When I was a lot younger, I thought it would be the coolest thing ever to publish and sell books. Back in second and third grade I filled an entire notebook with short horror stories roughly based on The Nightmare Before Christmas. Back then, I never thought about money. I just thought it would be cool to have my books out there for other people to read.
Now I'm older and quite a bit more greedy than I was as a third grader. I need this author hobby thing to be making me some money. I still have a desire to have my books out there and being read worldwide but that's taking a backseat to the passive income I hope to generate from ebooks, audio books, and paperbacks. Still, my social media outreach is only so large and to get any kind of sales coming in from people I don't know, it makes sense to turn to free giveaways. Giving away my books for free generally expands my reach to new potential paying customers, gives me a chance to get reviews, and fulfills the wish I've had for a long time to just have my books read.
I decided I wanted to find out exactly how many free books I've given away since 2012. In 2012, I made one of my history articles permanently free in the hope that people would read it and maybe look at my other history articles. It had also been hit by a one star review, so I figured maybe it could get some better reviews if I offered it as a freebie. I added another permafree book, The Journals of Jacob and Hyde, later on and eventually turned The Mormon Theocracy back into a paid article and let another history article have a chance to be the permafreebie for a while.
Here are my free giveaway numbers for 2012:
So in order to sell the 157 books I sold and expand my reach, I gave away nearly 4,000 ebooks in 2012. That's just via Amazon. I gave away another couple hundred through the other ebook retailers as well. Caribbean Piracy: Pirates and Privateers and Constantine: The Emperor of Tolerance, the ebooks that had the largest giveaways, were also my best sellers for 2012.
Now for 2013:
In 2013, I sold 372 books. I gave away 8,246 ebooks for free via Amazon plus a few hundred through the other ebook retailers. Over half of them were The Journals of Jacob and Hyde which helps explain why my Jehovah and Hades series is doing a lot better this year.
By January 1, 2014, I had given away 12,245 free ebooks through Amazon worldwide. I doubt I'd be selling hundreds without those free copies. I know authors who pay to be featured in email blasts that give away tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands. It works really well for boosting sales if the first book in a series is free. From The Journals of Jacob and Hyde, I generally see about 2-3% of readers go on and purchase the rest of the series. Fortunately, that makes me more money than when I had The Journals of Jacob and Hyde priced at $1.99. For a series, free downloads of the first book are kind of like a funnel. You want to give away as many as you can if you can maintain a steady percentage of readers who go on and buy the rest of the series.
So for my old third grade wish of just wanting my books to be read, I added in the free numbers from the other outlets. As of January 1, 2014, I had given away 12,838 ebooks worldwide. If you add in my ebook, audio book, and paperback sales for 2012 and 2013 it becomes 13,367. Not bad for an unknown author who hasn't had a chance to use any of the email blast services yet. If I could go back in time and tell myself that I would have 13,000+ books out in the world by the time I'm 28, I'm not sure I would believe myself. :-P
If you have one or a few of those 13,367 books on your phone, tablet, in audio, or in paperback, please consider leaving a review after reading it (especially if you enjoyed it.) I've sold nearly 200 in 2014 so far and I've had to give away a lot less to reach that point because my name is starting to get out there. Reviews help me out a lot.
I guess the last thing I wanted to say is thank you to all of my readers. While I always dreamed about being an author, I thought it would stay a dream. Getting a contract in the traditional publishing world used to be a nightmare. Technology has brought us to a point where an ebook revolution can take place and knock the gatekeepers of books on their asses. I'd also like to thank Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, and all the other companies that give self-published authors like me a chance to compete. As long as the opportunity is available and I can make a little bit of money doing this, I'll keep writing.