How publishing will work

Publisher Experiments With ‘Free’ And Sees Book Sales Increase 20x
[Via Techdirt]

We’ve pointed to numerous studies, at this point, that have all found that, when done right, free ebooks can greatly increase the sales of physical books (and, in some cases, even of ebooks). Here’s another empirical example of that in action. Chris Anderson points us to a blog post by someone at a mid-list niche publisher, talking about how successful its experiments with “free” ebooks have been. In this case, the publisher would offer up the first book in a series as a free ebook, and found that it drove massive increases in sales:

One of our free titles was the #1 download on Amazon for the entire month of February. The subsequent sales of books 2 and 3 in the series increased by a rate of 20 to 1. For this series, digital sales are approaching 20% of the total product sales distribution and growing. With the visibility of the digital sales on Amazon, we have seen a substantial increase in print sales to the brick and mortar book chains. In this one instance, digital is driving print sales.


I wrote about how another publisher, Baen Books, was using a similar technique – putting the first in a series online for free. As this letter states, for many books, obscurity matters more than piracy. Free books is one approach to try.

Or perhaps renting will work.

Or perhaps providing tiered levels of access for your really big fans whom you can identify now directly and service with all sorts of goodies.

5 thoughts on “How publishing will work

    1. I guess I should have used ‘may work’ rather than ‘will work.’ That is why I am not a headline writer ;-)

      One hit wonders may have a much more difficult time and may need a different model. But in this case, the author learned some important lessons that he has applied to his next strategy – using one book as a loss-leader and putting the other five up for sale.

      And he did have several fans who opted to give much more money than he was asking for. So now, if he can provide added service – say early looks at his new works, for example – he might be able to build a tiered system where if you are a real hardcore fan, you get something special.

      It will be interesting to see how all this develops. I personally feel that in a digital age, the place to make money is by the uniquely human touches that can not be duplicated digitally. You make money off the concerts, not the CDs. That sort of thinks

  1. Hey Richard

    the original blog post really has taken on a life of its own, that is for sure. What started out as a simple not to Chris Anderson has morphed into a crazy event for me.

    Obviously there are many more variables than price alone in making a hit out of an obscure title: i.e. quality, subject matter, etc…I don’t think there is a set model that will work for everyone.

    Thanks for linking

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