Friday, June 15, 2012

The downside of free downloads

Apparently, the free offer of Murder By Magic was taken up by thousands, on both sides of the Atlantic. Great - except that it means no money for either Accent Press or me. In the week after the free download, Murder by Magic and Murder in Steeple Martin were both put up as 77 pence downloads and sold a reasonable amount. The downside is that people who would normally never buy your books trawl the free download charts (and I got as high as number 8 in the top 100) and that's the problem. I have now attracted two lousy reviews from people who, by their own admission, would not normally buy my books, even accusing me of lifting the idea of the series from another author. As the other author and I actually discussed the similarity of our series before either of them were written, this was infuriating. I have subsequently had a comforting email from that author (albeit from the Pelopponese where he and his wife are sunning themselves - sigh) and I know it shouldn't worry me. But it has shown me the problems free downloads can encounter. If my books are at a normal price, then people who like them and other books like them will find them and buy them. If they are cheap or free, anyone will download them, possibly to their detriment. So I think, perhaps, we won't do it again!

27 comments:

Rebecca Leith said...

It's all such a learning curve, isn't it? Ignore the bad reviews and hang onto the fact that you have a solid fan base who love your books. Xxx

DW96 said...

Interesting points, Lesley. Twice I've put books into Select and made them free. Twice, hundreds, thousands of people have donwloaded them, and twice they've sunk into near oblivion after the free offer ended.

I think free might work better if it's a title form your backlist, offered in conjunction with sales from your latest title.

Hazel Cushion said...

Yes, but Lesley in less than a week, since it stopped being free, you have sold over 700 copies of Murder by Magic in the UK. Admittedly at a cheap price but that is a lot of new readers. This is the tenth book is a very popular series - we also seeing great growth in sales of the earlier titles.
You know the saying - You can't please all the people, all the time - and you can't. Inevitably the outcome of gaining a wider audience is that you will have a few people who don't love your books. Unfortunately it also seems that the people who tend to be negative have the time to post their comments while the busy, happy readers don't bother!
I think it has been really worthwhile but hope this may spur people who have enjoyed your latest book to say so!

Lynda Renham said...

I find it a little annoying that readers buy a book that isn't their cup of tea and then blame the author because they don't like it.
What kind of logic is that anyway?

All the best to you.

Lynda

Chris Stovell said...

How grim, Lesley, big hugs to you. Bex is right. Cx

Lesley Cookman said...

Thanks, everyone. Bex is right, it's a learning curve, and I take Hazel's points on board. Oh, well, onward and upward!

Jane Lovering said...

But that's the thing, you just never know, do you? That free book *might* lead to new readers discovering you. Among those thousands of downloaders there will be some people who wouldn't have bought your book otherwise, and who then go on to buy all your backlist. And those who give negative reviews - well, if they state in their review that they only read the book because it was free, we can all draw our conclusions about them, can't we?

Toni Sands said...

Interesting post, Lesley. Showed it to my OH who says more or less what I now see Hazel has said. You have a loyal following but I think we all of us tend to remember the negative comments rather than the positive. I'll be in the hot seat later this summer ... watch this space!

Cara Cooper said...

Unfortunately it is easier to knock something down than build it up. In other words it's easier for a snarky reviewer to take two minutes to say mean unbalanced things than it is to take many hours and a great deal of expertise to come up with a complete book which many other people love. Many do love your books Lesley THAT is the main thing!

Catherine Miller said...

Hi Lesley,

I downloaded your book the other day and hopefully I represent the positive side of doing the free download. I'm quite a selective reader and rather than gather free reads on my kindle, I will purchase the authors I want to read. Yours is a genre I don't tend to read in, but decided to take advantage of your free download. I haven't had chance to read it yet, but now if you have me hooked I will want to read the rest and will happily pay.

I do see how having so many free reads stops some from ever having to pay, but it can also bring new readers to your work.

All the best, Catherine x

Liz Harris said...

An interesting post, Lesley. But you have a legion of fans who love your books, and that's something to keep in the forefront of your mind.

Liz X

Fenella Miller said...

I sympathize as I have just had exactly the same experience. Over 10000 free downloads of The Duke's Reform and two horrible reviews.
It's hard to focus on the positive things when every time anyone visits your page they can read these reviews.
Try and forget them and rejoice in the extra readers.

Dave Sivers said...

At least you've reminded me Murder by Magic is out Lesley - I feel an addition to my groaning shelves coming on!

Lesley Cookman said...

Thank you all - you're much more sensible than I am. I can just hear my father saying "Get over it, it's not all about you!"

sarahjasmon said...

Hi Lesley,

Just wanted to say I downloaded the free book and, at the risk of repeating the gist of all the comments so far, I am so pleased to have discovered your series (& thanks to Paul Magrs for the link!).

Also, it strikes me that, although you will be aware of and hurt by the negative reviews, the rest of us either don't come across them or ignore them because we know better. I've already passed the book onto my daughter and mentioned the series to several friends.

I loved your characters, and am looking forward to catching up on the rest of the books.

