spinning classes was a challenge.

But it was all worth it.  In ten weeks, I lost 20 pounds.

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In eight short weeks, I wrote and published two ebooks, Why Can’t Dad Swallow, a guide for caregivers of the elderly and Dangerous Women (free), a book of poetry.  My novel, Dreamwalker is about 30% completed.  Prior to this, I hadn’t written or published anything since I published  Call Me, an erotica romance, in 2010.

During this time, employers started knocking on my door again.  I’ve worked more at my “real job” in the last seven weeks than I did before I lost my job.  I won’t lie.  Once I started working at my day job again, I gained a pound and had to backtrack to lose it.  My writing took a hit, too.  Work sucks my creative energy, but I don’t have to let that noose tighten around my neck again.

As much as I’d like to believe I can do it all, thinking along those lines leads to a vat of Breyer’s Lactose Free Vanilla ice cream swimming in a sea of Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Syrup, topped with crushed almonds, smothered in whipped cream and  Six Feet Under marathons.  But that’s not what I’m hungry for these days.  Give me a fresh blog post, a quirky character trait for my protagonist or a few hundred new words each day on my project and I’m in my element.

I can’t do it all. But trading 20 pounds for 50,000 words is a pretty sweet start.

You can find my books on Amazon and Smashwords:

Swallowing_Disorders_Cover_for_KindleDANGEROUS WOMEN BRIGHTCallMe3 ]

Own Your Writing Power

Own Your Writing Power

Young People - group of women and men - doing sport Spinning inSitting on my spinning bike this morning, listening to the instructor belt out advice on how to “get to the top” of the metaphorical hill, it struck me how much exercise and writing have in common.

As my face grew hot and sweat trickled into my eyes, I fought to stay where I was, to not bag it and head to the shower.  That nagging little voice that tries to protect me from failure  (but ultimately protects me from success) made the ride hard for the better part of twenty minutes.  Somewhere near the top of the “hill” I saw what was happening, how warped my thinking is about my power to live in a better body and be a successful writer.

In that moment of complete clarity, I placed my D’s (distractions, drama, difficult people) in my review mirror and told them to eat my figurative “dust.”  I replaced my old recorded  message with a new one:  All I have to do is stay on the bike for an hour.  I can do anything for an hour.  As I powered up my legs, and pushed to the finish, I pictured the problems and people shrinking behind me in that cloud of dust.  On the other side of the hill, I could see a slimmer, toned, and more vital future me; a me that was sitting at a table stacked high with my latest best seller.

Forty minutes later, I climbed off the bike, exhilarated.  I stayed on the bike for an hour!  Characters for a novel that I have kicked around but seem to not be able to pin down began to materialize.  I often get my best ideas in the garden, the shower or at the gym.  The problem is that I often leave them where I found them.  I moved to the weight machines and lifted, working hard to tone my muscles, layered as they are under excess winter fat.  As I lifted, I thought about the flexibility and strength of writing muscles and what we layer over them.

Becoming overweight is not an accident.  We turn our frustrations or lack of energy into powerlessness and give up.  We stop eating right and exercising.  We replace our vision of ourselves with that of a powerless, undeserving person.  As the pounds pile up, our reflection in the mirror seems to confirm our worst opinion of ourselves.  We do the same thing with our writing.  We don’t write because we fear we are not good enough to publish, or because our day jobs make us tired, our kids, pets and television need us more than we need to write.  We buy into the notion that it’s just too hard to publish; that we will never achieve recognition or success or be great writers.  Pretty soon, our writing muscles are flabby and buried under layers of negative self-talk, insecurity and detachment. Our writing image reflects exactly what we put into it.  The hope of having a successful writing career is often dashed by an industry that tells us we have little to no chance of ever being successful, and even if we are, we can’t give up our days jobs if we want to survive financially.

I say piffle to that idea!  I refuse to believe that writers are powerless because the writing “hill” is too challenging to navigate.  We have power.  We just don’t always recognize or own our power.  Amanda Hocking is a prime example of an unknown writer who became highly successful on her own through self-publishing thanks to visionaries like Smashwords founder, Mark Coker.  Coker created a platform (www.Smashwords.com) on which writers can build their careers through self-publishing one book at a time.  According to Wikipedia, Hocking worked a day job and wrote 17 novels in her spare time.  She averaged selling 9000 copies of her self-published e-books per day in 2011, earning $2,000,000 without the help of an agent or a traditional publisher.  The industry came calling after she became successful.

The publishing industry doesn’t have a crystal ball or a magic formula for which writers will or won’t succeed.  I may never wear a bikini, but that’s not why I spin or choose to eat in healthy way.  I do it because I owe it to myself to live an authentic life in a healthy body.  I write because writing is integral to who I am as a person.  Amanda Hocking clearly didn’t buy into the “never-going-to-be-a-success” idea either.  She owned her writing power and created her own opportunity for success by doing something that is within any writer’s power to do.  She stayed in the chair.  And we can do it, too.  Power up our writing legs and stay in the chair.   Even if it’s just for one hour.  We can do anything for an hour.  We can leave negativity, our sense of powerlessness and the notion that success is an élite club for  a select few in our review mirrors, eating our collective dust.