- The ability to give away your book for free for five days during the ninety day period of the enrollment.
- The inclusion of your work in the Kindle Owners Lending Library accessible by Amazon Prime Members who are entitled to one 'borrow' per month. The author receives payment for the borrow based on certain variables. Depending on the purchase price of the book an author may get substantially more income from a borrowed copy than for a paid copy.
The first novel I put up for free was Tollesbury Time Forever. Sales for the initial two weeks were good (about 5 per day) and they then faltered a little so I jumped straight in with a Free Promo day. Watching the numbers rack up was very addictive. It was almost like playing an online slot machine with fake money though. Throughout the period I thought many times "ah, if they were actual sales, how good would that be?" Once the promotion had ended I saw no direct increase in paid sales but as time went on reviews began to come in and it was clear that the Free Promo day had put the book into the hands of Kindle owners who otherwise would never have heard of it. This led me to discover sites like Goodreads and the UK Kindle User Forum which have been invaluable in terms of support and shared knowledge.
I thus adjudged that first Free Promo day to have been a success. I must say however that subsequent giveaways proved fruitless in terms of stimulating increased sales both for Tollesbury Time Forever and my other novel, A Cleansing of Souls. As such, although I have re-enrolled in the KDP Select Programme I have no intention of using any ither Free Promo days. That situation may change when my third novel is released, but it is something I will consider in depth.
In terms of the Kindle Owner Lending Library, this is currently only accessible on Amazon.com. My novels were borrowed barely at all in January or February but in March my novels were borrowed 40 times. April saw (as well as a decrease in general sales) borrows revert to their January/February trickle.
Now to what I have observed with others who have used the Free Promo days.
There have most definitely examples of authors benefitting hugely from the Free Promo days. The success of these days seems to hinge on a variety of factors:
- engaging with various sites who publicise free ebooks
- co-ordinated posts by the author and others on Facebook and Twitter to announce the free promotion
- whether the days are used individually or consecutively
So a massive surge in sales following on from giving away thousands of copies - surely that's worth it? Well I'm not so sure. I have observed two factors that in some way make me glad that my Free Promo days did not break into the top 100. The first is that the surge oftentimes does not seem to last for more than a week or two before sales continue at their pre-promotion rate or, perhaps, reduce even from that. Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? Perhaps. But the second factor is a little more concerning. It seems that getting a book for free does not preclude some readers from leaving damning reviews. Novels that have previously had maybe twenty glowing five star reviews from people who have considered their purchase and downloaded it thinking it is something they will like can come to grief when that same novel is downloaded free on a whim and summarily disregarded with a one or two star review. Harsh but true.
I guess it's weighing up whether a temporary surge in sales is a reasonable price to pay for perhaps one or two permanent bad reviews. It is also worth noting that some Indie Authors (Cheryl Reid for example) have seen huge success without ever giving away their work for free - Rachel Abbott also; although her novel began to receive greatly varying reviews once it reached the top of the charts.
And so finally, on a wider point, is having the facility to give away ebooks for free a good or a bad thing?
Following my initial enthusiasm I am more and more inclined to think that short-term gain is a high price to pay in terms of the long-term future. What seems certain is that the KDP Select Programme with its vast array of free books and borrows is a wonderful thing for readers - it certainly seems true also that they are a major factor in the increasing sales of Kindles. So do free books sell Kindles or are they the key to literary stardom for the author. Being something of a cynic I am of the view that the KDP Select Programme is a wonderful piece of marketing by Amazon. All us Indie Authors with our hopes and dreams are lured into the trap of giving away our work in the hope that we will catch a magic wave and before we know it we are giving up the day job. I have personally come to the view that the Free Promo function could lead to a saturated market where books become entirely devalued and readers will look for price first and quality second, baulking at spending more than a pound or a dollar on an 80,000 word novel. I have even begun to feel some antipathy towards the sites, threads and people that highlight and spread the word about Free Books - but that's just the communist in me railing against the capitaist machine. And anyway, with me, forgiveness always prevails!
On a positive personal note, Tollesbury Time Forever currently has more 5 star reviews (51) than any other Literary Fiction eBook. So how do I get more sales? Put it up for free for a couple of days? Reduce the price? Increase the price? Change the cover? Change the description? Aaaaaghhhhh!!!!
I think I'll just have some wine...