31 October 2011

View from the Free Train

A month ago Amazon price-matched Stray as a freebie.  Today I've unhitched from the free train, setting the price to $0.99 on Smashwords.  This will filter to B&N, Kobo, and Apple and eventually Amazon will price-match again - a process which can take between two days and several weeks - so if you were thinking of suggesting someone check out Stray, warn them the price will go up soon (and then again after Caszandra has been released, when I intend to set Stray back to its 'normal' price of $2.99).

For those interested in the value of the free train, here are the results of my free month.

In September (before free) I sold 35 books total on Amazon US (and some unknown small number on other sites where I can't view sales immediately).

In October (and the last day of September post-free) I gave away 14885 copies of Stray on Amazon US.  Many of these will have been to people who will never read the book, or who are not the ideal audience for my genre, but just sensibly collecting the freebies while they're there.

However, some obviously read the book, since I sold at Amazon US:
  • 638 copies of Lab Rat One
  • 48 copies of the Medair duology
  • 36 copies of Champion of the Rose
  • 12 copies of The Silence of Medair
  • 11 copies of Stained Glass Monsters
  • 9 copies of Voice of the Lost
The majority of the freebies went in the first week or so, and then the giveaway rate slowed down.  It's still going at a 100 or so a day.  Sales of Lab Rat averaged at over 20 a day for quite some time, but now have slowed to a little over 10 a day.  The cross-overs to my other books were a nice bonus, particularly since my fantasy is rather different from the Touchstone Trilogy, and won't necessarily work for the same readers.

Stray also went free on various other sites and (though I can't say exactly how many), I seem to have sold a few books on those as well.  I also picked up over 20 reviews on Amazon, and maybe a dozen reviews on other sales sites, book blogs, Goodreads, etc.  Reviews are valuable, both in explaining the book to potential readers and by sheer weight of numbers showing that the book has been considered worth reading.  I'd read that the free train does attract negative reviews and found this to be true - I picked up two more one star reviews (from people reading only the opening of the book), but this was more than balanced out by positive reviews.

The free train is a way to raise a book's profile, and get into Amazon's Also Bought recommendations.  I'm fairly sure that Stray will sell at least a few a week despite no longer being free.  It remains to be seen whether word of mouth will lift the series' sales again, but overall I would unequivocably recommend the free train - at least for the first book in a series.


  1. I think I must be an atypical ebook reader. I don't want to download anything I don't first look at and think - that sounds like a good read - even if its free. To update you on my reading at the moment;
    Since I bought the kindle to read all your books on, I've read through most of the honor harrington series (I'm stuck on a book where its all politics of the "this is going to go down in flames stupid" type & I'm not in the mood). In addition I've read a bunch of Rusch books & then been inspired to go back and reread a bunch of my physical books. There's a few other bits and bobs as well and I'm starting to think about a couple of old books I'd like to find the series of in digital format (plus some newer ones that are a bit tricky for me to get hold of.

    In summary my reading rate has gone up...a lot

  2. Those look like very solid results. It's sort of thrilling that nearly 15000 people have access to your book and therefore might someday read it (not to mention buy the sequels). If they are anything like me they probably have a bit of a backlog to work through - moreso if they are in the habit of picking up random freebies. But anyway - yay! (And was LR1 at full price for those 600+ sales? That's pretty damn cool!)

    I'm especially intrigued by the sales of the Medair compilation, which as you say might not necessarily benefit from promotion of your science fiction title. Obviously your readers liked the idea of picking up the complete Medair story, too, which reinforces the good sense in bundling the Touchstone trilogy when Caszandra comes out.

    The one-star reviews of 'Stray' are definitely badges of honour, even though the actual criticisms expressed are retarde- er, disappointingly lacking in substantial feedback.

    This reminds me that I should do another collection of reviews for Smashwords and Amazon for the stuff I've finished recently. By the end of the weekend, maybe.

