Last week, our eBook retailer, Pronoun, surprised us all when they doubled our author royalties, released the long-awaited Author Pages, and opened the door to Free eBooks. I had always wanted to offer something to my readers for free, but previously Pronoun’s lowest price had been $0.99. This, as you can imagine, was big news for Frankie and me.
Almost immediately, I dropped the price to FREE on my fresh publication, A SHINY FOR TRICK. Then I flung it to the masses and more or less forgot about it.
Today I checked my email. Pronoun has been sending me updates on how my sales have been. Since I dropped the price to free, I’ve sold 29 copies. Granted, I’ve not turned a profit on any of these books, but 29 is about as many digital copies that I’ve sold of THE BLOOD OF NERYS.
I had hoped this would happen. I am so glad that it did.
I turned to my roommate this morning and told him about my discovery. We discussed something he had heard somewhere about marketing. That it’s best to have one free product, one cheap product, and a lot of your real product.
(Note: The prices I’ve listed here refer to eBooks only. Printing incurs the cost of paper and ink, so print copies naturally cost more. I won’t be covering print with this blog post.)
Free Books as a Marketing Tool
Most people will pull the trigger on a free book without so much as a second thought. They might never read it, but they CAN, and that’s all that matters at the moment of purchase. Offering something for free seems counter-intuitive. After all, at this point you’ve spent hundreds of hours on the thing and likely had to pay for editing, cover design, or other services.
The important point to keep in mind though is that almost anyone will pick up a free book if they are even slightly interested in it. With your free book, you are casting a net far and wide, hoping some of the readers you reach stick around.
Your free book should be, in my opinion:
- Short (mine is 17K, about 58 pages)
- In your primary genre
- Readable by everyone you ever hope to reach with any book (kids? Adults? Both?)
This is the appetizer. At this point, anyone who took the time to read your free book should know what to expect from your writing. Plus, they’ll be done with the free book quickly, and hopefully want to read something else.
That’s when you bait them again with the cheap product.
Cheap Books Are Your Chance to Prove Yourself
Now, give them a real novel. In my opinion, your cheap book should be:
- Between $2-5
- A standalone novel
- In your primary genre
- Directed at your primary audience
- A good example of what you’ll typically write about
You might want to have 2-3 of these directed at different audiences. If you’re planning on writing books for both adults and young adults, you would probably want one of each. If you have to choose one, choose Young Adult (YA). A lot of adults enjoy these.
But start with one, and then move on to your Real Product.
The cheap book should be a singular example of what you’re about here. Develop a full story, hook and hold a reader, give a satisfying conclusion. They should read this thing and want to read more books.
Alright. Give ’em Everything You’ve Got.
Time for the real thing. Your crowning achievement. That beloved world you’ve been dying to write that you plan to spend a lot of time exploring. This should be where you put your series.
In my opinion, your real story should be:
- Between $4-10
- A series in your primary genre
- Directed at your primary audience
- About whatever your heart desires
You might have more of these later. This is what you’d mainly be writing from now on. Keep working on major standalones or major series directed at any of your audiences in the genres you will write. Basically, you’d want to write a free book, then a cheap book, then a real product, and then spend the rest of your career rounding out your listings.
How This Looks for Me
- My Free Book is A SHINY FOR TRICK. It’s directed at all audiences and reads like a grim (not Grimm) fairy tale. It’s mostly lighthearted at the surface, but it does dabble in some darker themes like obsession and starvation. It’s 17K and written for a younger audience, but to adults it might feel like a Pixar short. Rather adorable and entertaining. It’s pure fantasy–magical creatures, other worlds, magical boxes and magical treasures.
- My Cheap Book is THE BLOOD OF NERYS priced at $3.99. This was actually my first book. It’s definitely for an adult audience. It has a little gore and a lot of swearing. The setting is dystopian with a blurry sense of setting (this is intentional. Whether or not this is our world gone awry or another world is entirely up to your imagination. Either works). It deals with large philosophical concepts like God, magic, and science. It’s medical science fiction with a twist of fantasy, with blood as a main component, and finished in one book.
- My Real Product is ACHILLEA and the books that will follow. This is not published yet, but will be a trilogy, and then a later trilogy, and then some. I will be spending a lot of time in this world. I have built a familiar sense of place and person. I know these characters as well as I know real people, and I love them dearly. ACHILLEA was the first book I ever finished, and I’ve poured countless hours into refining it to make it perfect. This is an adult epic fantasy, rife with powerful female characters, espionage, and turmoil. ACHILLEA sits at 137K. The second book is in progress and currently at about 38K. (My foolish writer brain thinks writing book 4, the first of the second series in this world, is somehow a great idea, so that’s sitting at about 8K, too).I cannot wait for all of you to meet these characters. They’ve been with me a long time. Heike, Achillea’s surly captain, is my belligerent muse.
I hope you found this information helpful. If you enjoy the work Frankie and I do on this blog, the best way you can support us is to share the posts and share our books. Even if they aren’t your thing, but you believe in what we’re doing here, sharing them with someone who might is a huge help. As with any new author, exposure is always the biggest challenge. (And reviews!)
Thanks everybody! Have a great weekend!
S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print) and short fantasy A SHINY FOR TRICK (forever free for your entertainment!).
Check out the #WriteTip category for more writing advice and tools from Frankie and Sam!
Check out my new promo image!!!
In this video, I talk about the things I’m doing to try to get my book out there, and a few other things life-related. Also, I might talk about a new book project!!!
43,817. The number of words I have so far cut. I’m thinking about logging these. Some day I’m going to look back over my theoretical publishing career and mourn the loss of the hundreds of thousands of words that no one will ever get to read. Maybe each year I’ll celebrate them alone and with booze. “Cheers to the words that were too purple for my prose.”
(For those of you who don’t know… ‘purple prose’ is a term for language that is considered overly complex, wordy, and unnecessarily flowery to tell the story. I am constantly guilty of this. I am also not ashamed of it. I wish publishers liked it more. A story that is cousins with poetry appeals to me).
One thing I wanted to add after I had already filmed the video:
Everything you say on the Internet is permanent. As writers, our reputations are all we have. I worry that someday I will ruin mine when I’m upset. A lot of people do. The one thing all of us will have in common is rejection, both by agents/publishers and our readers. It’s important to stay professional. I read somewhere to never blog about your rejection.
I’m going to blog about my rejection. It’s part of the process and it needs to be shared. I know it will happen. I do, however, pledge to never mention names, and I won’t rage. I will be upset. I’ll probably cry and be sad. But it’s not an agent’s fault if they don’t choose your work. Finding the right agent is akin to finding your soulmate. If they rejected you, you’d have had a bad relationship anyway because your interests are not the same. The right agent will be one of your biggest fans. Rejection is good for both of you. It’s a renewed opportunity to find the right agent. (I’m looking at you, senpai.) But it will still hurt, and it is important to me and to you to share the sentiment that we are not alone. Every artist has been rejected. It strengthens us. As I like to say, it separates the men from the boys. You need a thick skin to get through all of this. Writing is a discipline as well as an art form.
Did senpai notice me today?
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