Smashing Through the Word Thicket

Thorny thicket

As many or most or all or none of you know, I also have stories (and poems!) in places other than Patreon, so if you haunt Amazon or Smashwords (and through them Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and many other places) then you might see my mini-collections of short stories. (Here I’m specifically talking about work for sale by me alone (assuming Patreon is sort of selling stories) rather than stuff I’ve published in magazines in print or on-line, that might be sold by other people, and you might and should buy them (for example, the latest of Interzone here, which includes my story “The Inside-Out” as well as some awesome art specifically for the story).)

All of which is to say that when I started my grand plan to make money off my writing (for survival purposes) I had Patreon as one prong and selling collections of stories via (mostly) Amazon as another. (The most likely way to make a living as a writer–through selling novels to big publishers for advances–requires an agent and is beyond my reach, in that I don’t have anything to do with the actual selling, I just create and put that creation into another’s hands.) Both methods are slow-growth prospects, the mini-collection one much more slow than the other. Perhaps because I’m a bad marketer. Also, perhaps because I dislike self-promotion.

Or perhaps it’s because I don’t know how ebook marketing and sales work. I remember reading once that giving a book away for free for a limited time can actually improve sales drastically after the giveaway has ended. This makes sense in terms of a series, giving the first book away to ideally seduce readers into buying the sequels. But how does this work for unrelated works? I guess, since my goal was to make money, I never considered giving away my books, especially when I didn’t have any other books to (hopefully) be boosted by such a giveaway.

At least, I didn’t have that until now.

On August 12th I’m going to be releasing a new mini-collection of stories, all previously unpublished (unlike the first two collections which were reprints), titled A PASSPORT TO A NATION OF TALKING SLUGS (which can be pre-ordered here, if you are so inclined), and this time I decided that I’d just go along with whatever Amazon suggested, since my own efforts at salesmanship didn’t take. What this means for that book is listing it in KDP Select–meaning only Amazon can sell it, and it’s free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers–as well as selling it for 2.99, which Amazon claims is the best price for this kind of book. So, we’ll see.

In a similar way, Smashwords (where I have my first two mini-collections listed, in addition to Amazon) is doing a month-wide promotion where authors are encouraged to list their books at deep discounts or for free. So I’m giving my books away for free for July. The books weren’t selling through Smashwords anyway, and I’d only made two sales through their affiliate program (and I can’t collect my share of the profits until my pay-out reaches ten dollars), so I figured I had nothing to lose.

The result is a lot of people “purchasing” the collections for free (and at least one has read YOU HAVE BEEN MURDERED and rated it on Goodreads already), which is great because, well, hopefully people will read them. They weren’t being read before (except mostly by people I know) so bonus.  The more surprising result is that these free “sales” have apparently also caused sales (for money, even) at Amazon, as though my name being more out in the world has caused more people to find my writing and, as a consequence, decide to pay for it.

I don’t understand the process by how this all works. I don’t know if the free collections will continue to sell on Smashwords. I can’t say that following Amazon’s suggestions for the new collection will result in any real difference than what happened with my first two. But I’ll keep you updated. Wish me luck.

Oh, and if you want to pre-order the new collection, get the first two collections for free, or (gasp!) buy them for monies, the links are above.

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