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Posts Tagged ‘selling’

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Amazon and Smashwords allow the independent author to easily self-publish online for money. You upload your file, your cover artwork, set a price and that’s it. I’ve self-published on Smashwords for years but have kept my books free. Downloads are in the region of 1000 per year, initially, tailing off gradually to a few hundred, all of which I’m more than happy with. As for Amazon though I refuse to deal with them as they regularly feature pirated copies of my books and have made the process for getting them taken down so opaque I no longer bother. It’s just easier to tell everyone I don’t publish on Amazon, that any book appearing on there under my name is in breach of copyright. If you’re a pirate on the other hand I highly recommend the platform as it’s more than likely you’ll get away with it. But that’s another story.

The lesson thus far then, in so far as my own experience goes, is that if you want to self-publish, and you’re happy to make your book free, you are guaranteed to find readers, and plenty of them, and that’s a truly liberating experience, both for you and for your story. However, the same is not true if you set a price.

According to Smashwords’ own analysis, some authors do sell very well indeed, while others don’t sell at all. What they don’t say however, is what proportion of writers don’t sell, but I suspect it’s most of them. By far the most popular price point is free but some books, especially those priced modestly at $0.99 or $2.99 do sell, sometimes, but that doesn’t automatically mean yours will. As with conventional publishing the reasons why one book sells and another doesn’t aren’t clear. Good marketing helps of course, but there’s only so much an independent author can do to get their name and “brand” out there without breaking the bank, and my philosophy has always been that since it’s unlikely you’re going to make much money anyway, you’re better giving your books away and going for a readership. Better for a writer to be read and make nothing at it, than to aim for gold and not be read at all.

I’ve got eleven novels on Smashwords now, coming up on twelve, all free. But what would happen if I set a price for them – say $2.99? Surely I’d sell at least a few copies? Well, as an experiment, I tried it with “Between the Tides” and it killed my readership entirely. Not a single download. So I lowered the price to $0.99. Same thing. Not a single sale.

The lesson then does indeed seem to be “keep it free”, but in the end it’s up to you and there’s no harm in trying. Someone always wins the lottery. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that, so go for it and see what happens.

Which brings me to the shameless self-publicity bit about my latest novel which, as of this evening, is now complete. As is my habit I’ve been serialising it for free on Wattpad first, even though Wattpad is a simply dreadful platform for downloads, but I still find it useful as part of the drafting process, even if that only means getting the chapter numbers right. But how’s this: once it’s done, I’m going to pull it from Wattpad, then publish the final draft exclusively on Smashwords for $0.99. I’ve even filled in a US tax form and everything in anticipation of making a killing. After all, this book’s been a year in the writing and I’ve burned some serious midnight oil on it. Why should I give it away?

Well, for one thing, I’ve already had my money’s worth from it. It may be fresh to the reader but I’ve lived and breathed it for a long time and, even though no one else may be able to decipher what it is I’m trying to say in it, I do, and I’ve already moved on, psychologically, to thinking about the next project.

Still,… it’s tempting. So perhaps you should catch up with it on Wattpad, just in case I change my mind. Go on, I’ll give you until midnight December 31’st. Then, come January 2020, I’m turning over a new leaf, becoming a paid author no one will ever read again. And then like all New Year resolutions, once I’ve sobered up, normal service will probably be resumed, and the Inn at the Edge of Light will finally,… be set free.

Possibly.

Or not.

As the case may be.

 

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