Lesley Cookman said...

Thank you, Sarah - and thank you Paul!

Rebecca P said...

Lesley, I discovered you through the free offer and WOW! what a find!

Now I didn't take the free book because I have this thing about starting at the beginning of a series. I did purchase the first and second books which were offered at a reduced price. After the first book I was hooked and purchased the rest of the current series, including the now not free one, also at a reduced price.

It is difficult to discover new authors, or new to you authors, and a free offer does get attention.

And don't be discouraged by bad reviews. I don't make my buying decisions based upon reviews anyway. Oh, I'll read a few of the reviews but sometimes it is obvious the reviews are careless trash. I would say that price is the biggest decision factor - if the book sounds interesting and the price is right I'll buy that first book. After that price can still be a factor, although I am willing to pay more, since I read a lot and have only so much to spend on books.

I look forward to reading the rest of the books in the series and look forward to future books. Keep writing!

Lesley Cookman said...

Thank you so much Rebecca. I do hope you enjoy the whole series - and thank you for making my day!

Bev said...

Hi Lesley,
I have to admit to getting the free download from Amazon and as I really enjoyed it I then went on to buy the other 9 books in the series. I have just this minute finished reading Murder at the Manor and came here to find out when the next in the series was due, since I now know I will have to wait 'til January the whole series will probably be read again to remind me of all the characters. If a book sounds interesting to me I always look at the bad reviews as well as the good ones and check the reviewers other input as I have noticed some people are plain nasty just for the sake of it, I have been using the free downloads as a way of expanding my author database as it were because I would otherwise end up reading the same dozen or so all the time and the current bestsellers on Kindle do not appeal at all although I realise I am very much in he minority. Sorry to be so wordy just trying to explain from the other side although I have often wondered how authors felt abut their work being given away. I have loved the entire series - keep it up xXx

Ann Whitfield said...

I do understand what you say Lesley, but I've just started to read ebooks in the last couple of weeks and decided to use free downloads to check out new authors. This is how I found you, I downloaded "Murder in Steeple Martin" and have enjoyed it so much that I have gone in search of the rest. I will be buying them all, so you have a new reader here. I suppose you have to balance which approach gives the best results.

Lesley Cookman said...

Thank you, Ann (assuming you're not Oz author Ann Whitfield?) I'm delighted you liked the book. Spread the word!

Ann Whitfield said...

No, I'm not the Oz author Lesley, just someone who enjoys a good read :-)
I came across your blog when I was checking the order of your book out. I'm like Rebecca in that I like to read a series in order so I'm especially pleased that itunes had the first one free. I've bookmarked your blog now so I can visit often.

Lesley Cookman said...

Ann, if you go to my website you can sign up for the newsletter. It's only just started, so I'm still getting to grips with it, but it'll keep you up to date. Be lovely to have you with us. Where are you from?

Ann Whitfield said...

Thanks Lesley, I'll do that -it'll be something to look forward to. I'm from Cumbria here in the UK. I shared William Wordsworth's birthplace and lived there until 5 years ago. Haven't gone far though, just 25 miles north to Carlisle - a quick sneeze and I can be in Scotland! lol!

Melissa Sandoval said...

Hi Lesley,

I haven't been in your shoes, and I suspect that I would probably be unable to keep bad reviews from getting under my skin a little.

I can comment, though, on my experience as a voracious reader whose Kindle is her most prized possession: I love to see free downloads. I am much more willing to try out a book by an unfamiliar offer if a book is either free or priced at 99 cents. I've run across some "stinkers" this way--for example, books with enough spelling and grammatical errors to make them completely unreadable-- but I just delete those without bothering to leave a review. I don't mind losing 99 cents here or there.

On the other hand, I have discovered quite a few authors I hadn't known about, have enjoyed their work, and have been willing to pay more for their other books. (By the way, I discovered the Libby Sarjeant series through an end-of-book recommendation in another e-book, have now finished all 10 current books in the series, and will buy the new one when it becomes available.)

Based on my totally unscientific study of my own e-reading behavior, if I were releasing a new series of e-books, I would think about making the first one free temporarily, then keeping the first book's price low, such as 99 cents. I would let the first book's low price attract new readers, and then let my work grab their interest. Then, hopefully, the people who didn't like the series could move on, and those who did like it would be willing to pay a little more for the subsequent books.

Well, that's my two cents' worth. What would that be worth in the UK, about one-and-a-quarter pence? ;)

Lesley Cookman said...

Lovely to hear from you in the US, Melissa, and your strategy is the one my publishers have adopted, which certainly seems to have worked. I've sold more in the US than ever before.

And we say the same - that's my two pence worth! Hope you enjoy Murder in the Monastery when it appears.

Mysti said...

183 I am not sure this will post. I want so much to tell you that I enjoy your books very much. I will try to get past the no robot guard and if I can, I will post what I really want to tell you.
I tried 35 times, and failed..finally signed up for your blog. Tried to come in by Facebook too. Whew. Forgive me..will be back if the guard lets me in