The key ingredients to start the experiment turned out to be Smashwords and having your book on the Premium Catalog. Other authors tried this with having their book published on the Apple Store as well. I don’t have a directly published edition through Apple, but it is something to be noted. This way was possible as well.
I listed my first book, The Lost Secret of Fairies, as $0.00 on Smashwords. It takes a few weeks for it to set to that price on the other websites like Barnes and Nobles. But I noticed that it went free on the Nook within 2 weeks. Once it hits a big site like Barnes and Nobles, Amazon will often price match it with the Kindle edition. Then the fun really begins.
By the end of January, I’d sold 400 free books of The Lost Secrets of Fairies. Amazon matched it on Jan. 24, 2012. I watched the numbers climb to 1,739 to 2,037 by the next day. I noticed it averaged about 200 free downloads in one hour. As I tracked the numbers, it slowed down to 100 free downloads an hour over the next few days. By the end of January, I had 5,386 free downloads for my first book. The second book in my series, The Lost Secret of the Green Man, had 21 books sold.
February was a fun month. The sales continued with free downloads changing to 100 a day for The Lost Secret of Fairies. Sales of the second book followed. My first book returned to its normal price of $0.99 by March 15. The total free downloads for Feb. included 3,642. There were only 9 refunds in that time. Making the total free downloads for end of January, February, and beg. of March at: 9,894.
To see if all this would benefit my second book sales, I crunched some numbers. There were 21 sales of the Secrets of the Lost Green Man in January. February had 35 paid sales, and March had 24. The grand total of sales was 80. So, for about every 125 free downloads, I had a paid sale for my second book.
The Lost Secret of Fairies became the top in the Free Store for several listings. On Feb. 6, it listed as #1 children’s books/social situations. On Feb. 7 it was #1 children’s books/self esteem and respect. I witnessed it topping out at #110 in the Kindle Free Store around the same time.
After my first book returned back to $0.99, the free bump kept it selling at 2/3 higher than normal. My average sales is about 10 books a month. In March, it was at 64 sales, and for April dropped in sales down to 29.
About the end of March 2012, other authors noticed drops in sales ratings even with free book sales. After a while, people reported back trends on the Writer’s Cafe board that Amazon must have changed their algorithms in regards to free book sales. Free book sales were no longer being counted the same as paid book sales. The ratios seemed to work out to 10 free book sales equaling 1 paid book sale.
For the month of May, things returned to normal. The Lost Secret of Fairies had 12 Kindle Ebook sales while my second book, The Lost Secret of the Green Man, had 9.
What did I learn from this experiment? I’ll benefit from the over 10,000 sales of my first book, free and paid. I have an awesome reader base now. This will help when the third book is ready for release this fall(2012). Plus, for every 60 copies downloaded for my first book, a second book was bought. The Free Download bump raised my sales for two months. I even received 3 new reviews on Amazon, and 4 new reviews for the Nook. They were all positive. In addition, there were fewer refunds than I thought.
The most important thing I walked away with; I have thousands of new readers introduced to my series. That, in itself, is priceless.