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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Using a Free Read to Sell Books by SF Romance Author Cathryn Cade

Thanks, Sara and Judith for inviting me back to RTG. It’s been so great to watch this blog grow, and to explore the wealth of information here.

Let’s talk about marketing. Pffffft! Yes, the subject most writers would like to kick into the nearest closet and slam the door. I don’t just dislike marketing, I hate it! I want to write stories for my readers, chat with them on Facebook, answer the wonderful, inspiring messages they send me. I don’t wanna market.
So I’m all about promoting my books the easy way. My favorite part of writing? Writing. So going with my strengths, I use a novella (40K) as a major marketing tool. It’s written, edited, covered and packaged. 
Done. 

I don’t have to sit in a chair behind a table of books and bling, hoping readers will take pity on me and stop. I don’t even have to go to a con. I love cons, but they’re expensive, and I am essentially an introvert. I love meeting people, but it also exhausts me emotionally. So after a day or two, I’m ready to dive into that closet, even with marketing lurking in the shadows.

Instead, I let my ex-space pirate and alpha hero Stone Masterson do the heavy lifting for me. 


Heart of Stone is a science fiction romance. It can also be called ‘space opera’, a term I love as it means a rollicking good adventure. The story is set in the world of both my Orion and LodeStar series, so it serves as an introduction not only to my work, but to both series.
I’ve heard authors rally the cry ‘Don’t give away your work! It devalues all of our work.’ Sorry, I totally disagree. When my local grocer lowers the price of sweet, juicy oranges to get people into his store, he loses money on the oranges, but he makes money on everything else they buy. And who walks out with only oranges? Not me and probably not you. The oranges are a ‘loss leader’.

And I’ve never heard one grocer complain publicly about devaluing oranges.  They just put up their own loss leaders!

Amazon is by far and away my biggest sales venue. Heart’s Amazon categories are
·         ‘Free > Romance > Science Fiction’
·         ‘Free > Science Fiction > Space Opera’
Amazon’s Free chart lists are, as I’m sure you know, a very popular place for readers to cruise for new books and authors. I have a number of reviews that say ‘I don’t really read sfr, but I enjoyed this story’. I also have reviews that say ‘Love this story. I’ve found a new author.’ They’re willing to try my story because it was free.

Romance, luckily for us, is a genre with prolific and adventurous readers. They snap up free samples of authors’ work at a great rate. Heart has been out since January 2013, and downloads haven’t slowed. With a fabulous, sexy cover by Christy Carlyle at Gilded Heart Designs, Heart remains in the top 100 on Amazon sfr lists, usually in the top 40. That is great visibility for my sfr.

Now, not all who download will read. And not all who read will buy. But enough do come back for more of the author’s work, and pay for it. I have never once regretted publishing Heart of Stone as a perma free read on all sales sites. Want more proof? This is my Amazon sales chart for a portion of May 2014.

AMAZON SALES CHART
The red line represents sales of all 3 of my self-published books on Amazon, day by day. The green line represents free books given away. Notice how the general flow of sales follow the flow of give-aways. This month, I have given away X number of copies of Heart. I have sold more than double that number of books.

And these are just my self-published books. Because of Heart and the success of my new self-pub sfr series, my sfr backlist at Samhain continues to sell despite being published 2008-11. I’m a mid-list author with no pretensions to the top echelons, but this month I met a financial goal of mine, and I expect to reach another by year’s end.

Hopefully my backlist sales show that publishing a free novella can work for a traditional or small press author too. In fact, publishers usually love it when authors take on some of the heavy lifting! If contract terms preclude this, it can’t hurt to lay out a proposal, right?

Heart is always available, always working for me. That’s what I call a great sales partner. The rest of marketing can stay in the closet with the dust bunnies.

Best,
Cathryn Cade
Best-selling author of Sci Fi romance
RT 4.5 Stars and Night Owl Reviews TOP PICK
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9 comments:

Judith Ashley said...

Welcome back, Cathryn! I can see your reasoning behind having one perma-free novella as a loss-leader to invite/entice readers to try you out. I've toyed with that idea or putting up a collection of short stories related to the series I'm writing. It seems like a lot of work to me to click on all the e-retailers changing the prices of my books and then going back in the next day or in a week to raise it back up again. Much more useful to keep writing. And Christy's covers do not disappoint!

Cathryn Cade said...

Judith,

Your idea sounds wonderful! I say give it a try. Perhaps release a free read once a month to keep readers coming back. And a Gilded Heart cover can only help.

best,
Cathryn

Rashda Khan said...

Excellent post! I totally agree with you on the cons...they are expensive & leave me frazzled and incoherent (not a good sales/pr move!).

Going to check out Heart of Stone!

Cathryn Cade said...

Rashda,

We're lucky in this biz to have many avenues of promotion, aren't we?

Thanks for stopping by and hope you enjoy the read.

best
Cathryn

Sarah Raplee said...

After hearing arguments both for and against giving away product for free, I agree with you, Cathryn. It's a tried and true practice that really works! Great post and so nice to have you back for a visit!

Cathryn Cade said...

Sarah,

Marie Force was just saying today how well it works for her too. She has the first book of a very long series perma-free, and it brings her many readers. So I'm not alone!

Thanks again for having me back,
Cathryn

Maggie Lynch said...

I do think perma-free works in the right circumstances. 1) When it is directly related to your other books; 2) When you have a good backlist; and 3) When it acts as a funnel to other works. When free (perma or otherwise) doesn't work IMO is when there are no follow-on books in that genre or series or the author only has one or two books out.

The idea of having a novella or short story perma free is a great way to provide a funnel for other works. Also, as Marie Force and other bestselling authors do, setting the first book in a series permafree is a great way to get people into the series. In that case, however, the series needs to be more than three books IMO.

For example, Marie uses it for a six or eight book series (I can't remember how many now). Also, she doesn't do it for every series.

Your sales stats sure look great, Cathryn. You have worked really hard for many years and you write great books. I am soooo pleased that you are finally seeing some nice rewards.

Cathryn Cade said...

Maggie,

And thank YOU for your continued support and education of other writers with your DIY Publishing blog and book.

It is only thru such generosity of spirit that the community of independent writers will continue to thrive.

We're all in this together, and our overall success will raise the pool and carry us all higher.

best,
Cathryn

Diana McCollum said...

I really enjoyed your post. I agree with Maggie, to have a free book but with enough other books available to funnel readers to the books through the free one. I'd love to put that "Marketing Animal" in the closet and just use the free book idea.