Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Is it Time for an “Auto-Wait” List?

I’ve paid over $100 for books in the last six months which were subsequently given away free on Kindle!

How Many Times Can a Publisher Do This to Their 'First-to-Buy' Customers?

The “Greatest Management Principle” states that: “What gets rewarded gets done”. 

Some publishers have been busy training book buyers that if they wait to make a purchase, they may get the book for free! 

Wait! Good Boy.

Indeed! I have saved over $400 during these same six months by not buying books that I almost bought but waited to ‘think about it’. 

Each time one of those ‘almost bought’ books went on sale for free, I thanked my luck stars that I waited!  It pays to wait!

Authors Pay, too!

The best time to sell a book is when it is newly released and being actively promoted by the author. If buyers are trained to wait, this prime buying time will be lost. As they wait to 'see',  the next batch of new releases will be grabbing their attention. Books that are not on a 'auto-wait' list will have the advantage. 

Free Books Can Be Good for Sales!

There are times when giving a book away can benefit the publisher and the author. Free books may attract many new fans to an author’s ‘auto-buy’ list. An established author with a large backlist can be greatly benefited by attracting new readers. Giving away the first book in a long series can also increase sales of the entire series.

However, free books can diminish the ‘perceived’ value of the book. What’s a book worth if it is given away free? Do theaters give away free tickets to their blockbuster movies? Do great restaurants offer discount coupons? Giving away a free sample, like a chapter, is one thing. Giving away the entire product, the full book, is something else altergether!

What about the other authors who are not selected to have their books given away for free? They get no benefit from the free books but they can still suffer from their publisher’s growing ‘auto-wait’ list liability.

Another thing: what if a reader is deciding which of two books to buy and one book’s publisher gives books away free and the other publisher does not – which book will the reader likely buy?

Moreover, what if the publisher, who gives away free books, has books priced over $10 and the publisher who does not give away free books is priced in the $3 to $5 range? At this point there is not much of a decision. Wait and see if the higher priced book is going to be given away for free and buy the lower price book now. Giving away free books can damage a company’s competitive position in the market place.

How many ‘free’ books get read? And what does this mean for an author?

I have hundreds of free books on my Kindle right now. I am only going to read a small percentage of them. If I did not pay for a book, I’m less likely to read it than if I paid $10 for it. Now, if I have an author’s book on my Kindle, and I have not read it yet, why would I buy a second book – especially if I do not know the author. I won't buy another book until I've read the first book.

Having a first book on a Kindle that goes unread may kill future sales. The buyer may think, “I have not read the first book yet and since they gave the first book away for free, they may do the same thing with this one. I might as well wait and see.” This is not how to generate impulse sales!

Free Books Add to Supply – But Demand Increases Little – and Time to Read: Increases Not at all.

We are now in an explosion of books! Established authors are rushing to get their backlists into eBook format. Little eBook publishers are publishing almost anything. Very narrow interest books are being published to small targeted markets.

All this added supply is coming on line. Yet the typical reader still has only a very limited time in a day to read. Is this the best environment to be giving away books for free? In some cases, it will be. In other cases it will not be. In the meantime, I’ll be checking my ‘auto-wait’ list of publishers before buying additional books.

What gets rewarded gets done.

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