Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Too much free milk?

I belong to multiple erotic romance/erotica author groups, and in almost all of them, the self-published writers are singing the same blues.  The lyrics go something like "how do I engage more readers?  How and where do I promote my work?  Where can I find demographic data?  Why isn't anyone buying my book and if they are, why aren't they posting reviews?"

Most of us have read the how-to books, the online articles and the forum boards all giving recommendations (and often unrealistic promises) on how we can be successful indie smut writers.  My goal with this blog is to explore those strategies and theories and report on my experiences with them.  I would love for other authors to chime in.  The more, the merrier or misery loves company - whatever your prevailing mood happens to be

Today I want to talk about the free book strategy.  I've read that a few years ago, this seemed to work, and there are many resources out there still listing it as viable.  You enroll your ebook in Kindle Select and offer it for free for a limited time.  The philosophy is that you will be introduced to new readers who would then be more likely to purchase your other works.  Multiple sources now state that Amazon's ranking methodology was different previously, and free books had a more significant impact on rankings. Currently, authors are reporting that the effectiveness of the free book is greatly diminished and are advising to consider utilizing it very thoughtfully.  It seems to still work somewhat in the case of serialized works.  Give away Book 1 in your series and hope that it compels the reader to buy Book 2. 

As I began working on a novel last year, I became increasingly anxious to learn more about the publishing phase.  I wanted to get a feel for the self-publishing process before finishing my longer work, and using a few short stories seemed like a good hands-on way to accomlish that.  I offered one for free for five consecutive days, and it was downloaded by 80 readers. Not a huge number but a start, right?  It translated into only a handful of sales for the other two stories.  This could be for a variety of reasons.  I may be a terrible writer and blind to my incompetence.  My freebie story was the poorest of the three (that I believe to be true).  My story lines fall outside the trends of what is currently popular in the genre.

I have one more theory.  Pull out your eReader right now and search for "free erotica."  I did this yesterday and today and both times received over 8K results  If you're an erotica reader, you never have to buy a book again at this rate, unless there's a title or author you specifically want.  It reminds me a bit of Napster, but in this case, we the authors are the ones giving it away while readers become more and more accustomed to not buying.Don't get me wrong; I'm a generous person and I love to give gifts including books but I feel this tactic is backfiring on us more often than it benefits us.

I do not anticipate using the freebie strategy again in the near future.  As I publish new works, I will most likely discount the short stories.  I'm not advocating that the option for freebies be abolished; it's a selling point for Amazon Prime after all, but I think authors should think long and hard about trying it as a strategy for increasing sales.  Why should readers buy the cow..you know the rest.

Next post  Erotica readers could teach the FBI a thing or two about stealth.

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree more, Jordan. I ran a free three day promo last week to announce a "re-publishing" of some older stuff - I got around 65 downloads and one sale (thank you to that Brit). Pretty bleak.

    The free promo I ran last summer got something like 1800 downloads and a number of sales - not hot cakes, but certainly better. So yeah, I think there's FAR too much free product out there. I may get off Amazon after my Select run is over. In terms of sales, Smashwords has done a bit better for me overall.

    My covers do kind of suck right now and I'm sure that's an issue, but I can't afford to update them, unfortunately. Overall, I'm not too miserable, but I'm not thrilled with sales or Amazon Select - I think it's leading a fast race to the bottom, but I don't know how to get off the train (to mix a metaphor)?

    Best wishes - something will change, since it always does! hopefully it will be in the best interest of real writers!
    Cayenne Arcadia