I'm trying to start a new hashtag–#BooksAreNeverFree
Why do I do this? It’s my belief that as authors we too often undersell ourselves. Yes, at times, we need to make books free. Sometimes we want to. But our audience, our readership, shouldn’t primarily be following us because of free. They might not have paid anything for your book but, of course, a book is never free! Besides the time you’ve put into the thing (weeks… months… years… longer?!) many of us also employ the pros to help us on editorial, structure, design etc. Then there is the software. Then the marketing… The list goes on.
I used to be a firm believer in the (only?!) strategy they say works… give your book away, gain a subscriber.
I was quite good at it. Between book 4 and book 5 coming out (December 2016 to April 2017) I saw an increase in my mailing list from 800 to 5000. I was so thrilled about my 5th launch, a killer book at the start of a new series! At least 4000 of that list (most probably a little more, too) came via a free book site, getting my novel in exchange for their email address. Win win, right?
Except the launch was, well, a total belly flop. There was nothing different to the December (also underwhelming!) launch. But hey, I’d grown my list SIX times the amount…surely that would mean SIX times the sales? Nope.
I had a large list, but these readers were all growing fat on free. Saturated by it. I even had unsubcribers on my launch email giving the reason as ‘too many books to read'. Of course they had, because I’d been involved in giveaways over the last few months offering them literally hundreds of books.
And get this––I understand how it happens. I've done it. On one giveaway, an 8 author get together I'd actually orchestrated, we were each offering one of our best books that had never been free before. I downloaded the other 7 books with glee. This was not to be missed!
Two months on, those 7 books still sit on my iPad unread. I'll get to them someday, maybe…probably. This last month, a new book came out by an author I'd enjoyed the year before (his debut novel then). I wanted to encourage him, and pre-ordered his book from Amazon (yes, I paid for it!). On release day, which book do you think I was reading? The seven that were most probably excellent, but free, or the new one I'd just purchased? Of course, it was the purchased one.
And get this. There are loads of errors in this one (I'll keep the author nameless, as I do want to encourage him and his work). So I'm going through the text and constantly marking up points––the reading experience has been soured, it's more an editorial role I didn't expect. Those seven free books are most certainly in better condition than this one––yet I'm not reading those, I'm reading this one… the one I paid money for.
And that, in a nutshell, is the problem I've discovered with free. We inundate readers with free books, and then wonder why our sales suck.
Why would they ever need to buy again, however?
So my list will go into a transformation. I’m going to be really honest with them, and suggest the freebie-only seekers go elsewhere. Because whilst an author needs to be and do a lot of things––be entertaining in their emails to readers, offer content, give stuff away––we can’t forget that number one, the bottom line priority HAS to remain selling books. Without authors making an income from their efforts, there are no books. Ever.
So it’s time to think differently.
I’m no longer going to feature giveaways in my monthly emails to my list (however many remain!) but want to mention new releases––paid books––as well as building a stronger connection. In short, less noise and more relationship with my list.
I've created a page which is linked below (and a Google Drive doc which is linked from that page) so that you, the author, can showcase your new, paid releases, and get them before a wider audience of readers who aren't just interested in free.
Here's the link: http://www.timheathbooks.com/author-services/new-release-features
Please feel free to share this post, with the catchy (I hope) #hashtag so that together we can spread this message. Because books are never free! They've always cost someone, and therefore deserve to be read. Each and every one.