    Jenny - my reading has accelerated as well, although I must admit I've slowed down considerably on my two current reads: Cherie Priest's 'Boneshaker' and Italo Calvino's 'If On a Winter's Night a Traveller'.

  3. Don't lose sight of the fact that if Stray wasn't an excellent book you would not have sold much of the others. The free train perhaps got your book downloaded by people who would not have typically found it (like me), but any future downloads are on your own merits. I have read quite a few dreadful free downloads, and I don't give them as much time as a book I have paid for. If it is free, I will quit after a few chapters if I can't find anything redeemable since I am not invested in the story.

  4. @ Jenny - my reading's gone up a lot too. I also have changed the way I buy - I sample almost everything first now, which is not something I used to do in bookstores.

    @ Dave - yes, most of the sales were for $3.99 books and the duology is $6.99. [I suspect people buy it over the individual books because it represents a bargain.] I also sold four copies of Stray in the new French Kindle store for $0.99 since Amazon hasn't price-matched there. Since it's a brand new store this handily shot me right to the top of the SF-Adventure bestseller list.

    @ MK - one thing I'm really glad of with the free sampling is I think it allowed me to cross to non-genre readers. I've had a handful of comments about people who don't usually like SF loving Stray and it's likely they wouldn't have picked it up if it hadn't been on the free list.

  5. Andrea,

    I emailed you halfway through my free Stray download because I was so impressed with it. I then became one of the purchasers of LR1 as well as the Medair duology. I love them all and eagerly anticipate purchasing Caszandra the MOMENT it is released, along with your other compilations as they are completed (so I don't have this current "what's going to happen with Cass?!" thing for EVERY book that remains to be finished with a sequel).

    You have amazing ideas and extremely rich chacterizations. I am so thrilled to have found you on the "free train" and equally excited to buy your work in unequivocal support!!


  6. I stumbled across the Stray freebie about four days ago. I enjoyed it quite a bit and bought the second book two days later (when I belatedly discovered it was already out) and can't wait to see the final book. I'm going to try some of your other books/series until then.

    I'm posting this comment because I'm trying to get in the habit of commenting and posting reviews (I did one for Stray (5 stars)), as I'm reading too many bad books (terrible spelling, grammars, characters, plot, etc...) where it looks like a professional 'good reviewer' gave a (fake looking) write-up to lure customers in.

    Kindle/e-books have changed the market place.

  7. Congrats, and may the "Free train" take you even farther than that...

  8. @ Megan - glad you've enjoyed them Megan! [My other books can be read as stand-alones - they have upcoming related books, but are complete stories in themselves.]

    @ Scott - Thank you for the review! I've started trying to more frequently post reviews of mine - though I often find it very difficult to clearly express what worked for me in a book.

    @ TheSFReader - thanks :)

  9. My wife, Marilyn Peake, actually bought most of your books. Since we share the Kindle account between us I ended up reading The Silence of Medair, Voice of the Lost and Stray. I started with Medair, because it looked piqued my interest. I really enjoyed the Medair series and liked Stray so much that I bought Lab Rat One to find out what happened next. I also liked the references to Portal in the Touchstone series - we are big Portal and Portal II fans here :). I am heartened to see that you sold (well - gave away) so many copies of Stray. I think eventually a substantial number of those may translate into sales of the other books in the series, though it may take a little while. I am looking forward to the release of Caszandra!

  10. @ William - Portal is one of the highlight games of the last few years for me. So very well done. Glad you enjoyed Stray/Lab Rat! I'd love to be sure the books would go on to be more successful, but word of mouth is one of those unknowable factors - and I think I'm very lucky to have gained the readership I have. It's such a nice thing to be read!

