I had some relatives over the other day, and I was trying to explain the strategy behind the sale I'm currently running to an uncle who just couldn't wrap his head around why I would give away all of my work for next to no money.
That's a short-term way of thinking that I think a lot of self-published authors share. I spend a lot of time reading up about what other authors are doing, and how they're selling books, and I've seen many an author scoff at the suggestion of discounting their books or (gods have mercy) giving them away for free. "I spent years writing that! If someone wants to read it, they'll be paying me more than a pittance!"
Others believe that people like me are selling the whole industry short, training readers to expect self-published books to be cheaper than their traditionally published counterparts. I don't have an opinion about that.
Setting aside those concerns, even some of the more practically-minded people I've chatted with find it hard to grasp why I'd sell so much work for so little money. Any jerk on the street can grab up the past five years' worth of my hard work for five fucking dollars, assuming they even give a shit about the short stories.
And what's the point of reaching a wide audience if they're grabbing everything you've got for next to nothing? The concept of a loss leader is that they get the first book cheap or free, but have to pay full price to continue to the others. If people are getting all of my available work at the discounted prices, I'm not leading them to anything. I'm jizzing my shorts before the hooker takes her clothes off.
The hooker analogy becomes even more apt when one factors in the money I'm spending on Facebook ads right now. I'll be doing good to break even this week. Seriously, what the fuck am I thinking?
I'm thinking longer term. Sure, I've got a lot of books out right now, representing years of hard work and fine-tuned dick joke craftsmanship. But I like to think that I'm still closer to the beginning of my writing career than the end. I'm not even close to running out of steam. There are plenty of adventures yet to be written. On the longer timeline, this 'blowing-my-load' sale still counts as a loss leader.
The short-term goal of the sale isn't about making money. It's about converting as many cautiously curious people as I can into fans. It's about getting more future customers to like my Facebook page and subscribe to my newsletter.
In the meantime, I'm creeping closer and closer to typing "The End" on my first draft of Critical Failures V. When that book is released, I expect to be very happy I lured all of these new folks in.
Another thing to keep in mind is that all of these people who are taking advantage of this sale are only a drop in the bucket of people who would enjoy my books if only they were aware said books exist.
If my CF5 launch goes as well as I expect it to, the book should rocket up to the top of its Amazon category lists, putting it in front of the eyes of people who still don't know who I am. Upon noticing that it's the fifth book in a series, they may decide to check out the first one, especially since it's a more conventional loss leader, permanently priced at $0.99.
Am I suggesting that you need to run these kinds of sales in order to have a successful writing career? Of course not. What works for me might not work for you. I know several authors far more successful than I am who I don't think I've ever seen run any sales at all, and who don't appear to give two shits about their newsletters or Facebook pages. There are as many paths to success as there are successful writers.
So why am I writing this? For a few reasons.
1. Because it's Friday and I owe you a blog post.
2. I find that articulating my strategies to myself helps me to refine them.
3. When someone asks me why the hell I'm giving away my books for so little money, sending them a link to this post will be much easier than trying to explain it.
4. I want to remind those who may not have heard that I have a sale running.
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