Today we're digressing from our usual e-commerce and dropshipping subject matter to discuss another great way to make money from the comfort of your own home: self publishing! We've discussed the importance of effective writing in your e-commerce offerings or web content before, but how can you best parlay that penchant for writing into profits? One way is to offer free e-books on Amazon.com.
Your e-book offering can be about anything that benefits your business and is relevant to your customers. For example, if you sell home furnishings, you could write about interior design tips and techniques. Helpful content is always appreciated by your audience, and offering long-form content can be an effective way to draw attention to your brand. So today we'll be learning how offering free books on Amazon can boost your book sales down the road. To this end, we'll be reviewing a couple of case studies and some relevant sales statistics for e-book authors.
It may make a lot of sense for customers to scan what free e-books Amazon is offering, but the water isn't so clear as to why authors are doing it, especially the successful ones. As it turns out, free online books may be the best sales boosters for independent publishers.
Amazon's search engine simplifies how to find books, and it has one of the largest libraries of new and free e-books around because the platform allows authors to publish their works independently. It's not the only one that offers free online books, and it's certainly not the one with the best collection, but nonetheless millions of shoppers routinely visit Amazon's site to check what's available — and the numbers do matter when it comes to boosting book sales.
This alone makes it the ideal platform for offering free e-books, as well as for selling them at a modest price. Just take a look at the following pie charts:
As you can see, Amazon only publishes 1 percent of the total best sellers in e-books. But let's look at the amount of sales:
Amazon e-books account for 6 percent of the total daily sales of genre bestsellers, despite Amazon only publishing 1 percent of them. That means when you hit it big on Amazon, you have a disproportionately large piece of the pie.
Having looked at the big picture, we are not really in the business of selling fiction. So how are non-fiction by independent authors doing? Let's take a closer look:
Fiction definitely dominates the market, but still at 22 percent, nonfiction (the category that self-help and all your informative offerings would fall into) grabs a pretty large slice of the pie, and that's only on Amazon. In fact, according to this report, adult non-fiction is the fastest growing genre in book sales, outstripping even the juvenile category.
It is also interesting to note that while e-books sold at record numbers, actual dollars earned was about the same for the previous year. This indicates that more e-books were being offered at lower prices or for free. Aha!
As you can see from the above charts, the most money is made outside Amazon, so the website is only one option for authors. Indie published and small to medium publishers can also be considered for distribution, but if you want it published quickly, easily, and free, Amazon may be your best option. You can start the ball rolling on Amazon to develop a fan base and then migrate to other publishers.
While these numbers are appealing, they hardly tell the whole story. To really grasp the benefit of free Amazon books you've got to take it from the horse's mouth. In this case, the horse would be the author.
When more people have the opportunity to read a book by a new author, that author starts to become a recognized name. If the work is good, past downloaders are more likely to look for and purchase work by the same author, and to share their input with others who in turn will hopefully also buy the book, or to download a free copy when it becomes available.
It's like dropping a stone into a stream: The more stones you drop, the further the ripples go, and the word-of-mouth exposure becomes exponential. When Amazon's issue with books published by Hachette escalated to what is practically a ban on the site, customers looked elsewhere for their favorite authors.
An example is the work “Instinct” by bestseller author T.D. Jakes, which became unavailable on Amazon. Despite this, the book became a bestseller in the Advice category for that period.
Marketing guru Danny Iny shared his own experience with giving away his books. He only made approximately $10,000 in book sales the first year, but the recognition helped him sell related services in that same year, earning him $250,000.
He continues to give away some of his books for free to keep the ball rolling, and is widely recognized for his marketing savvy, thanks mostly to his initial and continuing exposure to an ever-widening base of readers.
On Amazon, publishers and authors have the option to set a promo for their books, making them free for a limited period. This is a great way to get people to read books online and hopefully give customer reviews. Customer reviews are an important metric for both buyers and ranking. Amazon is more likely to make a recommendation for books that receive a lot of reviews.
To be on top, even if only for best Amazon free books, boosts exposure like nobody's business. The more people who download the free book, the more reviews come in, all of which will hopefully be positive. A lot of positive reviews increase the chances of people buying the book once the free book promo is over.
When an author manages to get their work into the hands of a reader, this forges a relationship between them. When the author gives the book for free, this fosters a sense of goodwill in the customer, deepening the relationship.
Bestselling author and prolific writer Hugh Howey wasn't even thinking about increasing his sales when he began giving away some of his books. His intention was to reach as many readers as possible. "I want readers more than I want profits. The latter follows the former," he wrote when asked about his pricing strategy.
He had such a large online fan base that he was offered a deal by publishing house Simon & Schuster, in which he retained the e-book sales rights. Publishers are more interested in writers who have a lot of traction with the readers. With the laudable intention of touching base with his readers, Howey inadvertently became highly marketable.
Price is a major consideration when deciding on picking up an e-book. According to this report, e-book sales from the top online sites showed a pattern in which e-books priced lower sold better (as evidenced by the number of reviews), and that self-published books were typically priced the lowest:
Most people talk about the good old days as if the new ones are a step down, and in some ways that's true. When it comes to publishing, however, electronic books and print books have a more symbiotic relationship.
Most readers still prefer print when it comes to the books they treasure. There's something about the way a book feels and smells that makes the reading experience a lot more enjoyable. But there is no denying that e-books save a lot of space and trees (and they're available on all your electronics). Most people would hesitate to pay for a print book from an author they don't know, and with no reviews other than the self-serving snippets that the publisher slaps on the cover.
The value of e-books is that authors can afford to self-publish and give away their work for free so that the public can get a taste of it. Before e-books, publishers just couldn't afford to take a chance on an untried author.
However, when it's widespread, popular and recognizable enough, there's a much greater chance of a book actually selling. So then it gets taken up for traditional publication. Many authors have found their voice through e-book publishing, and the world is a better place for it.
What do you think about free books? Have they worked for your business? Give us your feedback so we can e-publish it in the comments section.