Author Topic: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These  (Read 418 times)

Marti Talbott

These are the stats from May of this year.
The number of Book 1 given away free numbered 551. I normally run a promo on this book every three to six months but not that month, so these downloads were either the tail end of a previous promo or an AMS ad.

This Series (The Viking if you want to look it up) has 7 more books. Sales of the following books totaled 114.

Unwanted Bride 19
Daughter 21
Viking's Honor 15
Viking's Son 16
Bride 17
Viking Blood 12
Viking Valor 14
 
Of course there is no way to know how many I would have sold had I not given book one away. Still, for me this technique works.

Just food for thought.
I'm just here for the good company.
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Maggie Ann

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2020, 06:08:52 AM »
For May and June, I only sold seven books that didn't have first in series free. I have four other series, not counting the one I am completing now, and I think I will work towards setting the others first in series free.

Sometime in the last six months I took all of my books except for the first in series free and put them into KU hoping to get page reads. That was a flop. So, now I will go back to wide as soon as I am able.
           
 

Marti Talbott

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2020, 06:23:33 AM »
For May and June, I only sold seven books that didn't have first in series free. I have four other series, not counting the one I am completing now, and I think I will work towards setting the others first in series free.

Sometime in the last six months I took all of my books except for the first in series free and put them into KU hoping to get page reads. That was a flop. So, now I will go back to wide as soon as I am able.

My venture into KU was a flop too. I think KU has had it's hay day except for perhaps the top 100. Having to compete against authors like JK Rolins is impossible.
I'm just here for the good company.
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Simon Haynes

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2020, 06:36:21 AM »
I like permafrees, but I'm now offering a novella as the series starter/intro/freebie.

For a while I used the novella, Hal Zero, as a reader magnet, but now it's on KDP (not KU) plus Kobo (for the 0.00 price match)

About 4000 downloads so far, with barely any ad spend. Biggest boost came from announcing it to my newletter readers - about 3200 people - even though a few hundred of them would have got it when they signed up. The somewhat inverted logic of promoting an ex-reader magnet to those same readers who were attracted by the magnet in the first place hasn't escaped me. Some people just like to have their books on kindle I guess. I know I do.

As a bonus, I've been earning royalties from book one for the past 12 months.

 
 
 

 
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Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books]

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Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2020, 06:53:42 AM »
I ran a free Fussy Librarian a month ago for my first in series and had about 1800 downloads.  So far, I've sold about 150 books in the series.

ETA:  Forgot to check Google.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2020, 06:59:40 AM by Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books] »
 
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LilyBLily

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2020, 07:46:00 AM »
The reason I don't do first in series free is that the first books in a couple of my series sell the best. They tend to be the most over the top. Maybe my sequels aren't wild enough for readers; don't know. The couple of times one has been free during a promotion, I haven't seen a sizable sell through, which means nothing good.

I do have a free novella now that links to one of the series, but it doesn't introduce it. Maybe I should. OTOH, it could be throwing good money after bad.

I think the next move for one of those series is an omnibus edition with the novella added as a bonus, but since other authors routinely give those away free or at 99 cents, I'm not falling all over myself with eagerness to pay for a new cover, ISBN, formatting, and so on.
 

Marti Talbott

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2020, 08:26:07 AM »
The reason I don't do first in series free is that the first books in a couple of my series sell the best. They tend to be the most over the top. Maybe my sequels aren't wild enough for readers; don't know. The couple of times one has been free during a promotion, I haven't seen a sizable sell through, which means nothing good.

I do have a free novella now that links to one of the series, but it doesn't introduce it. Maybe I should. OTOH, it could be throwing good money after bad.

I think the next move for one of those series is an omnibus edition with the novella added as a bonus, but since other authors routinely give those away free or at 99 cents, I'm not falling all over myself with eagerness to pay for a new cover, ISBN, formatting, and so on.

Maybe, if you haven't already, you could put the first chapter of each book at the end of the one preceding it. I do that with all my books, making it easy for them to go to the next book. I have omnibus that I sell for $5.95 or so saving the reader a few bucks. I gave one of my omnibus away free in the past, but probably won't again. $.99 cents to me says my work is not worth a fair price. Not for three whole books.
I'm just here for the good company.
martitalbott.com
 

LilyBLily

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2020, 09:36:51 AM »
The reason I don't do first in series free is that the first books in a couple of my series sell the best. They tend to be the most over the top. Maybe my sequels aren't wild enough for readers; don't know. The couple of times one has been free during a promotion, I haven't seen a sizable sell through, which means nothing good.

