WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Asking for a friend …

Actually, no. I’m asking for myself.

Long-time readers of What The Hell know I’ve been at this now—writing a writing blog about writing and blogging—for almost seven years. In the beginning, I said I’d be describing my experience as a new indie writer/publisher and sharing my thoughts on what it’s like. In fact, somewhere in there I changed the subtitle of the blog to “Kevin Brennan writes about what it’s like.”

So here’s a new dilemma, and I’m hoping that other indies out there know what to do.

I have seven books available on Amazon in ebook editions. Two of them, Our Children Are Not Our Children and In No Particular Order, are always free, and the others currently cost $2.99. The problem is, the only books that ever move are the free ones.

For example, over the last 90 days or so, I’ve given away 77 copies of those two books but I’ve sold just 25 copies of the others. Most of those sales were due to promotions I ran on Eternity Began Tomorrow, my latest novel. There was a fluky six-copy rush on the paperback of Yesterday Road, but that’s never really happened before so I think I can dismiss it in my analysis.

I just wonder, are the freebies actually preventing potential readers from buying the relatively cheap novels? I made them free as a promotional teaser, but people who download them clearly don’t go on to purchase one of the novels. Doesn’t that make this an unsuccessful promotional plan?

I’m thinking of going back to a low price for the two freebies, say, 99 cents, just to see if anybody bites on the others.

What do you think? Anyone out there have good experience with freebies as a gateway drug? Or is it what I think it might be, that people just don’t want to pay for indie books?

Bummer if that’s really true …

[Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay]

33 comments on “Asking for a friend …

  1. islandeditions
    January 13, 2020

    I hope my promotions of you and your writing had something to do with that run on “Yesterday Road”! I loved that book, it may still be my favourite – although I have enjoyed everything you’ve written and published, Kevin! And I know that a number of my friends have read and enjoyed that particular book after I recommended it, and have gone on to recommend it to their friends. I don’t know that I have any suggestions for your above quandary you pose, but I do know that writing and publishing a series of books as you have done over these years was never going to be easy in finding readership. All I can say is that I, and your many other loyal readers, will need to continue to do our best to promote you and all your books. After all, we do want you to keep writing!!!!

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 13, 2020

      The Yesterday Road thing feels like a book club might have landed on it somehow, which would be great. We’ll see if some new reviews come of it.

      One thing I’ve learned these past seven years: Marketing is harder than writing! 🤯

  2. Tim Baker
    January 13, 2020

    I have 13 (or maybe 14) titles on Amazon and they are all set at either $.99 or $2.99. Each time I release a new book it is priced at $2.99 and I then go back and drop another one from $2.99 to $.99. Obviously my strategy isn’t working much better than yours since neither of us are regulars at the yacht club!
    Usually about twice a year I do a give-away where I make a book (usually chosen at random) free for five days. I have found that this promotion boosts my position in the Amazon ranks which in turn leads to a notable increase in sales of the other titles.
    The thing I have come to know is that none of us (indie authors) are going to get rich from book sales…it won’t be until we get that movie or TV series deal that we’ll be able to quit our day jobs – so in the meantime the only thing we can do (as Susan said above) is keep writing.

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 13, 2020

      Thanks for the insights, Tim! I’ve done a little experimentation with pricing over the years, but it does seem like going down to 99 cents doesn’t help unless it’s part of a promo on one of the email lists like EReader News Today. Still, I get the feeling that people might “discover” 99-cent books than $2.99 ones more easily. Maybe they search for “novels under $1” or something …

      But no, this def. isn’t about the money. It’s really about knowing that people are reading and appreciating the books.

  3. kingmidget
    January 13, 2020

    If the free books aren’t attracting more readers to the priced books, what’s the point of making them free. It’s somewhat amazing the free stuff isn’t doing that for you. Who reads a good book by an author and doesn’t go after some of the rest of that author’s works? And, if they read one of your free books, they can see that you’re a good writer, so the indie stigma should be removed and they should be willing to “splurge” and spend $2.99 on something else by you.

    I’d do what other authors have suggested. Rotate free or .99 through your library and see what happens.

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 13, 2020

      I’m as baffled as you about this, Mark. If I read something I like by an author, I want to read more. If the first thing I read is free, I’m happy to pay for the next one.

      The problem I see with making a book free for a limited time is how to get that word out. Twitter is like a book promo swamp now on my feed! 🤨

      • kingmidget
        January 13, 2020

        I think we need to come up with an indie certification site. A way to certify that an indie book is free of typos, reasonably well written, reasonably fits into it’s described genre, etc. and is worth the small amount of money indie authors charge.

      • Kevin Brennan
        January 13, 2020

        Cool concept but a logistical challenge. It’d be like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Or the Oprah sticker on her book club picks.

