Sunday, January 29, 2012

Giving away a few thousand books to new friends

As I write this, the Kinde edition of my novel THE SIXTH RIDER is now #1 in Kindle westerns, #3 in Kindle historicals, and #75 for all books. That's right, all Kindle books. Up 78,886 ranks from the day before.

How did I land my novel in the top 100 Kindle list on Amazon?

I'm giving it away.

Now, giving away books seems like a foolish idea, especially when the numbers can run into the thousands. In fact, the number of ebooks given away in the last 24 hours exceeds the entire print run of the original Doubleday hardcover. 

But as any media weasel can tell you, the problem today is not throwing advertising at a mass audience, but figuring out how to reach just the right audience. In my case, readers who are likely to respond to the kinds of stories I tell -- dark and quirky (and I hope, literate). So, with no fanfare, I dropped the price on THE SIXTH RIDER from $3.99 to free to see what would happen. I'll spare you the details but the promotion was made possible by Amazon through a special program involving Amazon Prime. 

Kindle readers are apparently very hungry for good, free books. The promotion began at 3 a.m. Saturday, and the response has been dramatic. The proof is in the screen shot of my sales figure from Amazon's Author Central, top. 

On the face of it, it would seem I'm throwing away away thousands of dollars in royalties -- $13,950 in royalties, in fact, based on the thousands of copies given away so far. So, why would I do it? Simple: I want receptive readers. I've been frustrated in the past with the way publishers and bookstores have marketed my books. They always seem to be shelved in the wrong areas, or the covers suggest a traditional westerns, which I don't do. Some readers have even been angry that the book wasn't what they expected, and I can't say I blame them. I'd be mad, too. 

Take HELLFIRE CANYON, for instance. It won the Spur Award for Best Mass Market Novel from the Western Writers of America and also was named a Kansas Notable Book by the state library, but the cover and cover copy didn't remotely match what the book was about. With the Kindle books, at least the ones that I have the rights to, I can control the covers and the copy. In the case of THE SIXTH RIDER, I even asked Johnny D. Boggs, a noted western writer and former president of WWA, to write an introduction that would signal the tone of the book. I wanted to make sure that readers knew what they were in for.

THE SIXTH RIDER has had steady but modest sales since being released as Kindle, but I always thought it could do better. The problem was finding a bigger audience. After all, my books get great reviews, they win awards, and I've have a small but passionate fan base. Now, in just one weekend, I have thousands of readers who were interested enough to download THE SIXTH RIDER and give it a try. And I think they'll like it enough to pay to give my other books a try as well, especially the trilogy that begins with HELLFIRE CANYON.

We'll see. If it works, I'll let you know. If it doesn't -- well, I'll let you know that, too.

The worst that can happen is that I gave a few thousand people a free copy of a book I believe in. 

And if you're reading this before midnight Sunday, Jan. 29, when the promotion ends, then click on the heading above. It will take you to the Amazon page where you can download THE SIXTH RIDER to your Kindle device. If you like the book, please blog about it or post a review. After all, you got it for free. 

Now, I have to get back to what I'm supposed to be doing: finishing my next book under contract, the first in a paranormal mystery series set in the Old West. I think readers who have liked my other stuff will love this. So, back to work.