I do have a free novella now that links to one of the series, but it doesn't introduce it. Maybe I should. OTOH, it could be throwing good money after bad.

I think the next move for one of those series is an omnibus edition with the novella added as a bonus, but since other authors routinely give those away free or at 99 cents, I'm not falling all over myself with eagerness to pay for a new cover, ISBN, formatting, and so on.

Maybe, if you haven't already, you could put the first chapter of each book at the end of the one preceding it. I do that with all my books, making it easy for them to go to the next book. I have omnibus that I sell for $5.95 or so saving the reader a few bucks. I gave one of my omnibus away free in the past, but probably won't again. $.99 cents to me says my work is not worth a fair price. Not for three whole books.

I have first chapters at the ends of many of my books. They haven't moved the needle as far as I can see. It's easy to be downhearted about sales tactics, but I choose to be happy about self-publishing regardless. Thousands of people have bought or have read my books. That's pretty cool.
 
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Marti Talbott

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2020, 09:59:43 AM »
The reason I don't do first in series free is that the first books in a couple of my series sell the best. They tend to be the most over the top. Maybe my sequels aren't wild enough for readers; don't know. The couple of times one has been free during a promotion, I haven't seen a sizable sell through, which means nothing good.

I do have a free novella now that links to one of the series, but it doesn't introduce it. Maybe I should. OTOH, it could be throwing good money after bad.

I think the next move for one of those series is an omnibus edition with the novella added as a bonus, but since other authors routinely give those away free or at 99 cents, I'm not falling all over myself with eagerness to pay for a new cover, ISBN, formatting, and so on.

Maybe, if you haven't already, you could put the first chapter of each book at the end of the one preceding it. I do that with all my books, making it easy for them to go to the next book. I have omnibus that I sell for $5.95 or so saving the reader a few bucks. I gave one of my omnibus away free in the past, but probably won't again. $.99 cents to me says my work is not worth a fair price. Not for three whole books.

I have first chapters at the ends of many of my books. They haven't moved the needle as far as I can see. It's easy to be downhearted about sales tactics, but I choose to be happy about self-publishing regardless. Thousands of people have bought or have read my books. That's pretty cool.

That's very cool!
I'm just here for the good company.
martitalbott.com
 

cecilia_writer

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2020, 05:58:53 PM »
I don't use KU for my mysteries because I have good sales on Kobo for them, but I've always done free first in series for them (because it's now a 20 book series I actually have free 1st, 5th and 12th books.)
I've got my (currently) 4 book historical series in KU because it was a kind of personal challenge to enter something in the Amazon Storyteller contest in 2018 and again in 2019 and 2020  (two books this year as I wrote an extra one during our lockdown) and I've left them all in KU out of laziness. The first two did virtually nothing in there but since publishing the next 2 quite close together in May and June, I've been getting reads for the whole series. I don't know what that proves! Maybe that it doesn't do any harm to publish books one after the other! Or that historical readers only read series books?
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Marti Talbott

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #10 on: July 29, 2020, 10:19:28 PM »
I don't use KU for my mysteries because I have good sales on Kobo for them, but I've always done free first in series for them (because it's now a 20 book series I actually have free 1st, 5th and 12th books.)
I've got my (currently) 4 book historical series in KU because it was a kind of personal challenge to enter something in the Amazon Storyteller contest in 2018 and again in 2019 and 2020  (two books this year as I wrote an extra one during our lockdown) and I've left them all in KU out of laziness. The first two did virtually nothing in there but since publishing the next 2 quite close together in May and June, I've been getting reads for the whole series. I don't know what that proves! Maybe that it doesn't do any harm to publish books one after the other! Or that historical readers only read series books?

Interesting. Good idea to make more than one book in a long series free.
I'm just here for the good company.
martitalbott.com
 

cecilia_writer

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2020, 11:10:50 PM »
I don't use KU for my mysteries because I have good sales on Kobo for them, but I've always done free first in series for them (because it's now a 20 book series I actually have free 1st, 5th and 12th books.)
I've got my (currently) 4 book historical series in KU because it was a kind of personal challenge to enter something in the Amazon Storyteller contest in 2018 and again in 2019 and 2020  (two books this year as I wrote an extra one during our lockdown) and I've left them all in KU out of laziness. The first two did virtually nothing in there but since publishing the next 2 quite close together in May and June, I've been getting reads for the whole series. I don't know what that proves! Maybe that it doesn't do any harm to publish books one after the other! Or that historical readers only read series books?

