Monday, February 21, 2011

Paid at Last! Paid at Last!

Last week, after over-extending its stay by about eight months, the one month free offer for the ebook version of Painless ended (except on AmazonUK...long story).

During this time, readers would often thank me for making it free, or feel sorry for the poor author who was forced to give his book away like a tag sale flyer and provide condolences. While appreciated, neither of these responses is really accurate (although I will still accept the $$ from those offering to send to me out of pity!). The free ebook offer actually was a great opportunity that unexpectedly took Painless to places I never thought it would travel - and I think deserves its own blog entry.

At this time last year I was a big ebook skeptic - the concept didn't seem logical (why would anyone spend $$ to buy a device to read and then have to buy the book on top of it? Why not just buy the book?). So I didn't think much of it early last summer when I made Painless available for free in response to a promotion for this strange new tablet-looking thing Apple put out called an iPad. It led to this conversation with Mark Coker, the head of Smashwords, my ebook publisher:

Mark: Just wanted you to know that Painless was downloaded 1,500 times on Apple
Me: Wow, that's way more than I thought - what's that, like a few hundred a month?
Mark: No, I meant it was downloaded 1,500 times last week.

This got my attention, but was nothing compared to my surprise when those numbers multiplied by 30 the week after Xmas (I think everyone got an iPad for Xmas xcept me!) or that it became the most downloaded free ebook on AmazonUK in January of this year. And while stats and numbers are great, the best part was the feedback I got from readers in Melbourne, Australia to Tulsa, Oklahoma to London, and so on, along with being able to participate in Operation Ebook Drop, which provides free ebooks for soldiers overseas. And let's be honest, if you're reading this blog entry it's most likely because you came across the book on the free offer, right?

I have no idea how many of those who downloaded the book actually read it (although I do know that almost 2,000 people on iBooks have rated and reviewed it) and no clue what percentage of those who read it: liked it, hated it, or were somewhere in-between, but I do know that the free offer gave the book what any author would want - a vehicle to get their book into readers hands, and allow the readers to determine its fate. I would compare it to owning a restaurant that nobody knows about, and don't have the advertising budget to reach people - wouldn't that restaurant want to give away free meals to hopefully attract future patrons to the restaurant? In the pre-ebook world, it would be too cost prohibitive to give away free meals, but it's a whole new world now in the book industry (a topic that probably also deserves its own blog entry).

The Painless ebook will now be selling for $6.99, so it will still be much cheaper than the meals at the fancy restaurants from the big publishers. Thanks again to everyone who participated in the free offer!