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I've noticed ever since Kindle publishing was brought into my life, that there have been mentionings of authors giving their book away for free on Kindle. I'm trying to get my head around this, so bear with me. Is the philosophy that if you give your book away for free first, it will jump (due to the interest of people downloading it B/C it's free) up in the listing rank to an attractive spot where you can then charge say $0.99 and the as the process increase charge $2.99 and so on...?Just wondering, or is it just to get the author's name out there to help promote another book they had written?
 

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If I understand it correctly, the hope is that a free book will rise high in the "free" rankings, and when you get Amazon to switch it back to "paid," it will remain high in those rankings as well.  This gives your book a lot of exposure (and paid sales) it wouldn't otherwise have.  Of course, it doesn't always work out this way, and it isn't as simple as it sounds, but I think that's the goal for most folks.

A free book also helps you get general exposure to readers, and may help sales of your other books.
 

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The idea is that if you give a book away free, then they will start reading your other books.  

I gave away a couple of my short stories on Smashwords for a while and had a lot of downloads.  Amazon doesn't allow you to give books away unless it is one of their promotions.  I don't know if it helped me although I asked them at the end of the short story to look at my novels on Amazon.

Of course, that could work against an author.  I read a couple chapters of a free Amazon novel the other day.  I thought the storyline was just dumb and wasn't impressed.  My wife read farther than I did and then dropped it since she said it wasn't that good. Neither of us would consider reading any of his other books.
 

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As far as I can see, when you switch a free book from free to paid it doesn't hold onto those rankings.  That was my experience when a free short story was switched back to paid on Amazon.co.uk.

The idea is usually to get readers to read one of your books and then hopefully buy the rest.  I think it can take time for that to happen as people tend to hoover up free books and then may or may not actually read them.

Mike
 

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As far as I can see, when you switch a free book from free to paid it doesn't hold onto those rankings.
I'm not sure how it works, but Mary McDonald was in the paid top 100 for a month after her book was free. Maybe it's an exposure thing, but going free for a while can definitely help sell books.

The idea is that if you give a book away free, then they will start reading your other books.

I gave away a couple of my short stories on Smashwords for a while and had a lot of downloads. Amazon doesn't allow you to give books away unless it is one of their promotions. I don't know if it helped me although I asked them at the end of the short story to look at my novels on Amazon.
I have a book on Smash for free. About 950 copies given away so far. Meanwhile, my other book over there has sold a big three copies. I'm not sure it's doing me a lot of good, saleswise. ;D

Amazon will sometimes price match your book if it's offered for free elsewhere. But it's not a guarantee. Amazon does what Amazon wants to do. :)
 

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In my case, the effect of having a free book has been stunning.

These are my sales for June. At that point, it was my best overall sales month since starting publishing on Amazon back in November of 2010.

Amulet ($0.99) - 18 copies sold
Amulet 2 ($2.99) - 3 copies sold
Paranomal Erotica ($0.99) - 129 copies sold
Sex Zombies ($0.99) - 59 copies sold
Thrillers ($0.99) - 6 copies sold

Then, on July 7th, my book, Amulet, was price-matched to free.  Up until that point, Amulet had sold three copies for the month, right around its usual pace. Once it went free, however, it immediately skyrocketed in both sales and rankings. Within a day it was in the 20s in the Top 100 free books on Amazon, and the #1 position on the free Erotica listings. Since then it's bounced around the #1, #2, and #3 positions on that chart.

So how did it affect my other sales?  Here are my current numbers for July, with a few days to go:

Amulet ($0.00) - 30,838 copies downloaded
Amulet 2 ($2.99) - 377 copies sold
Paranomal Erotica ($0.99) - 246 copies sold
Sex Zombies ($0.99) - 91 copies sold
Thrillers ($0.99) - 38 copies sold

The largest increase in sales is for Amulet 2, the sequel to the free book. But being my only book at $2.99, the profit is six times greater than the other books.  Its sales started slow after the original went free, but have picked up as the month went on, and now it's averaging about 25 sales a day.  It's consistently been in the Top 100 erotica categories, and in the #3000/#4000 range in the Kindle Store.

