Griffin's Daughter, the first in her romantic fantasy trilogy, was named the 2008 Ben Franklin Award Winner for Best First Fiction by the Independent Book Publishers Association.
You Gotta Give ‘Em a Free Taste
Those of us who’ve achieved the difficult task of getting our words into print, whether it be through traditional publishing or the brave new world of e-publishing, know that just because you have a book out there doesn’t mean people will read it. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to market a book and almost all of that work is now expected to be done by the author.
My first novel Griffin’s Daughter was originally published in 2007. It won a prestigious award and garnered favorable reviews from a well-known industry journal. To help market the book, I did everything recommended to build an effective platform. I had a website, a Facebook page, I submitted review requests to all the well-known fantasy review sites, I joined my local writers group to gain access to venues where I could sell my book. What I couldn’t do was hire a publicist or commission a book trailer, both of which were beyond my finances.
Despite all my efforts, the great reviews and the award, I simply couldn’t get any traction. No major review site would read the book and I couldn’t get it into Barnes and Noble and the now defunct Borders; in short, it and the two sequels languished in obscurity, and my dream of supporting myself with my writing seemed unachievable.
My current publisher, who picked up all three books when my original publisher went belly up in 2009, tried several strategies to get people interested. Nothing worked, until, out of desperation, they offered the first book in the series for free.
It seems that human nature is such that we all want to sample something for nothing. A little taste, as it were, before committing to the entire dish. It’s a time-honored marketing strategy and, like it or not, it works. The first two months Griffin’s Daughter was offered for free, over 40,000 people downloaded it. A significant number of those people have since downloaded the other two books, and paid for them! The series is now a success, but my satisfaction is, to be honest, a little bittersweet. I can’t help but think of all the royalties I’ve lost by giving away my first book, but on the other hand, I wasn’t making anything to speak of on any of the series before.
The saying ‘You have to give some to get some’ couldn’t have proven more true in the case of my books. A lot of authors have had to do the same in order to get traction. Giving away one’s work is not the ideal strategy, however, and if the book you are considering giving away is your sole title, then it only makes sense to do so as part of a long-term plan to build a fan base. The N.Y. Times bestselling science fiction author Scott Sigler is a perfect example. He gave away his books for several years, but it garnered him a sizable audience, which in turn brought him to the attention of a major publisher. When his books were released by this big house, he had a fan base in place ready and willing to pay for his works. I’ll bet Mr. Sigler feels all those giveaways were worth far more than any lost royalties.
When my next novel is published, it will be the first of a new series. I sincerely hope all those readers who were coaxed by the gift of a free book to give my work a chance will be ready and willing to part with their hard-earned money to read this new effort. Maybe then I can finally achieve my goal of becoming a full-time writer.