I blame Goodreads.
During the two years it took to write and prep my new novel Ascension, I worked hard to make sure that I could release the best product I could. I wanted it to be a book I could be proud of, and something that could start my journey as a writer on a positive foot. I also wanted it to be something I would be compensated for, after all, while I did it because I love writing, I also did it in hopes of making a little extra cash.
So, why did I give it away for free my opening weekend?
I’ve read quite a bit of theory on the subject of playing the Amazon book marketing game, and I noticed a while ago that many authors have had success by making their books free. Usually, they made their books free for a short-ish period of time, and then after that they found their sales jumped. There has been a lot of speculation as to why, but it usually comes down to Sales Rank. By making your book free, you ship a ton of copies, which drives up your sales rank and makes your book more visible for new readers to find when you return to charging for it.
There is also the theory/hope that by selling lots of copies in a short time, you are increasing the chances of people leaving reviews of your book (vitally important) and possibly increasing both awareness and word of mouth. People become aware your book exists, and they also may be telling their friends- both good solid benefits of getting as many copies out there as possible.
So, are these the reasons why I was extremely happy that 230 people took advantage of my special weekend offer?
Yes, but there is another factor at play here.
A few months ago, I started using Goodreads.com more actively, and when I did, one of the things I started to use was their recommendations service for new books I might like. I’m always looking for new things to read, and wanted to try it out. However, before I could use it, Goodreads required that I rate at least 40 books so that the system could figure out what types of books I liked. At the time I considered it a pain, but afterwards I realized Goodreads had given me a great gift.
You see, I came to realize that the most powerful marketing tool Amazon has to offer is its recommendation system- “People who bought this book, also bought…” It’s using this system to match the item you’re looking at with other similar items bought by similar people. If you haven’t noticed, Amazon is also constantly putting books in front of you it thinks you’d like, which it does by slowly analyzing your tastes based on what you search for and look at it.
But, Amazon’s system doesn’t just have to understand you, it also has to understand each book in its library. It has to know what type of person buys that book, what else they buy, and what categories to really place the book in. In other words, the system needs to figure out how to market the book, and it does it based on past sales.
So, what if you have no past sales? Then Amazon doesn’t know how to market your book properly, and you won’t sell many copies unless you spend a lot of time and money pushing it elsewhere to produce those sales.
Therefore, I reasoned, I needed to “prime the pump” and get Amazon to analyze my book’s profile as quickly as possible so that they could start marketing it to the right people and do a lot of the heavy lifting for me.
How to do that? By offering it for free, of course! Every one of those wonderful people who downloaded my book were actually doing me a favor, they were helping me teach Amazon’s system how to find other readers for it. Now, the system knows who and where to market my book to, and will find them accordingly. If I’m right, this will speed up the marketing process greatly. I will still have to make an effort to market my book elsewhere, but it’s a good start.
I hope, anyways! Only time (and sales) will tell!