Monday, September 07, 2009

The Enticement

According to the USA TODAY, the latest marketing come-on to sell books is to first give one away. That’s what James Patterson, the brand, is doing. Notice that the USA TODAY calls him a “brand” now that he’s more the front man for the authors writing his books than the actual writers.
Patterson is among the biggest brands added to the growing list of free e-book offerings. Over the past few months, top sellers on the Kindle — with downloads in the tens of thousands, authors and publishers say — have included such public domain titles as Pride and Prejudice and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and novels by Jennifer Stevenson and Greg Keyes.
The key seems to be to link a free book with a paid-for one. According to Maja Thomas, senior vice president of digital media at Patterson's publisher, the Hachette Book Group, said. "It's like priming the pump."

According to Scott Shannon, publisher of the Del Rey/Spectra imprint at Random House, Inc., Del Rey has had “especially good luck with Naomi Novik's Temeraire fantasy series after offering the first book for free. He said sales for the other Temeraire novels increased by more than 1,000%. "It's been stunning," he said.”

With free e-books comes the question of how this affects best-seller lists. Amazon give free e-books visibility by including them on the Kindle best-seller lists. Sony does not.

Then there are questions by authors. Some see it as a good way to build readers. Some are a bit worried. Joseph Finder, whose thriller Paranoia was a free e-book in 2004, saw his sales of his other books go up. But he’s also a bit worried.
"I get a lot of e-mails from people, saying, 'I hadn't even heard of you until I read your free book.' So no question, it does bring in free riders," Finder said. "But I'm also increasingly concerned. There are so many free e-books that basically you could stuff your Kindle or Sony Reader with free books and never have to buy anything."
What do you think?
TweetIt from HubSpot


  1. It's true that there are many free e-books. But you don't want to read all of them. My book reader is full of writing, but very little of it interests me. And I don't want to waste my time. When I want to read a book, I will find it and get it however it is available.

  2. I've always heard, when promoting a book, you can't give it away enough. It enticed people to buy the real thing.
    Of course, with so many people now reading EBooks, some may never buy the real book.

    L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”

  3. I'm not sure how that will shake out in the end. People check out books at libraries for free, of course, but at least there you've got the library purchasing your book.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  4. I don't like the idea of giving away free ebooks. It somehow makes them seem inferior to print books. Also, it doesn't give those who are trying to sell their ebooks a fighting chance.

    I think a sample chapter or two is the best way to go. It's enough to entice the reader to want to buy an entire book and doesn't hurt the ebook industry.

    Morgan Mandel

  5. If I had an e-reader and downloaded a free book that I ended up really liking, I'd probably get the rest in the series. But if I had a huge choice of free books, I don't know if I'd buy too many books if I wasn't particularly interested in the author or the series. But that approach is quite similar to how I buy books in the store. I check them out first and then decide if I want to get them.

  6. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I kind of agree with what the rest of you have said. I'm still not even reading e-books. It's like when cd's came. It took me years to make the switch from cassette tapes and records. I guess I'm a dinosaur.

  7. I have the same concerns as Finder - with so many free books available I can see some people never buying another book. I just hope they are the same people who never bought books to begin with.

  8. I agree, it's something authors need to be thinking about. Writing is an art, but great art is not given away, unless you've got a really good reason. Don't care what other think, writers have to eat and pay rent and survive.

  9. I'm in the Morgan camp on this one. I could see the "loss leader" benefits of giving away say, the first 3 chapters. If they are darn good chapters, it'd be a darn good read itself, but also intice peeps to buy the whole book.

    but I'll watch this trend closely - thanks for the info on it so fat. Hey have a great Labor Day, Helen!

    Marvin D Wilson

  10. This doesn't really bother me. Giveaways have been around since the beginning. "Hey, Og. Trade me your bow and arrow for my sharpened stick and I'll throw in a free mammoth steak."

    Writers, especially new writers, should be most concerned with getting their work out there however they can. Worrying that it might cost them a sale or two will likely result in the loss of many more, simply because of a lack of name recognition and interest.

    And I don't think free ebooks will appear of less quality than print books. I think everyone understands that print can't be free because of the cost associated with them.

    Readers will always go for quality. If they like what they read, they'll likely come back for more, and perhaps even pay something for it.

    And all ebooks will never be free, especially as the print market shrinks. It started out as merely a way to steer people toward print, but it's more and more becoming a market in its own right. And the market will adjust itself.

  11. Interesting feedback on this issue. I feel like the free book give away may entice some readers but can lower the "brand" image depending on how well known the author is at the time. I was given a free book at a NFL game of all places. The book had nothing to do with professional sports and was one of the worst books I have ever seen. It gave me the impression that poorly written will be given away free even though that is not systematic. And I agree, readers will always go for quality.

    Coldplay and U2 give away free songs and it only endears their fans to them further.

  12. I'm torn.

    I understand the marketing theory behind giveaways but am loathe to give the whole novel away. However, I like the idea of releasing the first few chapters - just enough to hook (hopefully) the reader but satisfying in their own small way.

    That said, there is the general thought of "How good can this be if you're giving it away?" This supposition won't apply to titans (insert name of your favorite author or band here) but I could see it affecting unknowns.


  13. Definitely some mixed feelings on this. It may be that more "big" names getting in on the free giveaways might lend more credibility to the "small" names offering enticements to readers.

  14. I have a question. I've never read an ebook. I'm assuming once you download it, you read it directly from your computer? Or do you print it out? I'm thinking of the logistics here. You can tote a book around anywhere, read it in the grocery line, in the parking lot while you are waiting for someone. Then there is the nighttime read when your snuggled up in bed with your book. How does this translate with an ebook? Aside from it being free, what is the benefit?

  15. An ebook needs a reader, like the Kindle or a Sony device. You can read an ebook on your iPhone or your computer or other devices. You could print it out, but, to me, that would probably cost as much as a paperback, so why bother? And not all ebooks are free, by any means. But they tend to be cheaper than a hardback and some cheaper than a paperback.

  16. There are so many pros and cons to this. Some people say never ever give anything away that you could get paid for. But as a marketing tool a "gift" is a good thing. And isn't that what so many of us are doing with our blogs? We offer some content that is helpful and/or entertaining in hopes that people might eventually buy our books and/or services.

    I say, do what is comfortable in terms of what you are willing to offer for free.

  17. Great conversation. I think anything that gets people talking is good for business. Because without talk, you got nothin' :)

  18. I have mixed feelings as well with the free e-readers. In one stream of thought that is a great promotional idea for getting people connected with your writing, but the other school of thought is it is hard to get paid for your work when people are accustomed to seeing your work for free.

    Nancy, from Realms of Thought…

  19. I could see it working well for someone who had an existing series, several books already out. There's a new one coming out & s/he offers the first in the series for free.

  20. Hi, Helen. I left a long thoughtful comment but the Internet ate it. :( Now I'm too tired to come up with it again. Short version: free samples work, people have become accustomed to free stuff (content wise), this will add to downward price pressure for digital content. That may or may not hurt writers, but is bound to hurt publishers, distributors, and retailers.

    Good post.
    Good night. :)

  21. I like Morgan's idea of giving a few chapters free. And as you've said Helen this could work for people who write series or have many titles, but for others it might kill their sales of proper books.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...