Well, my publisher, William Morrow, has decided to promote the new Bangkok thriller, THE QUEEN OF PATPONG, by giving away the Kindle version of the first one, which is called A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART.  They're including three chapters of QUEEN to try to lead readers from one book to the other.

What does anyone think of this idea?  Any drawbacks?  (NAIL will only be free for about a month, after which it'll go back to $9.99.)  Any ways occur to anyone re: how to capitalize on it?

I don't know whether they're doing the same thing with the Barnes & Noble e-book version.  Should they?

Opinions or thoughts, anyone?

Thanks in advance.

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Thank you, IJ and although this sounds like one hand washing the other, it isn't -- IJ's books create a completely believable, highly detailed world, and the characters and mysteries are really riveting.
Hi, Wes --

You can pre-download NAIL now, whatever "pre-download" means (reminds me of George Carlin about airplane English -- "'We are now ready for pre-boarding.' What does that mean? You get on the plane before you get on the plane?"), and I think it'll be delivered to your Kindle when the offer goes live. I really hope you enjoy it.

The newsletter is mainly about writing. I have an enormous "Finish Your Novel" area on my site (it's about 90% of the site) and also dozens of guest blogs from writers about how they work/deal with problems/etc/. So I adapt that material and add quotations about creativity in general, of which I have literally thousands, and maybe a few striking images, and send it out. I have to say that almost no one has asked me to drop him/her from the list.

And there are often 2-3 months in a row when I don't plug anything, although I may run a capsule review of someone else's book that particularly impressed me. It's actually fun to do, and most people seem to like it, judging from the e-mail response.
Giving away books has been a great form of promotion on ebooks for years and years. Baen made it an optional thing for their authors, and those who actually did give away books generally found their sales went up.

I am happy to see a big publisher who had a clue about the ebook buying audience. It's true, paper book buyers tend to be less price sensitive than ebook buyers. The idea that Amazon created that price sensitivity is nonsense - ebook buyers tend to come from the ranks of those of us who have a tight budget. We are people who buy used books and use the library a lot. Many don't own a Kindle, but read with Kindle apps on desktop computers or other devices.

The high-volume used book audience has been invisible to the publishers until now, but with the coming of ebooks, we're going to be much more of a factor. Amazon is very aware of this. They've been marketing to the whole spectrum of readers for years, and they know what they're doing. Publishers could re-capture that audience with well-done specials like the one at the top of this thread, and keeping prices relatively low for ebooks (treating them like paperbacks). And as with library users, they will likely still sell hardbacks of favorite boks as collectibles to even the chintziest of ebook customers.
Authors make nothing from used book sales. Neither do publishers.
But when that HUGE audience switches over to ebooks (and it already is a large portion of the ebook audience) they will be the largest volume buyers in the market. Amazon understands the market, publiishers (and many authors) sadly do not. Amazon didn't invent that market, Amazon OPENED a market that was unavailable as a revenue stream to publishers.

(And, frankly, I do dispute that used book sales don't provide income - sure it's indirect, but the whole pricing model of paper books is dependent on the resale market. Most people couldn't afford to buy so many books if they didn't share them among multiple users via resale.)
Actually, apparently my fans buy to keep. The irritation for authors is that Amazon lists the used price next to the new price. I'm sure most authors would like a more discreet reference to the availability of used copies.
It's Amazon's used book option that revived so many midlist careers, though.

I do hear you. I'm an author too. But with traditional publishing, I don't have a problem with the used market. It's what justifies the prices people get for new. It's what builds the fanbase too. AND, those who buy used, seldom buy new. They buy new only as a deliberate choice.

As a business person, I think ignoring and dismissing (and dissing) the used market is a really big mistake. Those people are the biggest and most important demographic in the audience. That's where a lot of the "sneezers" (as Seth Godin calls them) reside. Sneezers are people who spread the word about your product like a virus.

And with ebooks, there won't BE a used market - but that's where the biggest chunk of money is, so whoever serves that market it going to win.
It's Amazon's used book option that revived so many midlist careers, though.