Another benefit has come in the form of reviews. Before Amulet went free, neither it nor Amulet 2 had any. Now Amulet has 16 and Amulet 2 has two, most of them positive.

As for what happens when the book is no longer free, I'm not sure.  I'll probably try it at $2.99 and see how it goes.

So, I would say the largest benefit is from the sales of your other books.  But it's important that your free book be a quality representation of your work, not just a throw-away.

 

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EllenFisher said:
I have a book on Smash for free. About 950 copies given away so far. Meanwhile, my other book over there has sold a big three copies. I'm not sure it's doing me a lot of good, saleswise. ;D
I would like to comment on this as a reader Ellen. I will download freebies from Smashwords once in a blue moon, but I won't BUY from there. I'll PAY for books via Amazon. Simply because if I am going to PAY for the book I want it in my archives, not somewhere on a computer hard drive...
 

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I can understand that, BTackitt.  And honestly, I'm putting my books up on Smash more so people can buy them on other platforms, where I think they will have more success. It's just taking a while to get them to the point where they'll be distributed.  In any event, I'm very new to the freebie game, and wouldn't suggest anyone should be influenced by my experience so far. :)
 

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My short story (which takes place in the same world as my children's novel, Scourge) went free last night. At the end of that short story is the first chapter of Scourge. What I'm hoping for is that it will help boost sales of the paid one. It's middle-grade fiction, so it may not do as well as I hope, but it's worth a shot.
 

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If you want to put it as a free one on Smashwords, you don't actually have to get through all their difficult system checks, just the first level, which is easy. 

It will still be available for download immediately.

I unpublished both of my free short stories on Smashwords since I combined them into a small collection on Amazon.  I have actually sold a couple of the short story collection since then.
 

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I give away 5 free short stories so that readers can sample my style of writing (odd and demented *grin*)  A lot of people love them and quite a few absolutely hate them.  That's all okay.  The ones that love or like them are usually willing to pay 99 cents to try my first novel.  If they like that, they're likely willing to pay $2.99 for the other two.

Basically, Giving away short stories is an excellent form of advertising.  I would say 85% of the sales of my novels are from people who read my shorts.

It's also very similar to what sci-fi and fantasy writers did back in the golden age of pulp magazines.  They wrote short stories and sold them for pennies to the magazines.  Once they got noticed enough and gained a following, publishers would pick up their books and publish them as well.  It's a proven method that worked once and can be effective in this Indie explosion too.
 

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I've given most of my books away for free at one time or another, all via Smashwords.  At the time, it was really exciting just to share my work and know that SOMEONE, somewhere, was reading them after years of rejection and being told that X book would never sell.  It also got my rankings up at Barnes and Noble, since you get to keep your ranking once you start charging.

I've never had a free book on Amazon, but I can see how, if Daughter of Time went free, then it should boost the sales of the other two books in the series.  That's why it's only 99 cents in the first place.
 

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I put up a free short story that ties into my fantasy series. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/43187 The hope is that once they read it, readers will want to read more about these characters. So far this tactic has worked when I've given out copies of it that I printed up like a pamphlet. (It's only 7 pages long so no big printing deal).

Hope I get the same results with sw.
 

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swolf said:
Amulet ($0.00) - 30,838 copies downloaded
Amulet 2 ($2.99) - 377 copies sold
If this is the case, it would shatter the conceptions that X number of people buy the second in a series. Of course, this doesn't represent the entire book world, but, for your series here, you're seeing less than 1% buys on the second book with the free promotion against the number of free downloads.

But, 377 is alot more than 3, too. Maybe it's just hard for everyone to push books in July. I am not alone.
 

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BrianKittrell said:
If this is the case, it would shatter the conceptions that X number of people buy the second in a series.
Not really. It just depends on what you think X should be.

