by Will Viharo
“The first one is free” is the oldest hook in the book when it comes to promoting any product, the idea being to get your customers “addicted” by offering a taste of what’s in store for them if they plunk down some cash for the privilege of a steady supply.
This adage can also apply to literature of any kind. But there are many ways to induce incentive for readers buy the whole cow after they’ve only sipped that milk. Just be careful not to sour their taste buds, alienate their palettes, or fill them up too soon in the process…
Generally, writers earn 70% royalties on each eBook title purchased. In the Kindle Unlimited deal, which will include your book if you sign up for Kindle Direct, readers that subscribe to the service can read an unlimited amount of books per month, including yours, for a single flat fee. And authors also receive 70% royalties on books sold in several foreign countries.
Once you enroll your book in Kindle Select your book is also automatically made available in the Kindle Owners Lenders Library, wherein the author receives royalties the first time portion of the book is read (only one allowed per customer per month), but not thereafter.
Frankly, the way they discern this is a bit complicated, at least to my mathematically challenged brain, but it’s all explained here.
There is also something called the Kindle Select Global Fund, explained in more detail here. Basically, it’s like a massive “tip jar” and every author enrolled in the program will get his or her share, depending on the amount in the till divided by how many books are being “borrowed” by any number of Amazon Prime users there are at any given point in time. We’re talking millions, so your slice of this pie is going to taste more like a crumb.
This is basically capitalistic socialism in action.
Additionally, Amazon offers Kindle users free samples of most titles, which is sort of like those free food cups at Trader Joe’s, served right next to a refrigerator stocked with the daily special as a subtle "hint."
Some marketing methods are more useful, and obvious, than others.
Run That By Me Again? Actually, Walk It, Slowly…
Frankly, for me and many average authors just trying to stay afloat day to day in a turbulent, hostile sea of obscurity and competition, a lot of this stuff comes off as downright esoteric, if not completely incomprehensible. Or even flat out unfair.
But if you’re an indie author, you really need to treat it like a small business, at least if you want to generate any profit at all. So doing a little research on how to best present and promote your own book is always well worth the effort.
Again, there are many different ways to reach this common goal, and not all of them work for everyone. That is why you need to discover your own best pathway to your individual goal, and that can only be achieved by trying as many different methods at your disposal. Especially if they’re free, because face it, most of us have very tight investment budgets for this artistically noble if not particularly lucrative career choice.
Status Updates Actually Worth Sharing
Another way to go about introducing potential fans to your work is to post excerpts on your Facebook page, whether it’s your personal profile, a fan page for one of your books (or your own imprint), or all of them.
Keep in mind that, while you want to avoid “spamming” your friends list and alienating them with too much self-promotion, the fact is most posts, especially those that are essentially unpaid ads (a feature Amazon offers for additional fees most of us can't afford), will either go unread or unnoticed by the vast majority of anyone browsing their busy daily news feeds.
So I recommend multiple posts on all of your platforms, but pace them judiciously. Also, try to make them all unique, so it doesn’t sound like you’re simply reposting out of laziness, lack of imagination, or, worst of all, desperation.
I have also given away a lot of free print copies, to friends and strangers, including celebrities I admire that I happened to meet at a convention or something. Mostly, this is just a way of “giving back” to people whose own careers have either inspired or entertained me or both. And it makes for a nice photo op if they’re willing to pose with you while holding your book.
Just make sure not to take advantage of their generosity or exploit the opportunity in a way that comes off as a dishonest “endorsement.” That could seriously backfire, both legally and personally. You never want people you admire to wind up resenting you.
Gratis copies offered to fellow authors are often just acts of solidarity, especially if we’re swapping books. Freebies to potential fans are done in hopes of a positive product review on Amazon. That hardly ever happens, to be honest. But you never know.
Just keep rolling those dice.
Topping Off the Bottom Line
My advice? If Amazon or any publishing platform offers the option of providing free copies to readers when you’re in the process of uploading your book, just click “yes.” I can’t say it’s paid off for me in any substantial way, at least not yet. But if it’s not costing you anything, either, you might as well take the chance. You’ve got nothing to lose, especially if no one is buying your books, anyway.
At least not yet.
PHOTO: WILL VIHARO (with actress Sheryl Lee at Crypticon, Seattle, May 2015)