How so? Through word of mouth? The "sneezers" tell their friends who go out and buy new copies? If this were true, then my Amazon sales of new books should at least remain more or less constant, or actually increase steadily over time--but they don't. They peak shortly after the book's release--maybe there are a few reviews or some other bit of promo that spikes them after that--and then they decline sharply, particularly once used copies begin to appear right next to the new ones. There's no apparent "sneezer" effect on new book sales that I can discern.
Back in the nineties, a lot of careers just fell off the map. The authors remained active, though, in the used market. They had Amazon rankings. They had an active following. And their books got back in print.

As for the idea that book sales peak just after release... um, you know that's a new pattern, don't you? Brought about by the way big distributors have done their ordering for the past thirty years or so. Before that, there was an actual healthy midlist. Books, and authors, had a lot more time to develop an audience.

Yeah, some books still get a bounce from the promotional efforts of traditional publishing, but on ebooks, the pattern is different. You build slowly, and increase as you go. We were comparing numbers in an ebook author group, and it seems as though there is an early peak in the first six months, and then it settles down to more steady numbers after that. (Of course, this is after only about two years of observation, but it matches what I remember of the sixties and seventies)

The other thing to factor in is the arc of the career. There is only so much space in a bookstore, so it's out with the old and in with the new. Only a select few midlist authors right now have more than a book or two available on the shelves - and though Amazon can offer more, those books go out of print anyway, so once again only used books are available on Amazon. EXCEPT...

With ebooks, that audience again can be tapped. And with each new book, your old ones sell.
But when that HUGE audience switches over to ebooks (and it already is a large portion of the ebook audience) they will be the largest volume buyers in the market.

But will they also be the same cheapskates who are now accustomed to buying used books for a penny from Amazon? Will they demand lower and lower price points--from $9.99 to $6.99 to $4.99 to $1.99 to .99, and when they don't get them will they turn to bittorrent and other download sites instead?
But that's not a bad thing, Jon. I'm trying to tell you that. They are a huge, untapped, new audience.

I make 2 bucks off a 3 dollar book. And some authors are doing nicely at 35 cents a book for their one dollar specials - because they get so much volume. (I think the price is probably going to settle in at 3.99-4.99 or so which is a good price.) The paper market isn't going away, and neither is that audience. This is an additional audience.

Remember also that people aren't buying used books for a penny from Amazon. The least you can pay is $4, because of the 3.99 handling charge. Which is per book.

Look, you said that Amazon is creating that price sensitivity, but that's just not true. That price sensitivity was always there - Amazon was smart enough to tap into it. The publishers and authors who are smart enough to do it will win out in the end.

Furthermore, Amazon is smart enough to discourage extreme discounting. While there are a lot of indies who have 99 cent books (including yours truly for this month) Amazon pays low royalties for that, which pushes all but the most amateur writers up to a minimum of 2.99. Even the most price sensitive customer notices that.

Since Amazon doesn't allow indies to offer freebies, most of us use the 99 cent price point as the equivalent of a giveaway.
Amazon drives and promotes price sensitivity on ebooks, yes indeed--otherwise they wouldn't put those boycott group tags up on my freaking Kindle page. It's not like Amazon doesn't control their own site content--they obviously do, and the fact that they allow the boycott groups to tag products they sell must mean that they approve of the tactic. Their battle with Macmillan over pricing is another indicator that price point is a crucial concern to them--otherwise why drop all Macmillan authors from the site--even their print books--essentially holding us hostage in order to get their way? Sure, ebooks should not cost what hardcovers cost. But I object to Amazon's tactics, and it's pretty clear to me that they're doing everything in their power to keep ebook prices at or below the $9.99 price point.

Whether there's a huge, untapped new audience for ebooks or not is still unclear to me--maybe so, or maybe it's a fad that will dry up in a few years. I hope you're right--it would be great if iBooks and the Kindle were able to pump some serious cash into the flagging publishing biz.


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