It’s been four years since I launched my first novel, Out in the Open. I went into the process as an author and came out a publisher. I hadn’t intended for things to work that way, but that’s inevitably where the path led. It was a long journey and I learned a lot along the way, lessons I wish I knew when I started. But of course, hindsight is 20-20. Since then I’ve published two more books and I’m in the process of finalizing the manuscript for my fourth.
I love writing. I don’t love selling. I don’t love website designing or manuscript formatting. But I’ve learned to do them all.
One thing I still haven’t learned: how to break through the clutter among the millions of other books.
Which brings me to the subject of this post: Why I Decided to Make my Book Free. I’ve been doing a lot of research on marketing and promotion. Many experts say you should have a book available for free. This not only helps to drive traffic and create awareness about you as an author, but it gives readers a risk-free reason to give your book a try. And then hopefully they will like it and be willing to invest in your other books. It makes sense, but to be honest when I first came across this suggestion I immediately dismissed it. I’ve spend countless hours writing and publishing my novel. So to just give it away – no thank you.
The next piece of advice that seemed to repeatedly surface was about growing your email list. This is one of those painful lessons I wish I learned in the beginning. I knew I needed to start a website and blog, but I figured I didn’t need to collect emails if I had a web presence and social media account. But it really is an important tool and one of the few that authors can maintain on their own without relying on outside algorithms to determine who sees their content. And guess what you need if you want to entice people to sign up for your mailing list? Free stuff.
So now I’m really getting the point that people want freebies. And I get it. Who doesn’t love free stuff? But I wondered what could I offer that would be enticing? Suggestions included novellas, deleted scenes, bonus chapters and the like. I toyed with creating a free novella. But then I dismissed it because I’d still need to invest in editing, a cover, and not to mention the time I’d have to put in to write it. So the bonus chapter idea was appealing. When I wrote Out in the Open, it was written in first person from my protagonist, Lexi’s, POV. But I was always cognizant of what her love interest, Jake, was thinking throughout the book. And there were some insights that I never had a chance to share with my readers about his thoughts and some connections with events that happened in the book. So it seemed natural if I wrote bonus chapters related to that book I should offer it as my freebie. But I still wasn’t convinced.
I follow a fellow author, Nick Stephenson, who gives wonderful advice (for free, I might add). One of his blog posts said you can’t expect to generate sales simply by launching a new book. There’s a myth out that that if you build it they will come. Maybe if you’re a NYT bestseller. He gave the analogy of pitching to an empty theater. If you don’t have an audience, then when you launch a book you are essentially talking to yourself. Fine, and maybe your friends and family. I’d like to say my theater isn’t empty. But there are still plenty of seats available. So until I get to the point where I’m as hot as Hamilton, his point resonated with me.
So I’m giving it a shot. Out in the Open is now available for free on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, etc. After you read it be sure to download the free bonus chapters to hear Jake’s side of the story. I’m interested to see how this goes. My dream is that one day I will have a theater full of people eagerly awaiting my next performance. And perhaps get to the point where people will want to scalp tickets! Until then, I hope they enjoy the freebies. And for all you Hamilton fans, I’m willing to wait for it. 🙂