Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Free stories update.

A month ago I mentioned a scheme by which I would give away free stories with adverts for other books attached. The reasoning behind this was that if I put a story into a magazine, I could expect a one-off payment of ten dollars/pounds at best. It seemed a better use of a short story to forgo that little payment and use it to advertise the books.

The end-of-year roundup seems a good time to see how it's going. A new trick in this game is the release of an unannounced free story, 'A Christmas Contract', which I put out early Christmas morning without much fanfare because I wanted to see how it would do on its own. It has not yet passed Smashwords approval and escaped into the world but that's not surprising. Smashwords' approval system is manual and there won't be anyone working over Christmas. If they were based in Scotland then judging by my own experience of the last few days, they wouldn't be sober yet. I was still at a party at 5 am on January 2nd and am only now regaining control of my fingers.

Likewise, none of the booksellers will report over this period so it's a good, quiet time to take stock.

For the Smashwords downloads, the figures for each story are now -

A Christmas Contract          129
A Little Knowledge...           229   (200)
Room Service                      404   (365)
Bernie's Bargain                   190   (163)

The figures in brackets are those from December 3rd.

The most popular is Room Service which is odd because it's the only one that doesn't have a five-star review. Once again, even though I didn't push this new story, the stats for the previous ones rose when it came out. The way these free stories work on Smashwords is that they appear in the order they arrive, so they scroll off the screens after two to three days and few people bother looking that far. A new story links to the older ones so interest is renewed until the new one scrolls away too.

I'm trying the same with an extract from 'Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator' but it's too early to say whether that's doing any good. I see it selling on Amazon and Apple in the first edition but the second still has to get through to those sites. More on that when there's something more tangible to say. It will need another freebie soon because that one will have scrolled away by now.

The retailer downloads of free books via Smashwords up to the end of 2011 were as follows:

Barnes and Noble   305
Sony                       172

I haven't split them into individual books because that would take ages, but Room Service is definitely the most popular. If I've learned nothing else, I've learned what those readers like best.

There is small uptake on Amazon for Kindle but that's because I can't work out how to make them free on there without giving up all copyright. Free Kindle versions are on Smashwords but those who don't know about Smashwords have the Amazon minimum price of 99 cents to deal with. On Amazon, it seems 'A Little Knowledge...' is the favourite.

Reports can be intermittent and these don't include paid sales (not many as yet, but free and paid sales are reported separately by most retailers) so at this stage it's too early to tell whether the ads are having an effect. I see nothing coming via Diesel so will concentrate on those that are generating sales. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple and Sony seem most effective so far. I run the Amazon uploads directly, Apple is almost all through Lulu, Barnes and Noble through Smashwords for some and Lulu for others and Sony entirely through Smashwords.

Smashwords also distribute to Diesel and Kobo but I have no updates on those yet.

As for Jessica's Trap, no evidence of the ads producing results yet but then I started this experiment with the first free story on 25th September and given the long delays in booksellers reporting, it might be too early to be sure. Kobo and Diesel might yet have surprises in store.

I'll continue the experiment since it costs nothing, and hopefully will see some results when it's been running for six months or so.

It's probably best to wait until the end of March for the next update unless something spectacular happens in the meantime. By then I should have a better idea of how well this is working.

Now I have to fiddle around with the ePub version of Ghosthunting 2 so that Lulu can get it onto B&N and Apple. The first version is doing well there and if I can get the format right on the second, it might do well too.

I can but try.

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