Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On going free

Well, they always say that the most powerful word in marketing is "Free," so I decided to try out the strategy of going free on Amazon with my newest novel, Sweet Ophelia.  So far the results have been interesting, so I thought I'd share them here.

One thing about going free on Amazon is that they don't make it easy.  Publishers are allowed to post books for free, but independent authors like myself are not.  We are required to list our price at a minimum of .99 cents (or roughly.71 pence in the UK).  We also must agree that we will not price our books cheaper anywhere else, so that Amazon has the cheapest available price.  But, if we break this agreement and post our books cheaper someplace else, Amazon has the right to price match.  Is this confusing enough yet?

The bottom line is that if you post your book for free on some other sites, then Amazon may or may not match it and post it for free as well.  You can help your case by having friends click on a link to report a cheaper price to Amazon.  And then you have to cross your fingers and wait...

So now you might ask, why would I be so eager to give my work away for free?  Well, I will use the example of another independent writer to illustrate.  Like me, this other writer came out with a book in early August.  Like me, she was selling about 1 copy per week.  Then she put had her book listed for free on Amazon for the first ten days or so of the month.  She gave away 25,000 downloads during those ten days.

What happens in this case is that the book climbs the rankings of free books and starts to show up on various Amazon bestseller lists.  Once it is on these lists, you can put a price back on it, and with some luck it will now show up on the paid bestseller lists.  The author in my example sold 1,500 books in the two weeks after she put a price back on it.  Better than one sale per week...

So I'm hoping for a bit of the same kind of luck here.  Five days ago, my book went free on Amazon UK, and I've had about 7,000 downloads over there since.  This morning my book went free on Amazon and so far I'm averaging 500+ downloads per hour in the U.S.  Not too shabby.  Even if I don't get any sales boost out of it, I'd rather have people reading (and hopefully enjoying) my book than simply have it die in obscurity.

So there you have it so far.  The book has gone from #35,000 to #56 on the free bestseller list in just five hours.  I figure I'll keep it free until the end of the week and then see what happens.  Of course, you can't just switch the price back.  You have to switch it back on the other sites and then wait for Amazon to match it again, but for the time being, let it roll!  If anyone out there wants to pick up a Kindle copy, now would be a good time. :-)


  1. This is a really interesting experiment, which I'm watching with bated breath. They say luck favours the brave!

  2. Ha, yes, well now I just have to decide how LONG to leave it free. A few days? A week? A few weeks? I'm leaning toward a few days, but we'll see. BTW, I opted out of Kobo on Smashwords because I knew that would slow things down once I decide to put a price back on... Sony, too.