Interesting. Good idea to make more than one book in a long series free.

It was one of my readers who suggested doing it, actually, as a kind of alternative to a boxed set.
Cecilia Peartree - Woman of Mystery
 

Hopscotch

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2020, 12:17:43 AM »
First in series permafree as a reader magnet sounds good to me until I check out my KDP dashboard and see that the first in each series outsells all the others in that series.  Go first free and I couldn't afford the single malt I now use to cheer on each day's sales.  :icon_eek:
 

Marti Talbott

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #13 on: July 30, 2020, 12:50:01 AM »
First in series permafree as a reader magnet sounds good to me until I check out my KDP dashboard and see that the first in each series outsells all the others in that series.  Go first free and I couldn't afford the single malt I now use to cheer on each day's sales.  :icon_eek:
It's tough to give one away, it's your baby and you desperately want to keep it. The choice depends on the rest of the books in your series. If they are not selling and you're only selling book 1, then it might be time to give your blurb and covers on the other books a second look, or work on making sure the reader can go directly to the next book in the series. Lots of free advice on this board if you need or want it. Some helpful, some not so much.

Believe me, with 50 books I've changed everything repeatedly trying to find what works. New keywords, more work on my website, and on and on. I still have flat sales on some of my books but then the choice is writing a new one or fixing the old ones - decisions, decisions.
I'm just here for the good company.
martitalbott.com
 

Maggie Ann

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2020, 01:24:13 AM »
First in series permafree as a reader magnet sounds good to me until I check out my KDP dashboard and see that the first in each series outsells all the others in that series.  Go first free and I couldn't afford the single malt I now use to cheer on each day's sales.  :icon_eek:

If I didn't go with first in series free and the rest of the series $.99, I doubt if I would be selling anything at all. The conversion rate over all is 14+ percent (Those are figures for the month of June and three series). It would be higher, if it hadn't been for a surge in free downloads for my weakest first in series.

I went with KU and raised my prices to encourage people to borrow the higher-priced books. No good. So I'm going back to what works for me.

Can't afford the single malt scotch, but I can do a little Mac meal once a month. When I'm out of KU, I hope it will be Longhorn steakhouse for my monthly treat.  :tup3b
           
 

cecilia_writer

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #15 on: July 30, 2020, 02:21:30 AM »
I have one series that hardly sells at all whether I do free first in series or change the prices around or whatever. I am guessing it needs more genre-appropriate covers and maybe a clearer sense of what the genre actually is, but I haven't had time to stop and think about either of these things.
Cecilia Peartree - Woman of Mystery
 

LilyBLily

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #16 on: July 30, 2020, 06:05:47 AM »
Here's a question: Is there any real difference between putting the first book in a series at 99 cents permanently and making it free?
 

cecilia_writer

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #17 on: July 30, 2020, 06:08:05 AM »
Here's a question: Is there any real difference between putting the first book in a series at 99 cents permanently and making it free?
In my experience this varies between one series and another, and perhaps between one marketplace and another.
Cecilia Peartree - Woman of Mystery
 

Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books]

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Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #18 on: July 30, 2020, 06:57:58 AM »
Here's a question: Is there any real difference between putting the first book in a series at 99 cents permanently and making it free?

Yes!  99c did very little...but free has seen a definite increase in sales.  However, this is a SERIALIZED story so if they like the first book, they'll probably read the next two. 
 
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David VanDyke

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Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #19 on: July 30, 2020, 08:19:57 AM »
The reason I don't do first in series free is that the first books in a couple of my series sell the best. They tend to be the most over the top. Maybe my sequels aren't wild enough for readers; don't know. The couple of times one has been free during a promotion, I haven't seen a sizable sell through, which means nothing good.


May I suggest an alternate explanation that seems more plausible to me:

Your first in series are very attractive on the face of it, but somehow don't convince people that they want to go on and read through.

Lack of sell-through seems to be (in my world) indication that the book they read was not satisfying-- not that it was "satisfying but somehow they declined to buy the next book."


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David VanDyke

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Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #20 on: July 30, 2020, 08:21:37 AM »
Here's a question: Is there any real difference between putting the first book in a series at 99 cents permanently and making it free?

