Monday, January 23, 2012

The Free Kindle Experiment

"The Missionary and the Brute" was offered free this weekend through a special Amazon promotion. I agreed to let it roll out there at no charge so that more folks would actually pick up a copy. Prior to that time, it had sold one copy (to me!) and someone borrowed one copy. So a total of two copies had been downloaded. Several people LIKED the book at that point, which was nice. And some more folks had agreed with the keyword tags. Before this weekend, the Kindle version had been ranked as high as 243,000, but had settled back to a 303,000 overall ranking.

Then came the experiment. Thanks to social media - the word got out that the book was being offered for free and folks started organically downloading it. It rose steadily in the ranks settling in at a high of #21 for free Literary Fiction. Way cool! Over 400 people ended up downloading it, which is great! It even got a few more LIKES and one 5star rating/review! Woohoo!

Then the experiment ended.

It is now selling again at its normal $2.99 price. Not exorbitant for an ebook - pretty standard. The LIKES and review are of course still there - but the overall ranking now - is #373,000. Lower than before... sigh.

If I think of that number as indicative of anything to do with the experiment it is disappointing, but to look at it rationally - that is approximately where it would have been had the weekend never happened. So what then did I learn - what successes were had from this?

The main one, I believe is that now 400+ people now have my book in their hands/Kindles... Hopefully some will actually read it. Of those readers, some will enjoy it. If they enjoy it, they may be compelled to share their appreciation with their friends via word of mouth, and others may be so smitten by it to actually write reviews, rate it, like it or even buy paperback copies. It is easy to see the 400+downloads as being a loss of about $1200 of sales, but it is of course not that simple. It is impossible to state without deeper metrics how many of those would've purchased anyway. Some. Of course. But certainly not all. So the loss is not quite so great as it seems.

I look at the $1200 as an investment in marketing. Had I spent that on an advertisement or other marketing endeavor, I'd have been okay with that - especially as it is only a perceived expenditure and that $1200 never came from any real pocket.

Mostly I'm hoping those folks will read it. Writers write in the silent recesses of their own lives, but they need readers to validate that writerly existence. 400 readers, free or not, is a wonderful thing...


Noah Mullette-Gillman said...

To think of yourself as having lost $1200 would be the same mistake the music and movie industries make. No, you were not about to get that money. What you now have is free advertising. Next you need to write some more books, keep your work visible, and concentrate on the art above the sales. I have to believe that in the long term, as reviews do come in, if your work is good it will begin to get noticed.

Noah K. Mullette-Gillman

Anonymous said...

The experiment is just the beginning.

Anonymous said...

same thing happened to me. Lots of free downloads, purchases and then...the inevitable (I guess) fall off.