Sunday, September 21, 2014

Free or not free?

Every now and then I undergo an existentialist crisis and question everything I've done up to that point. I'm a cat sitting before an open doorway, unable to determine whether I should go in...stay out...go in...

Not so long ago, I took a hard look at the way my Loki's Wolves series is branded. I brooded on the subject for a few months before determining what I needed and commissioning new covers.Another thing I've looked at are my blurbs, categories, key words, reviews, and, of course, pricing.

FREE is a hot button topic among authors and publishers nowadays. Thanks to a deluge of free books, including the success of KDP Select, readers seem to have grown accustomed to books that are free or near free. Barriers to publishing are flat so there are many titles that aren't properly edited. Downward pressure on prices is making it harder and harder to make a living. Authors make less money, as do publishers, making it more likely some authors and publishers will be forced out of the market.

So FREE? Ultimate evil or useful marketing tool?

Honestly, I have no idea. And it's not really a question I can answer. I'm not outright opposed to free in all instances but I believe there are too many authors willing to give away their work.  I've never engaged in a KDP Select free day. But I have two permafree titles. One is a 2,500 word short erotic piece called Cuffed. The other is a 13,000 word short story that serves as the prequel to Hunger Moon and my Loki's wolves series.

For a while, I've debated what to do with The Child Thief. I get lots of downloads and it has many positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. It's on 3 Amazon Best Seller lists. (Yeah, everyone says that but it's still an accomplishment worth mentioning.)

Common wisdom is that making a short story free is a great way to push a series. Yet, I've largely felt like I failed at the implementation. Part of the reason is attributable to the fact that the third book in my series hasn't released yet. (Yes, I'm impatient). However, I think part of the problem is the novella's packaging.

During my rebranding, I decided to change the title to something more appropriate to Norse fantasy fiction, have my cover artist, Farah Evers, redo the cover. Amazon's publishing platform will accommodate the cover and title change without a loss of market position or reviews.  

Sometime soon, you'll see The Child Thief undergoing a facelift. The new cover and title will look like this:  
I also intend to expand the story from 13K to 25K to provide the reader with a higher quality experience. My readers on Amazon will be able to update their story files and new readers will still be able to obtain the novella for free. (At least in those markets where Amazon performs price matching.)

Free? Not free? For the time being, I'm sticking with free for this particular story and purpose. Hopefully, I've learned enough about promotion and publishing in the last couple years to reinvent my story so I'll be doing it right. Only time well tell.


  1. I think people are expecting too many stories to be free. I've seen a lot of comments about short stories expected to be free no matter what - like they are with a publisher and the author has no control over price.

    With that said, I'm also planning a fantasy story prequel to be free. It's a part of my marketing plan so I don't mind it being free. But I hate this expectation that every first story/prequel will need to be free and short stories should be free too.

    We've gone from a nice bonus for readers to readers expecting books to be free. I like a good bargain too, but I don't expect any business to hand out stuff for free. Why should authors be expected to meet that level of service?

    1. Beth,
      I haven't run into it myself. But I have seen readers who think that any ebook priced above $5 is too much. The perception seems to be that the majority of cost of a book is the physical medium instead of the thousands of dollars of author time, editing and cover art/illustration.

  2. As authors, we are always looking for fresh and different ways of promoting our books. The decision to do "free" ones is a tough one. I applaud what you are doing and wish you all the best.

    1. Mary,
      My thought process goes something like this... I've already gotten the book set to perma free so I ought to do everything possible to maximize the value of that investment as well as the reader experience. If I could time travel, I'm not entirely sure I'd choose to go that route again.

  3. I'm hoping to get into the writing business. I have lots of story ideas. I am so very blessed to have been taken under wing by the likes of Melissa and other indie and professional authors by virtue of stumbling on a FB page.
    Conversely I'm learning that writing is only part of the equation. Whew!

    1. Reba,
      The best way to get going is to sit down and write. Initially, it doesn't matter whether you're doing it "right". Words on the page are what counts. :-)