      • kingmidget
        January 13, 2020

        I agree it would be logistically challenging, and would definitely be a long-term project. And may not make a dent at all with indie-averse readers.

  4. Tim Baker
    January 13, 2020

    There is one other thing to consider – Amazon pays you for each page a reader reads…so even if you give the book away you still get paid for the pages read. However – this may not apply to books with a permanent price of $0…

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 13, 2020

      Hmmm, I thought the payment is for pages read through Kindle Unlimited, not free copies, but I could be wrong. I don’t get many KU pages anyway, but I haven’t noticed any correlation with the two perma-free titles. Interesting.

      • Audrey Driscoll
        January 13, 2020

        The per-page payment is only if your book is in KU, and for that you have to sell exclusively through Amazon (KDP Select). And I don’t think you can have a free book in that.

      • Kevin Brennan
        January 13, 2020

        That was my impression. All my books that aren’t free are in KU, but I have no idea how people find them in book searches. Not a lot of action there.

      • Audrey Driscoll
        January 13, 2020

        KU is the main attractant of KDP Select, as well as the opportunity to do discounts. I tried it for 6 months with tepid results. Of course I don’t run ads, which could explain things. It has occurred to me that it might be a good idea to make one’s regular prices at least 2.99 to create wiggle room for discounts. At 0.99, the only other option is free.

  5. Marie A Bailey
    January 13, 2020

    Interesting question and I look forward to reading more comments about it. As a reader, I’m guilty of downloading freebies and then forgetting to read them! I have a Kindle but whenever possible I read print copies and I have a stockpile of print and e-books waiting in the wings. The thing with Kindle is: unless I was to read from it every day (which I obviously don’t), I can easily forget what I bought. Print books, on the other hands, are physical objects that at least have to be moved from the couch to the bedside and back again so I’m less likely to forget about those 😉 Hope this makes sense. I’m just thinking some readers might “collect” free e-books and then never get around to reading them. Kind of like hoarding.

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 13, 2020

      I do think people download and forget. I gave away more than 3000 copies of Occasional Soulmates in one promo and got no bump in reviews from it. These must be impulse downloads, and you’re right: If there’s no physical book to remind you to read it … poof!

      I also think genre has something to do with my own situation. Let’s face it, most indie books aren’t lit fic. 😬

      • Marie A Bailey
        January 15, 2020

        3000 copies of Occasional Soulmates! Oh, that’s ridiculous … but I remember this was a big discussion back when I first started writing my blog. What is the value of giving one’s hard work away for free, even if just a limited time? Whose idea was that anyway … Amazon??

      • Kevin Brennan
        January 15, 2020

        At this point, it looks like there’s no value at all. If reviews came of it, that’d be one thing, but it seems like the copies just go *poof*.

  6. David Royall
    January 13, 2020

    *Brainstorming*
    Choose one, or more, of your books and create a TED TALK type presentation around it/them. Go on a speaking tour with your “Talk”. Start locally, then spiral out across the state and country. Raise your prices so people understand they are getting quality art. Rarely offer free stuff.
    *End of the Brainstorm*

    I’m not a writer, per se, but I know what would attract me to a new author. I have purchased many books because I heard the author speak and liked his/her presentation.

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 13, 2020

      Could work for some authors, but finding the right venues for this sort of thing might be tough. Most bookstores aren’t that into indie authors. Could get expensive too, with a bad cost/benefit ratio.

      Appreciate the comment, though, David!

      • David Royall
        January 13, 2020

        I’m not familiar with your part of the universe. If I were to start a speaking tour here, I would make friends with local cafe, diner, bar and grille owners. I’d invite my friends and advertise on local social media to attract a crowd on the business’s slow night.

        Tim Baker, does something similar in Florida, but he doesn’t control the meeting, so he only has seven or eight minutes to present his talk. Even with that short amount of time, he has sold several books as result. It costs him nothing. But I’ll let Tim speak for himself on that matter.

      • TamrahJo
        January 13, 2020

        Our local library district and many other libraries here in the state, are eager to have in ‘local authors’ for presentations/talks – two authors showed up and didn’t have enough books with them to meet the purchase requests of the attendees (although our events are small – 30-40 people, tops – ) Also, some of the most ‘successful’ sales were made by authors, in a genre, that were invited as a local author/guest speaker for a book club or other regular meeting group – the local library/programming director and/or the contact person for groups that meet there, that are in the ‘genre/niche’ topic of whatever book you are promoting are great people to contact/get to know – I know for libraries, having an engaging speaker, or guest to add to their line-up is a boon, and they don’t charge you anything but your time to show up for the event – they help to get the word out AND through speaking to a group already ‘into’ whatever topic, genre you are promoting – you are talking to an interested crowd, already – rather than ‘cold-calling’ if you will – :). One murder mystery author sold one each of his three titles to every book club member that day – except for two – because he ran out of books – and there were only 6 members who made it in that wintry, cold day – he drove 2 hours round trip, got served coffee and refreshments, visited about his process, his characters, his book and sold 18 copies – only 2 of which he had to pay postage on/mail later – not a killing, but still, for me, seems more doable/enjoyable than fighting the algorithms or continually trying to figure out how best to market in ever changing cyber world –

