by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
books, free, mid-market, obscurity, publishing

Publisher Experiments With 'Free' And Sees Book Sales Increase 20x

from the not-bad dept

We've pointed to numerous studies, at this point, that have all found that, when done right, free ebooks can greatly increase the sales of physical books (and, in some cases, even of ebooks). Here's another empirical example of that in action. Chris Anderson points us to a blog post by someone at a mid-list niche publisher, talking about how successful its experiments with "free" ebooks have been. In this case, the publisher would offer up the first book in a series as a free ebook, and found that it drove massive increases in sales:
One of our free titles was the #1 download on Amazon for the entire month of February. The subsequent sales of books 2 and 3 in the series increased by a rate of 20 to 1. For this series, digital sales are approaching 20% of the total product sales distribution and growing. With the visibility of the digital sales on Amazon, we have seen a substantial increase in print sales to the brick and mortar book chains. In this one instance, digital is driving print sales.
Basically, what this publisher realized is that with most books, obscurity is a greater threat than "piracy," and free helps deal with that:
Much of the talk by the big 6 publishers has been stress over cannibalization of print sales, or the idea of replacement sales, by ebooks. For midlist publishers such as ourselves, I believe we fight against substitution. We capture the "browser" market. If our title is not available or visible, a customer will simply substitute for another one in the genre. Free gave us the visibility that we could not purchase.

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  1. icon
    BLyons (profile), 17 Mar 2010 @ 7:53am

    you're kidding, right?

    You cannot compare books to music. It doesn't work well. Some differences?

    It's very difficult for authors to make money from public appearances, while musicians can. In addition to how hard it is to GET a signing and get it without being hampered by the store (unless you're a NY Times bestseller or something, in which case they bend over backward to accomodate you), public readings by authors are not commonplace. The last author to do well with this was probably Sam Clements or someone not much past his time. They do shows now where actors read erotic work or horror work or something similar, but not the authors very often. If we do public readings, they are free readings to spur the sales of actual books. Few people have the love of books to sit and listen to someone else read to them, though poets sometimes manage it and I've read short stories to crowds...up to about 4000 words in length. Not to mention that there are hundreds of thousands of authors competing for public appearance, of some sort.

    Another nit with your mindset... No, fiction books are NOT just information. They are a creative endeavor. They aren't just facts thrown at the reader, and even if we were talking about non-fiction books, I would counter that the research, organizing, money put into producing the book (which is true of e-books just as it is for paper books), distribution (ditto), and marketing (ditto) is done for a reason. That reason is the return on investment. If you just want to write and give it away for free, you can do that. I do that with some stories. The ones I publish for pay are there with an expectation of return, even if I do choose to give an older title away for free to spur the sale of the newer ones.


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