Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

The Failure of Free

As an unknown writer, I adopted early on the Cory Doctorow mantra that "for pretty much every writer -- the big problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity". Doctorow gives away his novels via his web site even as they're sold through the usual retailers. Apparently, this model works well for him. I thought it was something that, for me, was at least worth a try.

Sometime after I finished writing my fantasy novel, The Hall of the Wood, and had put it up on the various online retailer sites, I decided to also start giving it away via this site. I figured while I was busying myself with my next writing project I'd be, worst case, spreading the word about my work, name, etc. Best case, I'd surely get some reviews out of it or at least some (hopefully) positive feedback. Maybe someone might even go out and buy a copy as a show of support.

What were the results?

In all, I must have given away about 2,000 copies in between the time I first made it available as a download and when I finished my next (unrelated) novel, The Five Elements. Since that time, with very little promotion, I racked up another 7-800 downloads. All told, not great, but not bad considering the audience on this blog is somewhat limited (audience is key; I'll touch on that next post). So, out of 2700-2800 downloads, how many reviews or emails with feedback do you think I received? How many sales?

I got 1 review and a handful of emails for HOTW. Sales… so miniscule not even worth mentioning.

About a year ago I did the same thing with The Five Elements, except this time I put a nice note in the front of each PDF saying something to the effect of "Thanks for downloading. I'd love it if you could give me a review." Almost 1,000 downloads later, no feedback and no reviews.

Sheesh.

So what went wrong?

Hard to say, but I suspect people were downloading the novels and never reading. I do this myself. I have a "folder of forgotten eBooks", either in Kindle or PDF format, which I've downloaded, categorized, and then never looked at again. Some people think this sort of hoarding goes on with eBooks priced at $0.99, too. I believe them. Whether free or 99 cents, both prices are cheap enough that most people aren't going to feel guilty enough or obligated to actually read the book. Pay $2.99, $4.99, $9.99 or even more for an eBook and I think the reader is much more likely to follow up the purchase with a read (and maybe even a review). It is for this very reason that some authors will not price their work at $0.99. I have to agree with them. If you think about it, by downloading a lot of free or 99 cent eBooks, a reader has simply transferred the hoard of cheap content from Amazon to their own personal device. Picking out what to read (or to read anything at all) becomes no less easy as a result.

With this in mind, I changed my strategy. No more freebies and no more of my eBooks priced at $0.99. Given the apparent correlation between price and the quality of the reader, I mapped out a blueprint of which I will discuss next post. Believe it or not, but this plan (so far, anyway) is working and I'm making sales every day.

The Five Elements Giveaway

I'm giving away 5 print copies of The Five Elements!

The promotion is through GoodReads. Basically, you sign up to enter the drawing and, when the giveaway period ends on March 10, GoodReads selects 5 lucky winners.

If you'd prefer to read now and own a Kindle, I've reduced the price of the eBook to $1.99. I'll hold the price there until the promotion ends.

Click-through to find out more about the giveaway or to enter. Good luck!

Upcoming giveaway for The Five Elements

I'm running a giveaway on GoodReads for 5 print copies of The Five Elements!

The giveaway begins on Feb. 10 (this Friday) and runs for a month. Lots of time to sign-up, but wanted to give some advance notice.

GoodReads giveaways are made with no expectation of anything in return—namely a book review—though it is greatly appreciated.

I'll post again when the giveaway period begins.

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5 out of 5 stars for The Five Elements by reader Terra

The Five Elements 200x300Terra had some very nice things to say about The Five Elements on Amazon.com:

As an epic fantasy adventure, Scott blends magical realism, elemental powers, alchemy and mechanics into a fascinating story.

And,

What I didn't expect is to be sucked into the book to where I was forced to shirk all work, parental, and clean-up responsibilities just so I could find out what happened next in this world Scott Marlowe created!

It's gratifying to have anyone read my work. But to get an excellent review in the process? It's the ultimate form of validation.

Thanks, Terra!

The Hall of the Wood: Free Today

The Hall of the WoodThe Hall of the Wood is free on Kindle today. This is a 1 day deal, so get it while you can.

My other novel, The Five Elements, is also free just for today. I decided to extend the 1 day freebie on that one into a second day because it was gaining so much momentum I didn't want to stop it. Right now, The Five Elements is sitting at #5 Epic Fantasy and has gotten over 500 downloads.

But this post is supposed to be about The Hall of the Wood.

The Hall of the Wood went free for most of the month of December and it "sold" (downloads, really) like crazy. Around 200 downloads/day, and never really showed signs of slowing. I'm hoping some small fraction of those thousands of potential readers will like it and leave a review. The jury is still out on that.

In the meanwhile, go download The Hall of the Wood.