Here's how I sold 12,000 crime fiction e-books: I didn't.
At least, not in the way you think of a transaction. I "sold" them, not sold them, through Amazon's KDP Select program.
Readers of e-books will feel their eyes glaze over after that last sentence. But know this. The piles upon bloated piles of free e-books you've stuffed into your Kindle's digital gizzard are offered gratis only because of the KDP Select program from Amazon.
Here's how the program works. First, an author signs a 90-day exclusivity agreement with Amazon on a per-title basis. That means e-books in the program can only be sold through Amazon.
In return for jumping into the turrets of this market-grabbing blitzkreig, the author is given five days for giving away the e-book on Amazon. Authors can spread them out through the 90-day period, in chunks or all at once.
Getting the e-book out there for free increases the chance readers will buy it once the gratis days end. Amazon is happy, readers are happy and the author is happy.
Now back to that 12,000 number. Since February, that's how many free copies I've "sold" of Cleansing Eden: The Celebrity Murders in the US, UK and elsewhere. The novel even got to #43 in all of Amazon for free titles.
I say they were sold even though money didn't change hands. Every "sale" (when someone got a free e-book) was like a tiny ad in a larger campaign. An ad campaign that put 12,000 e-books in front of readers' eyeballs would've cost me a good amount of scratch. It's opportunity cost. Profit has as much to do with expenses as income.
That's not to say exposure pays the bills. There are plenty of rants about this, such as the Harlen Ellison video below. Try explaining to your landlord or mortgage company that you'll get a payment in as soon as the exposure comes through for you.
Here's the but.
BUT exposure from KDP Select does seem to pay off. I'm not going to throw out any numbers, but I can safely say hitting big freebie numbers does translate into at least one traditionally defined sale.
That's the dream right there. There's no greater compliment an author can receive than having a reader pay for a work. It doesn't matter if it's a lot or a little. Authors need to be read. Readers need authors to write. The KDP Select program is making that happen.