Friday, August 21, 2009

James Patterson and Chris Anderson Show Some Ways Bestsellers Are Made


Many aren't aware of this but one of the best things about technology--specifically the Net and the digital press--is that it can keep books from the shredding pile.

That's good for both readers and for authors.

Of course, even the Net and the ditital press can't keep a book alive and kicking unless someone is promoting it. promote it.

My novel This Is the Place is still selling. Usually it’s selling used for about $1.50 on Amazon’s New and Used feature but it can also still be found new on BN.com. New or used, what is important to me is that it’s still being read.

But there’s a couple of other models out there for utilizing older works. I’ve talked about using your blog to serialize an old novel or a novel that can’t seem to get published--maybe a first that is still lying fallow in the bowels of your computer. The idea, of course, is to introduce new readers to your work. Perhaps they will then buy your new novel or recommend your work to others.

That brings me to Chris Anderson. You’ve heard me talk about his Long Tail theory in my newsletter and on this blog. He has a new book out which I’ve also recommended for writers. It is FREE: The Future of a Radical Price. He expounds on a general concept I’ve been touting for a long time. That is: Giving things away free is one way to market and make a profit. I can’t remember who said it but someone did: “Google never met a loss leader it didn’t like.” And no one can argue that Google’s sales model is not successful.

What prodded me to talk about FREE again is a headline in the LA Times Calendar sections (Sat, Aug 8 p. D11): “Free titles top chart of Kindle bestsellers.” James Patterson’s latest bestseller isn’t new. It’s four years old. He says, I like the notion of introducing people to one book, while promoting the sales of another.” BTW, this man is a former principle of one of the nation’s largest advertising agencies.

By giving away The Angel Experiment on Kindle he hopes to gain new readers. And his promotion ploy is working! LA Times did an article on it, didn’t they? LOL. His publisher, Hachette, says, “It’s like priming the pump.” Another publisher notes they are especially interested in giving away books that are first of a series.

The trick here is not to overdo it. If you give away a full book as an e-book or as a serialized book on your blog, don’t repeat the process too soon or at all. That will be a hard temptation to resist--especially if the promotion works. Remember the department stores and their White Sales? Pretty soon people would wait until January to buy their linens and they would only buy their linens on sale.

The reason I do like this model, is that Patterson is offering a book that has mostly run its course. The only danger of doing this with a book that hasn’t been published is that you might not be putting your best work forward. If you should think about doing that ask yourself first: Does this book need editing or rewritten before putting it before the public? AND would this book work better for me published digitally or self published.

Oh, one other consideration. If you’re going to do it, maybe now is the time. If this catches on, a free book may have as much competition at zero dollars as a pay-for book at the going rate for books. The idea will eventually lose its new value, too. It would be fun to have your hometown newspaper cover your freebie offer, wouldn't it?

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Her FRUGAL book for retailers is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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