According to all the stats I've seen over the years (admittedly, many of them several years old), yes, permafree is several times more effective in gaining new readers and increasing sales.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.

I'm a lucky guy. I find the harder I work, the luckier I am.

Those who prefer their English sloppy have only themselves to thank if the advertisement writer uses his mastery of the vocabulary and syntax to mislead their weak minds.

~ Dorothy L. Sayers
 

alhawke

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #21 on: July 30, 2020, 12:32:53 PM »
Thanks, Marti, for sharing your stats!

The only thing I'd worry about with free--if I were to choose to do that for my 1st book--would be the inability to run promos. I've seriously thought more about 99c. If you price your first book at 99c, you can do a promo every so often for free. Wouldn't that then pull in a flood of new readers also? Or is it better to just have a steady stream of freebies over time? I have a feeling there are many views on this (kinda like whether you should be in KU).
« Last Edit: July 30, 2020, 03:40:13 PM by alhawke »
 

LilyBLily

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #22 on: July 30, 2020, 01:37:39 PM »
The reason I don't do first in series free is that the first books in a couple of my series sell the best. They tend to be the most over the top. Maybe my sequels aren't wild enough for readers; don't know. The couple of times one has been free during a promotion, I haven't seen a sizable sell through, which means nothing good.


May I suggest an alternate explanation that seems more plausible to me:

Your first in series are very attractive on the face of it, but somehow don't convince people that they want to go on and read through.

Lack of sell-through seems to be (in my world) indication that the book they read was not satisfying-- not that it was "satisfying but somehow they declined to buy the next book."

I tend to agree with you, although, ironically, it's my best-selling title, and the page reads don't indicate that readers drop it partway through in disgust. The book I'm referring to was my first romance. It is reasonable to assume it's not as polished or deftly written as the books that followed but that, as we've discussed elsewhere, it has a lot of passionate energy. However, some things may be holding it back as a series opener: It was not written with a series in mind; although several minor characters in it eventually got their own books, they weren't the obviously "handsome other brother" types of characters typical in romances. The tags and clever foreshadowing and other tricks authors use to entice people to read the next book in a series simply are not in this book. Even worse, it's got some major plot elements that people either love or hate. Although I did do an edit of a key scene last year, I would have to rewrite the story basically from scratch to remove the major elements readers object to.

There are several time-consuming and expensive ways to try to make the sell-through improve--although, as Chris Fox says, those do not guarantee success. Changing the price costs nothing, which is why it's something I consider. 
 

j tanner

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #23 on: August 02, 2020, 02:51:06 AM »
I tend to agree with you, although, ironically, it's my best-selling title

Everybody's first in series is their best seller because 99% of readers begin there and not all of them go on to read more books in the series. The question is just about read-through to the later books. That number can be used to figure out how many book 1s need to be read for free to make the same amount as you're making now by charging for it.
 

Simon Haynes

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #24 on: August 02, 2020, 07:29:26 AM »
I tend to agree with you, although, ironically, it's my best-selling title

Everybody's first in series is their best seller because 99% of readers begin there and not all of them go on to read more books in the series. The question is just about read-through to the later books. That number can be used to figure out how many book 1s need to be read for free to make the same amount as you're making now by charging for it.

I have eight different series, and book ten in one of them sells better than some of the first books in my other series.

But yes, within any given series the first book will always have the highest number of readers and reviews.

 
 
 

 
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j tanner

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #25 on: August 02, 2020, 10:12:33 AM »
I tend to agree with you, although, ironically, it's my best-selling title

Everybody's first in series is their best seller because 99% of readers begin there and not all of them go on to read more books in the series. The question is just about read-through to the later books. That number can be used to figure out how many book 1s need to be read for free to make the same amount as you're making now by charging for it.

I have eight different series, and book ten in one of them sells better than some of the first books in my other series.

But yes, within any given series the first book will always have the highest number of readers and reviews.

In case it needs clarification, I said the second thing, not the first, so we agree. :)
 
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Simon Haynes

Re: The case for giving the 1st book in a series away free.These
« Reply #26 on: August 03, 2020, 12:14:56 AM »
I guess my point was that you can still use a first book in a lesser series as a freebie, without impacting on a much-better-selling 1st in series. Plaster the less-well-known book with reader magnets/covers for your other books/etc and it might do more as a freebie than a moderately successful full price book.

 
 
 

 
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