Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Free Falling (or Falling in Love with Free)

Photo by Kheel Center, Cornell University.  licensed under
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.
I did my first Amazon.com free book promotion over the weekend through their KDP Select program.  I have to say as a sort of weak disclaimer that I dislike the monopolistic flavor of the Select program, but I felt I had to try it.  It seems to me that free is the new $0.99 in the world of indie publishing (I'm glad there isn't a way for indie authors to pay readers to read their books, because I'm certain that would be the next logical step in the struggle to get out of the "slushpile" of indie obscurity--but I digress).  Amazon's KDP Select program is the only way to go free on their site without violating their contractual terms.  I know many authors use the price match function to go free, but I don't like having to violate the contract in order to achieve freebie status.  So I stuck to the straight and narrow.

Despite my ideological reservations, I have to say I am thrilled with the results of the promotion.  Hemlock and the Wizard Tower reached #2 in free Epic fantasy on Saturday, and spent a good deal of Sunday at #1.  It spent about half of Sunday in the top 100 free titles list, which I hear is a "big deal" in terms of the mystical inner workings of the Amazon ranking algorithms.  I don't really understand those intricacies yet, but it sounds good.  And so far this week my paid sales are actually coming in drizzles and spurts (as opposed to their former trickle).

But a surprising feeling hit me in the waning hours of Sunday as I gleefully watched the free downloads accumulate.  Since then I have been wondering about all of these people who now have my book, and may soon be reading it.  It was easy for me to create an imaginary connection with the trickle of readers I had been reaching before the promotion.  I would imagine a guy reading in Arizona or a woman reading in Liverpool, and that would feel OK--be manageable in some hypothetical way.  But this torrent of simultaneous downloads is different.  Now I am dealing with an auditorium full of imaginary downloaders--a number that my imagination just can't quite come to grips with.  I've ended up visualizing a mass of readers in a big room: but they are faceless--rendered anonymous in aggregate--sort of like the replicating Agent Smiths from the Matrix II movie.  And I'm not sure how I relate to them exactly in this imaginary space.  They are reading something very dear to me, but I am conspicuously absent from the scene.  Or maybe I've been fragmented into a multitude of tiny pieces that flew out into cyberspace with each ebook.

Now, I realize this is a silly way to think.  But remember: I'm a person who sometimes uses my imagination to frame and interpret reality.  So, as a result of this promotion, I have had to come to terms with this sudden expansion of readership; and in the process I've had to let go of the imaginary feeling of connection I'd grown used to.  But, like we used to say when I was part of a company that faced problems related to growth, this is a good problem to have!

A note to potential readers: I'm sorry if you missed the free promotion.  It may happen again, but I can't say for sure.  Rest assured that Hemlock and the Wizard Tower is regularly priced at the lowest possible price Amazon allows: $0.99.


  1. Sounds good. The more the merrier, I say, although I have thought about the question myself. You labour for hours and then there's almost a strange kind of fear as you pass your 'child' into the clutches of a myriad of faceless stewards. Now to get loads of positive vibes and build up the momentum. I will grab the book myself and add to the sea of support. Hey, and I'll pay for it!

  2. Thanks! You have a great blog! I encourage anyone reading this to check it out. And thanks for picking up the book. I'd love to hear what you think of it!