Saturday, 6 April 2013

A-Z Blogging Challenge: E is for The Englishman and F is for Freebies

My theme: Writing and the Business of Writing

Free Books

Many people when they hear that I am putting my e-books on a free promotion look at me puzzlingly, ' Really?'

Why, they ask, after spending up to two years writing, editing and formatting a book, do I want to give it away free? When as I mentioned in my Creativity versus Cash post, even us writers need to eat?

There are many reasons.

Firstly, the more people read your words the better. As with the blog (which after all is the same: ie giving your work away free) the more readers you have, the bigger your writer platform. And a big platform means more book sales, eventually.

Or so the theory goes.

Here's what my experiences have been so far.

The Englishman

I've just finished a second free promotion of my e-book, The Englishman, and once again had a good response. It's exciting; I love getting new readers, the more people read my story, the better.

The Englishman - as those of you who've followed my blog for some time know - became a book after I started telling the story of my life here on my blog. The first draft of the book was fairly quick - it took about 6 months to write. At the end of it, however, what I had was just a set of blog posts, not a novel. The editing process took best part of eighteen months. I really struggled with the format. Should I keep it as a memoir, even though the story had already veered into the fiction side? Or should I take it into a fully fledged novel? What I first produced, about a year ago now, was a first person hybrid, which I sent to a few of my biggest fans (including Liberty London Girl and Mrs Trefusis). All were influential people in their fields, so I thought their advice would be invaluable. I knew I was lucky to have such people taking an interest in my writing.

All the good advice pointed in one direction - to make the blog posts into a 'Will they, won't they' love story, ie a traditional novel. So I changed the point of view (more on POV, my pet love/hate in the P post of this challenge) from first person to third person, and added about 20,000 words. After a few more final edits, it was time to send it to a professional editor, and in August 2012 I eventually let The Englishman loose on the world.

When the novel came out, the first sales figures where very promising. I also had several incredibly fabulous reviews, and many of my blogging friends hosted me and the book on their websites. The Englishman was featured on The N10 Show and the book was even recommended as a good read on the Alliance of Independent Writers web site. Accolade indeed!

But by October sales had started to flag a little, so I decided that, to keep up interest in the book, the best thing would be to make The Englishman free for a period. And I have to say the results were staggering. Overnight, during the first 24 hours of the promotion, over 600 copies were downloaded. During the whole promotion I 'sold' over 1,000 copies. That, I've been told is not a bad figure for a first novel in any genre or format.

But, and this is a big but against giving your books away free.

After The Englishman's success, I decided to publish my other two books, Coffee and Vodka and The Red King of Helsinki also as e-books, and at the same time, do another free promotion for the backlist novel. But now the free promo is over, some of my readers are asking me when (not if) the other two will be free…

This is very flattering, it is truly wonderful for a writer who has struggled for years to have any readers at all, to be asked when your work will be available.

But at the same time I wonder if I've created a reader expectation that all of my work will forever be free? Have I completely destroyed any hope of ever making money (read: breaking even) with my writing?

I do hope not, because as I mentioned before, I too need to eat.

Author exits stage right.


Karen Jones Gowen said...

I'm a firm believer in the free days on Kindle. I think they attract more readers that will help sales in the long run.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Helena - I haven't published anything .. and I'm happy to have some things free ... but I'd be upset with myself if I wasn't prepared to pay most of the time.

Somehow we need to realise the value that authors achieve in writing their books in the first place ..

Good luck with all your books - Karen seems to have some wise words .. cheers Hilary

Juliet Bond said...

Just stopping by for the A-Z Challenge. Please check us out and sign up to follow if you like what you see. Juliet atCity Muse Country Muse