Friday, August 17, 2012

Working for Free Still Pays

by Peg Brantley

I have mixed feelings about making my book free. It's the only one I've published so far (#2 is in the editing stages), so the wonderful bump in sales many other writers experience for their other books is for me a moot point. On the other hand 'free' gives me a wonderful opportunity to expose my work to a wider audience and add to my reader base. I love that.

When an opportunity came up for me to be a guest on a live radio show I decided to capitalize on that event and make Red Tide free. So for three days, Sunday through Tuesday of this week, my one and only book was available to whoever wanted it.

Turns out, almost 35,000 people decided to give it a try. For the first time since the book was published in late March, I reached readers in not only the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, but also readers in France, Spain and Italy. The after-effect of sales is gratifying (though I still don't understand why that happens) and I've lent more books from Amazon's lending library than ever before.

But I didn't just schedule it to be free and wait for readers to find me. I asked for a lot of help to get the word out. I tweeted (and tweeted), utilized Facebook until I was sick of seeing my own cover, and thankfully had prepared—in advance—for some backup.

About two weeks before I went 'free' I sent my information to the following websites (there is no guarantee that any of these sites will feature your book):

  • Pixel of Ink has thousands of subscribers. I do know that my book was chosen by them for the first day, and I credit this site for a lot of my downloads;
  • Free eBooks Daily has a bit of quid-pro-quo and listed my book at some point;
  • Free Booksy listed not only me, but the joint promotion I had with my sister;
  • eReader News Today also carried my book, and they have a lot of influence with readers;
  • Bargain Book Hunter is a site I purchased (at least 48 hours in advance) a guaranteed placement for $5.
There are countless other sites, including at least four more who I submitted to but I don't think selected my book.

My point is, simply going free and sitting back to wait for fabulous results probably isn't going to work unless your name is Stephen King or Michael Connelly. When you're ready to push for some positive results by offering your book free for a few days, you need to have an army behind you. Plan ahead.

CFC readers, how do you find your free books—the ones you really are interested in?

CFC writers, if you offer your books for free, what are some of the things you've learned along the way?

My very special thanks to Karin Cox and Indie Review Tracker for providing me with a lot of ideas.


  1. This is great information, Peg! And it's good to know that Amazon giveaways are still working.

    The one thing I learned, painfully, is that if your cover and title aren't effective, you can't even give the book away. Readers have many free choices!

    I hope this gives you great exposure and sales for your next one.

  2. Ah… covers and titles. Almost as important as the words they promise.

  3. Congrats on a successful free promo, Peg.

    I agree with LJ, there is so much choice, it's harder than ever to get noticed. If I download freebies, the title is what grabs me first, then the blurb.

  4. Congrats on this initiative working for you, Peg, and it's great that you're sharing some good tips about the process with others! I'll download freebies from authors I know or have heard good things about, or something that looks intriguing in a genre that I read.

  5. I think you've touched on a very important point, Peg, and one I often try to emphasize when people ask me about successful promotion. No one method will drive your sales substantially higher--it's a combination of things. Frequency, variety, and consistency are the keys. At least that's what I've found.

  6. I completely agree, Andrew (and Peg!) that it's never just one thing that sells your books. It's a little of this, a little of that, one from Column A, one from Column B. As Michele Scott once told me, "You throw everything at it and see what sticks."

  7. Peg, congrats on your successful promotion. I think you hit the perfect confluence of forces that helped push those downloads to a very nice level. I know another writer who thought that 500 downloads a day was fabulous. I didn't want to burst that bubble with news like this. The trick will be translating those freebies into real sales in the future. Best of luck in making that happen!

  8. Hi Peg,
    Great post! I always wonder what will work, and I'm glad this worked for you. Gayle, I love your comment about Michelle Scott's advice. We have to continually mix the pot with different ingredients, even if we have a recipe we like. The world just keeps on changing. We have to keep up:))

  9. The other piece is that what worked six months ago might not work today… or it might work but in a different way… or you need to switch it up to get it to work the same way.

    You're right, Claudia. Things keep changing and while I don't keep up on a daily basis with everything, I do plan on doing research and getting current every time I'm about to launch something else into the mix.

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  11. Peg, it seems to me like you are knocking on many different doors at once, with the wisdom to know some open, some don't, some are the right ones, some not. I know Red Tide is going to find its mark because it's too good not to. And I am very excited for your second! Backlist, here you come :)

  12. I feel like I'm on a wild treasure hunt, Jenny. But I'm loving almost all of it. And the second is in edits right now.

    Thanks for all of your support and encouragement. I'm really looking forward to your debut!

  13. Glad it worked.

    My experience has been mixed, but when it's worked, it's worked well.

    I'm impressed you got a listing at Pixels Of Ink and think that would have had a huge impact; I've sent them a lot of giveaway dates and there's been nothing so far. I had got to the point when I thought it must work through some kind of back-hander system, so your success at least waylays that suspicion.

    Thanks also for the list of comments - encouraging and helpful.

  14. Thanks for commenting, Nigel.

    Don't give up on Pixel, or any of the other options out there. I've tried getting THE MISSINGS on Pixel of Ink a couple of times and they didn't pick it up, but free days have helped sales even without that influencer.

    Thanks for commenting!


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