Getting noticed as a romance writer is hard work. Competition from bestselling novelists can suck the lifeblood out of a newbie’s promotion efforts faster than a vampire on a drinking binge.
A writer may go on tour, build a website, start a blog, make a trailer, create bookmarks, host a giveaway, attend conferences, join romance loops, and twitter until she gets carpal thumb, and still have more to do. Of all the fiction genres, romance writers strike me as being the savviest, most upbeat promoters of their own work today. They never stop working and networking, or looking for ways to get their books in front of readers.
Here’s the word. FREE is the new black.
According to the Associated Press, free books are now the latest weapon in the sales arsenal. It sounds counter-intuitive, but giving away an entire novel, not simply an excerpt or a short story is leading to dramatic increases in sales for known and lesser known romance novelists.
“There’s always going to be someone who wants free things. What we’re trying to do is link free with paid,” Maja Thomas, senior vice president of digital media at Patterson’s publisher, the Hachette Book Group, said. “It’s like priming the pump.”
“What we like to do is make the first book in a series free, usually a series that has multiple books,” said Scott Shannon, publisher of the Del Rey/Spectra imprint at Random House, Inc.
You can witness this dynamic in action at Amazon.com where a significant number of the top 25 romance novels for the Kindle are free.
For the last several weeks, Dark Fever by Karen Marie Moning has bounced around in the top five to ten books on the list. No mystery there. It doesn’t cost readers a dime to download. Not coincidentally, two of the author’s other books, Bloodfever and Faefever, have nearly kept pace in sales, even though the price for these is $6.00 and $6.39 respectively. Lara Adrian is another writer to benefit from this trend with her novels, Kiss of Midnight (free) and Kiss of Crimson (not free).
Del Rey Publisher Shannon is quick to add one caveat in the article by AP:
“We have had phenomenal success with using free books to get people to buy others by an author. But in the long term, we have to guard the market. We have to make sure people understand that time and energy goes into writing a book.”
Newbie eBook authors take heart. If you don’t have an entire novel you can afford to give away, or should even want to give away, apparently free is free and free sells romance. Short stories are just as sought after when the price tag is $0.00.