As mentioned on Monday, I have made my ebook free for a limited period and I thought it might be useful or interesting or both to share some of the results of that decision over the coming weeks.
First, why have I done it?
Simple. The book is now a year old. It sold OK when it first came out last Christmas, a few thousand copies, but it is not something which will be promoted this festive period and these sort of humour/toilet books tend to only have one season in the spotlight and unless they sell millions they are destined to be sold off for £1 in The Works or Poundland. And fair enough, that is the way of things.
And in the olden days, pre-ebooks, that would have been that. The book would never be heard of again. But now we have the potential to create more interest and find more readers for an old book with a little bit of dynamic pricing.
So, 21st Century Dodos is free for the month of November because I want to see a) how many people will download it and b) whether it will have any benefit to sales of the book once it goes back up in price. Oh, and c) if it will make any difference to sales of the print edition or my previous book, It Is Just You, Everything's Not Shit.
There is also a d) if it works I can try it out on some of the other books I publish but might as well allow mine to be the guinea pig in case it turns out to have been a terrible idea.
Early results are interesting.
The week before it went free the Dodos ebook sold 4 copies at £2.99. It was averaging 5 copies a week over the past couple of months. At the traditional ebook royalty rate of 25% of net sales I make about 50p a copy, so was raking in £2-3 a week in royalties. I don't want to be dismissive of any amount of money but, as you can see, I didn't really have a great deal to lose by dropping the price to £0.00.
Last week, its first week as a freebie, it was downloaded 4,564 times. That is a staggering number. I was anticipating 500-1,000 so am delighted. Of course, none of these people have paid a penny for it and I won't earn any money from those downloads.
But was it worth it?
Only time will tell.
Obviously most of those people won't have started reading it yet, many may never get round to it at all, but even if only a quarter of them give it a go between now and Christmas that means 1,000 more readers than I had before. And 1,000 more readers can generate a hell of a lot of word of mouth. Assuming they like the book.
Some of those readers may decide to purchase a print copy of the book, for themselves or as a gift for someone else. Others may just tell their friends, mention it on Facebook or Twitter, or in some other way help to spread the word and that is a wonderful way to drive sales. A few, and I really mean just 2 or 3, might even download the audiobook so they can laugh at my attempts to narrate my tributes to defunct objects.
Can this be measured? I think so.
I will keep an eye on sales of the Dodos print book during this period. I will also monitor ebook sales once it goes back up in price. In the first few days of the offer Amazon sold out of the hardback and it currently sits at 12,000 or so on their bestseller chart. Not very high up but it was outside the top 150,000 before the ebook went free.
My first book is currently 99p on ebook. I have written about that pricing decision before. Two weeks ago it sold 5 copies. Last week, while Dodos was free, it sold 28 copies. OK, so I won't be retiring on the royalties from those sales but is that a coincidence? I think not.
Anyway, that's plenty of stats for one day. I will report back next week. I predict that far fewer copies will be downloaded but that we shall see a small uplift in sales of other formats. Let's see if I'm right.