In four weeks I’ll be taking a year away from dayjobbery and seeing how close I can get to generating a full time freelance writing career. For the next few weeks I’ve the luxury of preparation time, trying to figure out how to make it work and putting some things in place that will pay off down the line (maybe). Then, at the end of September, I’ll take the leap, put all of this into practice, and see if I’m right about any of it. You can browse previous entries here.
For a while now, smart independent publishers like Obverse Books have been offering readers who buy their paperbacks direct from them the opportunity to grab an ebook copy for free. It’s part of the arms race of innovation that’s been happening over the last few years in publishing, and a rare occasion where publishers (notably, the smaller ones and more nimble ones) stole a march on Amazon.
It was only a matter of time before Amazon caught up, and I’ve been expecting something like their just announced ‘Matchbook’ service ever since they went ahead with ‘Autorip’, their music service that gives you a free MP3 copy of CDs that you’ve purchased from them.
Providing the publisher of a book consents, Amazon will be able to offer anybody who has bought a paperback or hardback edition of a book in the last decade or so the opportunity to download the Kindle version either for free, or at a discounted price. For readers, this is lovely. Even those who won’t use it will acknowledge that it’s nice to be offered, and lots of us definitely WILL use it. I’ve shelves full of very lovely but very weighty hardbacks that I’d love to reread, and most of them were ordered via Amazon. Kindles were made for this.
As a writer and occasional self-publisher I like the move too. A lot of people may not, particularly those who were looking forward to (or even rejoicing at seeing) a small stream of revenue from re-readers like me who would pay to buy a book again to read it on the Kindle. That income will be gone in a year. By then, it will feel like this is how it has always worked, and retailers not offering it will probably be accused off daylight robbery. I’ve commented here before that in a digital world you’re no longer really buying a ‘book’ – a physical and distinct thing – but are instead buying a story. I personally don’t see why you should have to buy the same story twice, and this is another move in that right direction.
Needless to say, I signed Cuckoo, Thy Fearful Symmetry, and Craven Place up for the scheme a few days ago. When ‘Matchbook’ launches, anybody who has ever bought a paperback of these novels from Amazon will be able to grab the Kindle edition for free.
There are many reasons to be suspicious of Amazon, but it’s hard to contest that they innovate hard on behalf of their customer (with the aim, of course, of keeping that customer for as long as possible).
Speaking of Obverse Books, and their digital-only imprint Manleigh Books, I’m currently reading a copy of the upcoming Storyteller anthology.
Storyteller is what happens when a bunch of authors find a book, and a table of contents, and a good reason to write.
Mark Manley’s cover is beautiful, as you can see. I wrote a story for it called ‘The Devil’s Children’. I didn’t come up with the title, which is part of the fun.
You’ll be able to buy it in the very near future, and there are all sorts of reasons why you should do that. More soon.
On Monday and Tuesday I ran the last free promotion I’ll be doing for Craven Place. As I did in July, I notified a couple of major free ebook sites about the giveaway, hoping to generate enough downloads to test whether free still generates sales (as it did fairly reliably eighteen months ago). July’s effort wasn’t picked up by those sites, and didn’t therefore create enough free downloads to really test the water.
Nothing much happened on Monday. A little gentle nudging on your part, combined with whatever energy the book has that’s making it sell a few copies a day without any further input from me or you, saw 281 copies downloaded. That’s not much at all, as these things go.
On Tuesday in the States one of the few promotional websites that people respond to for free ebooks, eReader News Today, included the novel as one of its daily free books, with a link to Amazon US.
The way time zones work, this was too late for the UK crowd, who were already on the way to bed. Over the next twelve hours though, bargain hunters in the US downloaded a total of 3639 copies. The book hit the number one spot in Amazon’s free charts in the (exceptionally niche) British Detectives category, number four in the larger Mysteries category, number eleven in Mysteries & Thrillers, number thirty-one in the even broader Genre Fiction and number forty in all free books.
Which is a lot of visibility, all at once, and a lot of potential new readers with a copy in their hands.
However, for all that visibility, the day the giveaway ended… business as usual. This week, the book has been purchased at almost exactly the same rate as last week. Maybe a couple of extra sales, but that could have happened anyway. It’s not a big enough spike to attribute to the previous week’s giveaway. All that extra visibility doesn’t seem to have helped the book a great deal. It’s still early I suppose, and with over 3000 potential new readers there’s a small chance that new word of mouth could kick in (a couple of new reader reviews have already surfaced on Amazon and Goodreads, for example), but I’m far from convinced the giveaway has achieved much. I don’t think it’s done any damage either, to be fair, but the jury remains out.
If a giveaway has no real sales value, but does no damage either and makes some people happy, is it still valuable? Actually, I think it is. To go back to the top of the post, Amazon does extremely well just by making people happy. If I can manage to do the same, even on a tiny scale, without damaging my prospects at the same time then I think that’s probably a long term win. As ever, we shall have to wait and see.