Rethinking “Free”

“You get a car. And you get a car. Everybody gets a car.”

Who remembers this scene from Oprah? Maybe you’re a fan of Oprah and her show (or maybe you never watched her show and don’t care too) yet many people have heard of this unforgettable TV moment by Oprah a couple of years ago after she gave away free cars to all her guests. Just imagine being an audience member when you see the person next to you jumping up and down because they got a key in their box only to find out that you also have the keys to a brand new car. It’s no wonder why her largely female audience went hysterical.

Why am I talking about Oprah? What relevance does she have with self-publishing or even my own stories I blog about? One word.


Virtually everybody likes free things. This is especially true if those free things are things that the intended user would want or need. When it comes to self-publishing you have spent considerable time and effort writing, editing, and rewriting your book. Why? Because you want to produce your best work so others would want to buy it. After all the work you might have poured in for editing, formatting, and creating the book cover (unless you handled most of that on your own) you expect to actually see results of your labor. So naturally you decided on a sale price that will still generate a reasonable profit after you factor royalty rates.

But for self-publishers starting off  it can be very hard to get your work noticed in those first few weeks your book goes live for distribution. If your book doesn’t crack the New Release list (for example on Amazon) or fails to be featured on other lists you risk falling by the wayside, losing visibility. If your book isn’t visible, people can’t find it. If people can’t find it they won’t buy it!

Costly Lessons

This is a lesson I learned all too well in my very first launch. One of the strategies I tried to utilize was what I now called the “Free Promo.” When I first released Before the Legend I set the book for free for a day (more like half a day). To get some downloads I even texted some of my friends and posted about it on my Facebook Fan Page. While the # of downloads weren’t impressive on Smashwords it was notable considering I didn’t tell a huge audience about the free release and it was last minute. The next day I decided to end the free run and raise the price back to the sale price I preferred which was $2.99 the very next day. Big mistake! The downloads I obtained as well as the elevated page views for my author page dropped off sharply. From there I tried other ways to get noticed such as by paying for ads on Facebook and later Goodreads. Although I was getting some interaction and clicks I felt more and more disappointed at the lack of sales.

What went wrong? A lot of things now that I take a step back and take an objective look. Some things are merely out of my control. Some authors simply had a stronger fan base to begin with or bigger  marketing platforms to their disposal to catapult their book to the prime spotlight. Obviously I’m an indie author with a limited budget for marketing and advertising so I lacked the fire power that my competitors had. A critical mistake  on my part though was rushing to get my book published before it was even ready or even strategizing my launch plan. There were no big platforms that were supporting my work. I had nothing playing in my favor.

Back to Basics

Was my initial strategy wrong? Not necessarily. The principle that free things attracts reader is mostly accurate. Personally I love free things and when a blogger broadcasted he was setting his book for free for a limited time I couldn’t help but jump at the offer before it expired. What I failed to realized was just how powerful the label free can be and I failed to maximize on it to gain more exposure to my work that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to achieve setting it to the standard price. After reevaluating my own missteps  and reading Let’s Get Visible by David Gaughran, a guide for increasing visibility for self-publishers, I realized I needed to seriously rethink my strategy and even go back to the basics. That meant stopping the ads I was running until I could come up with a more effective approach. That meant going back to get a clean edit of minor punctuation errors. It even meant polishing up on the formatting. (which is never fun when you have to go back and revise your eBook!)

In David’s book he mentioned the different launch strategies one can use amongst many other helpful insight such as choosing the right keywords, understanding Amazon’s algorithms to make the ranking system work in your favor to garner more visibility. One of the best ways to garner publicity for a new title or one that needs a little boost is to run a sale whether it be a 99 cent eBook or free. I hope to combine my free run with the approach he calls “spreading the love” which basically means spreading out the time between the launch and when you actually tell people. I highly recommend his book for all self-publishers and I’ll be discussing more about it (once I finish it) in later posts so stay tuned!

I’m Rethinking Free

So does free still catch your eye? I hope so. Now imagine in that picture at the top of this post that instead of saying you get a free car… you get a free book. So you get a free book and you get a free book… EVERYONE GETS FREE BOOKS (don’t mean to get carried away lol)! I officially announce the start of my Free Promo Week. This week only I will be making my eBook, Before the Legend free on Smashwords where you can download in multiple formats including ePub, Mobi, PDF and more! It’s also free on major retailers including Amazon. Check out my Facebook fan page in the days to come (to your left).

Also starting this Monday I started a free giveaway of my print book. Only 5 copies remain for a limited time only! Click here for more details. These next three weeks anticipate free promotions, giveaways, and more. See the spotlight for my book on Pick Your Poison which showcases my book summary and the special giveaway I’m running these next few weeks. So stay tuned as I rethink my launch strategy and rethink free.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Before the Legend- The Prologue by J.U. Scribe

Before the Legend- The Prologue

by J.U. Scribe

Giveaway ends January 13, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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