Marissa recently blogged about the Free Bandwagon and posed some questions. I have a few answers based on my own experience. I put two indie eBooks in the Kindle Publishing Select Program (go to KDP's website to read details).
Like any business decision I gave it some thought. The books I chose weren't selling very many copies on ANY site. So going exclusive on Amazon for a limited time meant not giving up money. I wouldn't do this for books selling sell (25+ books per day, but you can come up with your own definition of "selling well"). So how well did it work? In about six hours on the first day of being free Best Enemies (A Willa Crown Mystery) went from a ranking of over 200,000 to around 450. About 3,000 copies were downloaded. The book also stayed on the free top 10 "women sleuths" list on Amazon for 4 days.
My take away: free works better if you have a series or the same type of books (genre, sub-genre) that readers can come back to buy immediately. I didn't have a series as part of my backlist, and I have to write the next in the Willa Crown series. Other writers who have connected books with on-going characters report seeing a lot of sales spill over. A lot. For genre writers free works. Well IMHO anyway. I'll be using this tool in the future, but maybe in different ways. I will have a second in a series, a paranormal thriller called Between Dusk and Dawn, finished soon. I'm debating on reducing the price of A Darker Shade of Midnight rather than making it exclusive. Then I'll compare the results and decide on putting one or both in the KP Select program.
Finally I'd like to give my .02 on another topic. What I call the "Blockbuster Syndrome" has some influence over us indie writers. By that I mean suddenly folks are comparing numbers and rankings, Twitter followers and Facebook "likes" like crazy. Most of the feeling of writers can be summed in, "I want blockbuster success, and I want it now". Which leads to the, "What's wrong with me? Syndrome" or WWWMS?. Symptoms develop like this: Writer A announces she's sold 1,500 books in one day. Writers B-G feel like gum under the shoe of indie publishing. There are books written on not comparing yourself to others, blah-blah-blah. Y'all know I'm a clinical social worker and can talk a blue streak about self-worth issues. Bottom line - write, stop watching numbers daily, and write some more.
Traditional publishers make lots of profit because they have a lot of books out. They can't depend on blockbusters because editors and publishers get it wrong, a lot. They pay through the nose expecting a huge seller, and flop. They reject a book, said book finally gets published somehow and mega-blockbuster history gets made. You need more books (your product) so readers who like your stories can buy them. Not more tweets, likes, tags and whatever else new comes down the social media pike. I'm not selling huge numbers, but I'm selling. To readers. Not spending time mailing off manuscripts or queries. I'm writing books that people are BUYING.
Which brings me back to readers. A recent survey shows that 49% of readers choose books based on recommendations- not tweets, FB liks, etc. Word of mouth is king. Getting your books into the hands of people who talk about them to friends is a huge accomplishment (why I like my results with KDP Select).
Now I'm going to finish writing Between Dusk and Dawn, a story with a sexy heroine and hero who solves crimes and kill off a rougarou or two with the help of a serial killer called The Blood River Ripper. Yes, Louisiana has a Blood River. I made up the serial killer. You can get to know LaShaun Rousselle and Chase Broussard now in A Darker Shade of Midnight.
If that is too dark for you, enjoy my Willa Crown mystery Best Enemies. A cozy with action, drama and a lot of fun. Oh, and murder. Did I mention the stripper and missing drug money? And how Willa inherits her murdered ex-husband's pregnant mistress, who decides to become Willa's new best friend? Yeah. A lot less dark.