    • Tim Baker
      January 13, 2020

      David is right about the open mic night here in Flagler…the only expense is the cost of admission ($10) which is nothing compared to the recognition and publicity I’ve achieved.

      • Kevin Brennan
        January 13, 2020

        Sounds like it’s worth hunting for something like that …

  7. Audrey Driscoll
    January 13, 2020

    I’m starting to think free or even 0.99 as an enticement to readers doesn’t work any more, even if it ever did. But freebies certainly do attract attention. To wit: in the recent sale at Smashwords, I made all my books half price, meaning $1.50 to $4.00 In six days there was one sale (of the $4 item, happily). I changed them all to free for the final 36 hours of the sale. Sixty were picked up. Maybe some of them will actually be read, although internet wisdom says otherwise. I myself do read and even review free ebooks. I think Marie is onto something when she says it’s easy to forget one has some ebooks on one’s reader. If you go into a downloading frenzy during a sale, it’s all a blur until and unless you revisit your device and see what you caught. When you fork out ten or fifteen dollars for a bestseller, though, you generally get to reading it pretty soon. And seeing the printed copy sitting on your bedside table is a constant reminder.
    My somewhat pessimistic conclusion is that with the ever growing number of books out there, it’s going to get harder and more expensive to be noticed. Those of us who are lucky enough to have an income other than from writing should be grateful and continue to write if it makes us happy regardless of sales. I have no advice at all for writers who are just starting out and actually want to make a living from writing.

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 13, 2020

      Totally agree with you and Marie on this. Free ebooks are impulse grabs, you have to think. And sometimes, I admit, I’ll grab one just to help an author get a better ranking during a promo. Sometimes I read it, sometimes I forget it’s there. But it really does feel like perma-free as a way to get readers interested in paid-for books isn’t working these days.

      On to the next strategy, eh?

  8. islandeditions
    January 13, 2020

    Or … and further to David’s brainstorming above, we could create the online literary salon I’ve always dreamed of doing and develop a series of podcasts of authors reading their work, being interviewed, and answering a few readers’ questions all while being videoed in the comfort of their own homes. Which is where the audience would be, in their own homes, and worldwide at that! I’ve wanted to explore doing this via Skype, so that I (or someone else) could act as host, introduce the author, and conduct the interview. No expense, no inconvenient and expensive travel, and no embarrassment if a big crowd dosn’t show up the first time the podcast is run. That podcast will always be available too for whenever anyone wants to watch it. This is something I’ve really been thinking about a lot (can you tell?) and I believe it would work to get the word out there for authors and their books. I just need someone to help me with the technical aspects and computer stuff.

    • islandeditions
      January 13, 2020

      And furthermore! Book sales could be tied into these podcasts with a permanent link on the podcast site to the author’s website or whatever they want to list.

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 13, 2020

      Great idea. I always thought that author appearances at book club meetings could be done via Skype, so this is an expansion of that.

      • TamrahJo
        January 13, 2020

        I had hopes of setting up such a thing at the one book club I was part of/started at the library – however, our rural tech, infrastructure, at the time, didn’t make it possible – however, I did see older book club members go from ‘I’ve never heard of that author – -oh….self published? nope” responses to my shares of authors (King Midget’s “Weed Therapy/One Night in Bridgeport”) in 2016(?) up to bringing in their list of ‘want to reads’ that included a handful of titles that were self-published, only available in digital format and not on library radars yet for digital catalog and I was unable to ‘get it’ in for them – (2018-2019) – so the ‘tide’ is changing regarding self-published, indie and general awareness market and after reading all the ideas/alternative options, here, believe it will only get better as time goes and the indie world turns to their own ideas for promoting/getting the word out – :). Such a great comments feed full of robust and creative ideas!

      • islandeditions
        January 14, 2020

        We tried to do Skype-outs-and-ins at a couple of literary salons I organized when still in Calgary. They worked, but were limited to an audience of one the first time, and a contributor-to-the-discussion of one the second time. Everyone liked the idea though of participating remotely. We just didn’t have the technology then to be able to do it effectively.

Chime in

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on January 13, 2020 by in Publishing and tagged , , , , , , .
%d bloggers like this: