Since I wrote the original post about the philosophy of Giving Away Your Book, I’ve continued to study the world of free content. It’s really fascinating.
Here are a few additional things I’ve learned:
1. Giving away free books for a short time is a good way to create a sense of urgency and excitement.
Bob Younce of Writing Journey wrote a 30 page report on the e-lancer service known as Helium. Bob’s original posts on his Helium experiment inspired me to write my first Helium article.
Bob followed up on his experiment by writing this monster post about Helium, that turned into a paper, that will eventually be a for pay e-book. He’s using Twitter and his blog to generate interest in the free work before switching it over to a fee-based e-book.
2. A long series of posts might lead to a successful book, if you have an audience.
Like Bob, Dustin Wax over at Writing Technology has laid out the basics on e-books in a five part series. If he keeps cranking on the series, he will eventually have an e-book. This is the same story repeated on sites all over the net, but Dustin is also building an audience by putting up his posts. When it comes time to move the book, he’ll have a built-in market.
3. Dandelions keep coming back no matter how much we spray them with poison.
Cory Doctorow gives a compelling argument for giving away your work by asking writers to think like dandelions.
Dandelions and artists have a lot in common in the age of the Internet. This is, of course, the age of unlimited, zero-marginal-cost copying. If you blow your works into the net like a dandelion clock on the breeze, the net itself will take care of the copying costs. Your fans will paste-bomb your works into their mailing list, making 60,000 copies so fast and so cheaply that figuring out how much it cost in aggregate to make all those copies would be orders of magnitude more expensive than the copies themselves.
4. Fiction works too.
Tor.com’s sneak peek is perhaps one of the greatest fiction giveaways from a major publisher ever, but not only are they giving away great books they are also keeping fans in the loop on the upcoming launch of their new site. I have diligently downloaded each new book and of the lot, I’ve gone on to purchase four books that I would never have taken off the shelf.
Ok, they might come off the shelf but probably wouldn’t take them to the counter.
It isn’t that these are poor books. In fact, I’ve enjoyed them all. The thing is that by trying the PDF books at my leisure I connected with new authors. This is what turned me from browser to buyer.
5. I’m still not sure if writers are making money, or if that even matters.
But I do know that the second half of that statement is probably the important part…
If you have a large audience, you should be able to push your book. It’s a simple numbers game at that point, assuming that you’ve written something you audience wants. However, what about the little guy? There are such varying stories on this one, I’m going to leave the topic open and try to get more information.
Comments are certainly welcome! 🙂
12 thoughts on “Giving Away Your Book Part 2”
I love coming to your blog, Jamie. I really do. I get some of the best ideas for posts, and now round about marketing, reading some of your stuff. Thanks.
Jamie: As a matter of fact, I did put up those posts as an e-book, albeit a really short one (12 pgs), at http://www.writerstechnology.com/ebooks — and I plan to do the same with future series. I see it as a service to readers, a way to build up some goodwill, and a way to demonstrate some of my “chops”. In the future, I might write a big ebook (the kind I could selll) related to the theme of The Writer’s Technology Companion — and by “might” I mean I already have some good ideas and I probably will develop at least one of them. I’m not a big fan, though, of the “compile all my posts into an ebook to sell” model, even though I know it works for some people. That’s always felt a little shady to me, selling something available for free elsewhere, even if you consider the convenience factor. Though who knows — maybe I’ll be convinced down the line.
@AB Thanks so much! I’m glad I can help. By the way, I loved your Mother’s Day post! 🙂
@Dustin You know I thought I remembered seeing that ebook on your site. Went looking for it and I couldn’t find it! Didn’t think to click that big tab at the top that says EBOOKS… 🙂 You should add the image of the ebook and the link to all of those posts.
I agree that a pure port of your posts to an ebook is a bit wonky. Authors should beef up the material if they want to package it that way. I bought Garr Reynolds Presentation Zen because I knew it was everything he’d written plus a lot more.
I really like the way your site is developing by the way. Immensely helpful to the writing community.
Thanks, Jamie. I get a little self-conscious about some of the “how to” stuff, which isn’t immediately “exciting” but which, I like to think, some writer will come across on Google some day when s/he needs it most. I’m trying to keep a good mix of tutorials, reviews, immediately practical stuff, and fun stuff — I’m glad to hear that it’s more or less working out.
Maybe I’ll add the ebook link to all my posts — I hadn’t thought of that. I guess my thinking was that it’s a “side thing”, rather than the main event. Maybe I should change my thinking…
@ Jamie Thanks for saying so. I was a little worried about putting the post up because of the personal nature of it, and the echoing silence following did nothing to dispel the feeling.
You bring up an interesting point regarding blogs turned book. I’ve actually been helping a blogger friend sort through some old posts, mostly finding the “meat” of his blog, to turn into an ebook. I’ll have to bring this up with him once we finish going through the three years worth of posts.
I struggle with the more “how to” stuff too, Dustin. My roundup link fests are something I enjoy doing but I don’t know if they work on this site. Makes me want to start another site just for all of the writing goodness I find out there.
That said, maintaining your voice/topic is a pretty common problem.
Lorelle VanFossen, a blogger I love to read, did a few posts about this topic on Blog Herald. Here’s one I really like:
P.S. On the ebook thing… Even if it is a side thing, I’d call it out on those relevant posts. What I ended up doing was clicking on the Rockstar freelancer ad, which is cool and relevant too but what I wanted was your ebook because I liked your writing style and what you had to say. [ok, I think I’ve beat that horse enough ;)]
@AB Sorry I missed you on the last comment. Looks like were writing here at the same time. 🙂
Sometimes personal posts are hard to comment on. At times, they read like perfect works of art (like yours) and a comment seems out of place. Other times it feels like the timing might be off. And then, there are still other times when good readers fall behind on comments they should be making.
[cue awkward shuffling of feet] 🙂
Of course, I can’t have people clicking on the ads! 🙂
But you raise a good point — when I get a chance, I’ll drop a link to the full series ebook into theose posts, and I’ll try to keep adding links to relevant posts when they get included in an ebook. There are at least three or four 5-part series like that coming up in the next several months — I’m going to try to do one a month (which is plenty of time between ebooks, which are kind of a hassle to put together).
On the audience/money thing, here’s what I think: for a new site like mine, right now is all about building goodwill and demonstrating quality. I’ve gotten about 200 subscribers since “opening shop”, and a fairly steady flow of daily visitors, but probably not enough of an audience to make enough money to make the work of putting together a full ebook — let’s say something I could feel comfortable charging $10 for — worth the time and effort it would take to write. Let’s say 15% of my subscribers and 10% of my visitors bought it (which is a huge over-estimate, I think) — we’re talking maybe $300 or so.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that an ebook would attract more traffic and attention — I’ve gotten over 2,000 hits in a day from StumbleUpon, let’s say I could sell 1% of them a book, that’s another $200, and SU traffic usually lasts for a couple days or so. And maybe other sites would send extra traffic — Rockstar Freelancer has an affiliate program, which means a lot of people are promoting it, which I’m sure multiplies sales and probably increases traffic for the authors, as well.
Still, we’re talking maybe, best-case scenario, $1000 or so, which isn’t chicken feed, but isn’t mad money, either. If I put 40 hours into writing, laying out, and promoting a book, that’s about $25/hr, which is far less than average for pro writers.
There are a lot of variables, here — a good ebook is going to start bringing in new traffic which is going to mean more sales which will bring in more traffic, etc. I think if you’re offering a $10 product and can reasonably expect to sell 500 copies, that’s a pretty attractive proposition. I think it’s a good idea to start from the ground up — how much work is it to create and market, and how much is a reasonable minimum wage for your work — and figure out how many copies you need to sell and then make a plan to sell that many.
It would be nice if some of the big ebook folks would churn some of the numbers publicly. I’m sure that’s a pretty daunting prospect, but it sure would help figure out some of the variables involved.
Wow, that was a long comment!
@Dustin I think your comment officially counts as a guest blog post. 🙂
I agree though. You’re still growing your subscriber base (and learning about the content they want). I just posted a note over on Men with Pens about the value of analytics in web content development. It’s not exactly earth shattering, but I think it definitely plays a role in creating really engaging content that you can eventually invite people to pay for.
I’d definitely like to see some folks talk about the right time to write ebooks and back it up with numbers.
Jamie, this post is right on time. I was having a conversation with a writer friend today about the topic of giving away free content. Today, authors must market themselves whether self publishing or going the traditional publishing route. Building an audience by giving away your content can be a very smart strategy. Thanks for all the great information and links!
Glad to be of help, Karen! Coming from you that’s high praise!