Thursday, September 15, 2011

Born Free, Free as a Book Can Be

Recently, fellow Indie author Ruth Cardello did a blog interview about why she made her first book free. Click here to read the full interview. If you've been reading my blog for long, you'll have read several posts where I talk about my view of it sprinkled in among other subject matter. Since commenting on Ruth's interview, I have discovered that this is a really hot topic in the self-publishing community. So I asked Ruth to talk with me a little more making a book free, but decided we would do in a James Lipton (Inside the Actor's Studio) kind of way.

Q: What is your favorite word?

Donna: Light  (well, it's a tie between "light" and "yes")
Ruth: Poopies. Say it three times and see if you can keep a straight face. Bet you can’t. (Donna response: Darn it--you're right!)

Q: What one-sentence piece of advice would you give to authors considering putting a book up free?

Donna: Have several books to sell and publish them alongside your free book.
Ruth: Know your readers and your goals; then give both everything you have.

Q: What is your least favorite word?

Donna: Can't  (usually means won't or "I'm afraid")
Ruth: Would – it’s often followed by a lame excuse.

Q: Do you really believe the free book has helped your sales?

Donna: I was an unknown author with two self-published books who is now known six months later. It costs a reader nothing to try my book and see if they like me. If they don't, c'est la vie (such is life). If they like me, they buy other books, look me up on their favorite social media site, and write to ask me for even more books. The most pleasant surprise for me has been how the free book has genuinely helped me find my audience very quickly. As a result, I have the distinct advantage of direct contact with people interested in my future books.

Ruth: Yes. It did and still does bring me readers who may not have taken a chance on a new author.

Q: What turns you on?

Donna: Laughing until I hurt, and then having my fiancee Marine kiss it all better.
Ruth: Strong, but kind men. My husband is a retired Marine, 22 years, and the biggest softie around.

Q: What turns you off?

Donna: Complaining
Ruth: Whining

Q: Do you think that "free" or ".99 cents" strategies cause an unfair competition among authors?

Donna: I met Ruth when she signed the guestbook on my author website and told me I was hitting the top of the Amazon free book list back in June. I was stunned at how nice she was being to me, an unknown author. It made me want to know her. When we started chatting with each other on Facebook, lo and behold our readers on Facebook found each other and both of us expanded our audience. It was a total win-win that I wasn't expecting, but soon realized was helped along by the fact that Indie ebook prices allow readers to purchases multiple books. Competition? No--wrong descriptor there, try thinking of as gaining exposure to a similar audience. Not long ago, I tried to reciprocate Ruth's kindness to let her know that two of her books are highly ranked (via continued 5 star customer reviews) in Amazon's new Kindle Indie Bookstore. I feel like I am learning from her. It was a wonderful discovery to learn our readers like both of us. I am grateful since the Indie world relies on happy readers and word of mouth recommendations.

Ruth: The market is changing and so are the readers. I get phone calls almost everyday from traditionally published authors who would like advice on how to sell their backlist. Indie authors, like Donna, are riding the wave and embracing the changes. Donna is smart enough to realize that it is not a competition – it’s a community. Authors don’t benefit from readers who purchase one book a year. The readers we want are the ones who purchase joyfully throughout the year. They will read my books one day and Donna’s books on another. It costs nothing to help another author get noticed, but can make a huge difference in their sales. I hope Donna and I share many years on the bestseller’s lists together and maybe meet for coffee one day to discuss how we helped each other attain that dream. (Donna response: Love to! And I love your word "community"--that's perfectly stated.)

Q: What other job would you want to attempt if you weren't a published author?

Donna: When Lipton asked actors this question, their answers always seem so clever. I have nothing clever here. For most of my life prior to 2011, I answered this question longing to be a published writer. Now that I am one, I just can't imagine doing anything else.

Ruth: I still have a day job. I’ve been a teacher in various grades for almost 20 years. Now that I have a 1 year old at home, I’d love to write and be with the baby more. My billionaires are making that dream look like a real possibility for next year. (Donna response: This will require a celebration. Ever party with a Marine before? Wait--topic for another blog. LOL)

Q: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Donna: Wow, Donna. You cut it pretty close waiting until you were 53 to do what I sent you there for. Glad to see you finally got around to it. You made millions of people laugh. Nice going, lady.

Ruth: Yes, Ruthie, we do have horses.

Post title inspiration:  "Born free, as free as the wind blows, As free as the grass grows, Born free to follow your heart" ~ Song by Andy Williams, Words by Don Black, and Music by John Barry
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