Friday, November 23, 2012

Free books

I set both books to be free this weekend, A Gift of Ghosts free today and tomorrow, and A Gift of Thought free on Sunday and Monday. I did nothing about mentioning them to anyone, mostly because I've told everyone I know about the books at least two or three times already and submitting to the sites that list free books has never, to the best of my knowledge, accomplished anything for me. So I set them free and let it go. (I love the image I just had of the books flying away into the sky, soaring on the wind, up into the clouds. Ha. Wouldn't it be cool if books came with wings? Ghosts would look lovely with white angel wings and Thought would be very cool as a raven.)

Anyway, no surprise, very few copies have been downloaded this morning. Total free downloads was 13 when I checked. But funnily enough, 13 copies downloaded over more than 4 hours was actually enough to put Ghosts onto the free bestseller list, at #6,896. Not a niche bestseller list at that number, but the main one. That has to mean that there are less than 10,000 books free on Amazon right now. And that I find fascinating.

I checked the bestseller list and it contains the usual suspects -- Tolstoy and Dickens and the Bible -- which means it's not likely that Amazon has started eliminating perennially free books. They could do that if they wanted to, and I've wondered if they would someday since there's an incremental cost to them in providing those downloads. The hundreds of free downloads a day, every day, of A Tale of Two Cities, never earns Amazon a penny, so if you accept their estimate of costs as being real costs, then they're probably spending $10/day to give Dickens away. (I'm going by the .06 download fee they charge me for each book downloaded.) That's nothing, of course, for them and when they were growing the Kindle market, the advantage of having classic books available was obviously worth the expense. Probably it always will be.

So if the small number of free books isn't because the classics are gone, therefore did Amazon crack down on people using price-matching to give away free books? A quick check of one that I know is price-matched shows that it's still there, so nope.

I think that adds up to there simply not being nearly as many free books on Amazon as there used to be. Or, of course, it could be the day--that most publishers and authors decided the biggest shopping day of the year wasn't the right day to go free. I'm intrigued to see what Monday will be -- will there be more free books or fewer? Monday is the day when people are supposed to be shopping online, of course (the famous Cyber Monday), so I would have thought it a good day to give away books. It'll be interesting to find out.

I'm not sure what conclusions I have. None, I suppose, except that the day of plentiful free books might be over. Maybe people have decided it's not worth giving them away.

PS SPOILERS Colin and Rose are currently flirting over Colin's dead body and oh, my, it's amusing me. First time I've felt enchanted while writing A Gift of Time, and it's such a great feeling.


  1. Hi Sarah, I assume you know about ereaderiq. This gives me the list of free books everyday. It seems to be staying between 400 and 700 for the USA. I don't know how people get at the top of this list. I have found really good authors this way.

  2. Oh, there are lots more free books than that. Thousands of them. But yes, the free sites pick certain books to feature. I've got a list of the free sites and submitted A Gift of Thought to all of them in August, but none of them mentioned it. I think ereaderiq does it by algorithm, some combo of reviews + time. Reviews matter a lot for most of the sites, I think.

  3. Well, listing them as free books wasn't a complete waste of time. Last Christmas I was given a Kindle as a gift and whilst I enjoyed the reading experience, living out in the sticks (read "slow connection") meant that finding and then actually downloading books was a lot of hassle. That is, until someone told me about Pixel of Ink which sends you a daily "free books on Amazon" list. Two clicks and books appear magically on the Kindle - what could be simpler?

    Within a couple of weeks my Kindle was nicely stocked with a satisfying pile of freebies - of which A Gift of Ghosts was the first book I read. I enjoyed it. Then I enjoyed reading the first chapter of A Gift of Thought at the end... so then I went and found it and paid real money for it. Down the slippery slope go I.

    FWIW, I've never downloaded a classic and I can think of at least one best selling author who I'd rather stick a fork in my leg than read again, having been sucked in one too many times and thought "how did he get to be a best seller?".

  4. Aw, thank you so much for letting me know you liked it! Today is the one year anniversary of publishing it, so it's particularly nice to hear today.

    If you'd like to know when the next one, A Gift of Time, will be free (sometime in March, I'm guessing, based on my current excruciatingly slow pace), you can send me an email at wrafferty at gmail dot com, and I'll add you to my mailing list. Hmm, that sounds so spam-my. But I'm not exactly corporate: you'd be the third person on the list. :) And I'll only ever use it to let you know about a new release, probably with a free day.

    Thank you again!