A short while before I was ready to hand over my next novel – Searchlights and Shadows – to my editor, Meghan Pinson, I sat down with her for a chat about the manuscript and the sorts of things I wanted her to focus on as she clawed her way through the story.
Once I’d checked every item on my Be Sure To Tell Meghan list, I thought we were done but then Meghan looked at me, all serious like, and said, “I think you should make your first novel free.”
I don’t know what expression registered on my face, but my head was saying, “She wants me to give away a book I spent a year researching and then another year writing. Is this woman high?” Come to think of it, that’s probably exactly what my expression was saying because Meghan went on to say that this tactic had proven highly successful for another client of hers, Pamela Fagan Hitchens who, like me, has a series of books out.
The principle is the same as what drug dealers use: make the first hit free and if the customer gets hooked, they’ll come back and readily pay for the next hit, and the one after that.
While I wasn’t sure I wanted to use the friendly neighborhood heroin dealer as my model, the idea made sense — especially as I’d have a new book coming out in a couple of months. Plus, it’s never a bad idea to shake things up from time to time. Try something new, do something bold. And if it didn’t work or resulted in unforeseen consequences, then I could put everything back the way it was and pretend it never happened.
And that’s what I did. I made The Garden on Sunset free in all ebook formats and then applied to BookBub to be their featured Historical Fiction author in one of the daily emails they send out alerting their huge subscriber list of free or discounted ebooks. A number of sites do what BookBub do, but they’re the biggest. Consequently, they’re the hardest to convince that they should include your book in one of their emails. But I guess I presented a strong case because they accepted me and said I’d be included in their email of December 9th, 2014.
So, December 9th dawned and at around 8am my BookBub email came in and there I was.
I was really just doing this all on faith and had no idea what – if anything – would happen. Imagine my surprise when, a couple of hours later, I thought to check my rankings on Amazon, and found this:
I did one of those long, slow, exaggerated blinks you only see people in the movies do because I couldn’t fathom that within four hours, I was now sitting at #1 on Amazon’s Free Historical Fiction Top 100, AND #1 on Amazon’s Free Contemporary Fiction Top 100, AND sat at #2 in the Free Kindle Store (meaning of all Kindle books being offered free, in any genre, The Garden on Sunset was the second most popular.)
I actually didn’t believe it – or more likely decided that I misunderstood what I was looking at so I clicked on each link.
Lo and behold:
So then I wondered–actually first, I picked my jaw up off the floor and then I wondered– how many people had downloaded the book. Turns out that over 25,000 people had downloaded it, a number that would rise to over 35,000 over the course of the following week during which time I stayed at the top of those charts for more than three days.
Who knew those drug dealers were so smart?
“SEARCHLIGHTS AND SHADOWS” – due out January 2015