  11. I am so glad I found it. I've been grabbing a lot of free books for the kindle to sample. I'm a voracious reader and now I'm gnashing my teeth waiting for Caszandra to come out. Stray and LR1 have been the best reads I've had of 2011, and I normally read 2-3 books a week. :)

  12. I have to echo Chris and say the Touchstone books have easily been the highlight of my reading for the year (I also read ~2-3/wk). I troll the freebies on Amazon a lot, but don't typically latch on to an author with as much fervor as I have with your books. I got Stray as a free download and have eagerly bought and consumed the rest of your works since (though to my surprise I saw the "voice of the lost" listed above....I must've overlooked & plan to go buy it as soon as I am finished with this post). Also, I wanted to point out that your blog has opened my eyes to Australia's writing scene! I have been going through your author recommendations and have found plenty to keep me occupied until Nov 25th - so many thanks to you on several fronts! Best, Meredith

  13. :( I was all excited for another book....just realized it was the second in the Medair duology (I bought the compilation, wasn't paying attention to titles apparently). Now to scan your author list further for new prospects....

  14. @ Chris - I've been working hard on Caszandra this week. I hope you have some teeth left by the time it's done! ;)

    @ Meredith - I love glomming an author - it's an honour to be a glommee!

    Updating the Bibliography to make clear where the duology lies.

  15. I also am a freebee troll and wouldn't have found and bought the next book without the giveaway. (Only the second series I've done that with.) And I'll probably be buying the other series as well. So don't think of it as losing 3USD from the free first book, but gaining 6(+)USD for books that you wouldn't have otherwise sold. Keep up the good work!

  16. I was one of those who picked it up for free. And I haven't read scifi in a long time, and I have a feeling I'm likely not in what a marketer might call your "target demographic," since I'm more then three decades older than Cassandra (Terran decades, not Taren!), but I enjoyed it enough and was intrigued enough to buy Lab Rat One. I wasn't entirely certain I'd be buying Caszandra, but I had to face facts the other day when I decided to find your blog that I wasn't even foolin' myself: I really wanted to know what happened next. And getting a reader to want to know "what happens next" is the mark of a good story-teller.

    I saw those reviews (the negative ones), and the problem they have with "strong language" is theirs, and not shared by most readers. Your books are very tasteful, not vulgar at all, and your use of language, "strong" or otherwise, was appropriate to situation and character on those few occasions when it was used.

    Well, back to Caszandra. I was going to wait until tomorrow to buy it (actually, I'd been going to wait until December 1, since I ran through my monthly "Kindle allowance" already), but after reading the sample, I just went ahead and one-clicked!

  17. Andrea, you'll be getting bord of these types of comments soon! But I 'found' Stray whilst it was free. I've wanted a Kindle for a while but cant afford it (unless one or both of my children go through a gate and disappear for a few months!). Realised I could get Kindle for PC, so dowloaded it, then went through the free sci-fi section. Whilst trying to apply some filter to my selections, the summary of your book sounded interesting enough, and being free it was worth a punt.
    As a 48yr old male, I'm probably not the target audience - but I'm hooked. Family life has stopped me reading it faster, but as I get towards the end, I am already looking at LR1 and Casz. I like the characterisation, and the detail about this alternate world(s). I've seen some criticisms of the first person style and the diary format, but it works fine for me.
    I'm tired of these genius/maverick types of characters in so many books/films, so it's great to have a story based on someone who is 'normal'.
    So, to summarise, I think the freebie offers can be a good way of spreading your name around - particularly if your story is a little bit off-kilter or unusual. Hope to buy the two follow up books once Xmas is past, and will keep your name noted. Congratulations!
    Best Regards

  18. @ Simon - I'm glad you enjoyed it! I must admit, I think only a handful of my 'target audience' have read Stray - but I can't say I think it a bad thing that it works for a broader demographic.

    Cass is relentlessly ordinary, at least in some ways. She's not one of those characters who are gorgeous and just think they aren't. She's willing to give things a go, but isn't inclined to pick up things like combat training with ease. But she is genre-savvy, and that helps her a lot.


Unfortunately the blog sometimes eats comments. I recommend copying to your clipboard before submitting.

Touchstone Trilogy - French Edition

Some news for the Touchstone fans. The wonderful Justine of Seraminda Editions has faced down the truly daunting task of translating Cass...