The real ratio would be how many people actually got around to reading the first, compared to how many bought the second. I'm under no delusions that all 30,000 people read the book in the two weeks it's been free. I'd bet only a small percentage of them have. I'm hoping this pays off in the future as more get around to it.

BrianKittrell said:
But, 377 is alot more than 3, too. Maybe it's just hard for everyone to push books in July. I am not alone.
If you look at my numbers compared to June, I'm having no problem with July. I'll be real happy if my August numbers come close to July's.
 

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swolf said:
Not really. It just depends on what you think X should be.

The real ratio would be how many people actually got around to reading the first, compared to how many bought the second. I'm under no delusions that all 30,000 people read the book in the two weeks it's been free. I'd bet only a small percentage of them have. I'm hoping this pays off in the future as more get around to it.

If you look at my numbers compared to June, I'm having no problem with July. I'll be real happy if my August numbers come close to July's.
Very true, and I'd forgotten to consider that into the mix. I know I've gotten several free books (especially many KB author free ones), and I haven't gotten around to finishing most (or even really starting on most yet).

At least some of them are finishing yours and proceeding on, obviously.
 

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swolf,
Thanks for sharing your data. As an analytical type, I love to see stuff like that. I posed an analytical question this morning to David, who just had a book go free...asking him for future data. From what I see in your case, the free book exposure is definitely enhancing sales of your other titles. Pretty conclusive. This is something to consider for an author with multiple books. I agree with your statement about the quality...a few others have mentioned it as well. Make sure your free book is a good one! Thanks again.
 

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jwholmes2011 said:
I've noticed ever since Kindle publishing was brought into my life, that there have been mentionings of authors giving their book away for free on Kindle. I'm trying to get my head around this, so bear with me. Is the philosophy that if you give your book away for free first, it will jump (due to the interest of people downloading it B/C it's free) up in the listing rank to an attractive spot where you can then charge say $0.99 and the as the process increase charge $2.99 and so on...?Just wondering, or is it just to get the author's name out there to help promote another book they had written?
Well, first, one can't make their own book "free" in KDP.

There are ways to induce it, by gaming the system, but there's not a Free option in KDP price setting.

But yeah, the underlying principle is this:

Find a way to get the book free and hope you move a lot of units. Once a book rises to a certain level in the rankings, Amazon's algorithms kick in and start marketing that "hot title" more aggressively.

The idea is that once that happens, you can then make the book a paid title and benefit a bit from the boost, and not lose momentum.

The idea behind it all is this: many of us are not household names. We have not been traditionally published. No one knows us.

So... no one's going to buy us because next to James Patterson or Stephen King, guess who has more appeal? The name they know.

But a free book? People will try just about anything for free. And then, those who try you for free know who you are. They tell their friends. Your audience grows. When the book becomes paid, or your next book is released and it's paid, you have a core group of readers for that title because you have a base audience now and you didn't before.
 

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The free thing worked out really well for me. I'd been selling about 10-15/day of NGD at 99 cents. The second book in the series, March Into Hell, is $2.99 and was selling about 3-4/day. The very first day NGD went free, it had over 9,000 downloads, and MIH sold 20 copies. The next day, it sold about 60, and in the days that followed, as NGD continued to be downloaded (totaled 45,000 in a week), MIH continued to sell. Then NGD went back to being paid, and it hit #15 on the Amazon Bestseller list. In a 30 period, it sold about 2,000 copies. (never quite sure as it went back to paid at midnight and I was sleeping)

Meanwhile, there were several days in a row where MIH sold over 200 copies, and NGD over a 1,000.

In June, I sold 5,000 copies of MIH, and 18,000 of NGD. So, yeah. I guess you could say it worked for me.  ;D

Of course, it has died down a lot, and NGD went free again (it wasn't my intention to get it free in Amazon, but I wanted it free at B&N--it didn't work out nearly as well there or at Amazon when they matched. I still had 9,000 downloads though). NGD has only been paid about 9 days so far this month, but I've sold over 1,000 and am averaging 61/day of MIH. I can live with that, especially because I'm working on the third book in the series.
 
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