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Monday, May 10, 2021

The Journey to Self-Publication, Part 20: Perma-freebie

I've gotten quite a few questions about why I finally decided to delve into self-publishing and how I'm doing it, so I figured why not create a new blog series!

Every Monday, I'll be sharing a piece of the self-publishing puzzle---from how I came to this choice to writing, editing, marketing, sales, and everything in between. Please remember that this is simply my experience, how chose to do things. Others do things differently, and that's fine! So, your mileage may vary, but in the end, I hope seeing yet another way of tackling self-publishing will help you on your path. 

Need to catch up on previous posts? Find them here:

It's been almost two months since I've blogged about my self-publishing journey. Mostly because life has gotten in the way, but also because I've been busy writing new books and promoting my current series. I've learned a LOT these past couple of months, though, and I can't possibly share all of that in this single post, so instead, I'm going to focus on the perma-freebie. Also known as free-first-in-series or a reader magnet. 

What is a perma-freebie, you ask? It's essentially a book that is permanently free to readers, usually across all book retailers. Now, I know it might seem counterintuitive to just give a book away for free like this, but there is a benefit, I promise!

Having the first book in a series available for free gives readers the opportunity to try a new author with no risk. They're not out any money, but if they like the book, chances are very high that they'll go on to buy the rest of the books in your series, which are not free. So by giving away that first book, you've earned sales on other books, and you've gained a new reader, who will hopefully go on to buy even more books from you. 

I decided to test this out. So, back in late March, I set my first book, Eternal Curse to free. Now, this isn't as simple as going into your Amazon KDP dashboard and setting the price to $0.00 -- Amazon doesn't allow you to do that. You have to price match, and well, you can't price match unless the book is available for sale elsewhere. Here's how I did it:

1. Removed the book from KDP Select / KU. This is extremely important. When you're enrolled in KDP Select / KU, Amazon requires exclusivity, which means your book cannot be available for sale anywhere else. If you do not un-enroll from KDP Select / KU first and Amazon finds out, the penalties can be steep. So, be sure to do this first!

2. Uploaded to Smashwords. There are a lot of great distributors out there to choose from, but I went with Smashwords because I was familiar with the platform and I knew they gave me an easy option to "make my book free" which is what I needed. 

3. Asked Amazon to Price-Match. Once the file was approved via Smashwords and distributed to all the various vendors, I collected all the buy links that showed the book price at $0.00, then I emailed KDP support and asked them to price-match my book. I included the links I'd collected as proof. Within a couple of days, Amazon honored my request. (Side note: I was very lucky in how quickly and smoothly Amazon price matched for me. I know some authors who have had a lot of difficulty with this, so be forewarned.) 

And now, my first book is a perma-freebie :-) 

But the real question is -- is it working? My answer is both yes and no. LOL. I know, I know... hear me out, though. 

I've seen steady free downloads every day since making the book free, so I know it's getting in readers' hands, which was goal #1. Goal #2 is to see sales follow to know readers are buying the rest of the series, and while I have seen steady sales and pages read each day, the numbers aren't quite as high as I'd like. I've been very transparent in this blog series, so I'm not stopping now. Here are my current numbers (for April thru May 9th):

Free downloads: 347

ebook sales: 55

Paperback sales: 5

KU pages read: 8,972

Again, I'm not breaking any records or hitting any lists, but things are holding steady. (I do need to note that paperback sales number--I generally don't sell many print copies at all, so I was surprised to see some print moving.) I've invested in some ads to promote the perma-freebie, along with the rest of the series, so here's hoping that pays off in the long run. As always, I'll keep you posted on my progress. 

Got questions?

Drop 'em in the comments!

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