Did Baen publishing ever release information that quantitatively illustrated whether their business approach of publishing older books for free in Baen Free Library resulted in increased revenue?
Karen Woodward wrote a blog on How To Use Permanently Free Books To Increase Sales. ONe topic her blog entry focuses on is how Lindsay Buroker used
the power of perma-free and how it can increase awareness of your books to increase sales.
What ended up working for Lindsay was making one of her books permanently free and distributing it as widely as possible. People loved her work, went looking for more, and when they found her other books they were happy to pay for them.
According to the Karen, Lindsay herself said (Lindsay's original blog entry here):
What did make a difference for me, especially with Amazon UK and the international Apple stores, was having a book permanently free on those sites. I’ve talked a lot about this before, but I made my first Emperor’s Edge book (and eventually my first Flash Gold novella as well) free at Smashwords about a year ago. I had the freebies distributed through their partner sites, and Amazon eventually matched the price.
What took longer, but did eventually happen, is that Amazon UK (and DE, ES, IT, etc.) price-matched the ebook to free as well. That’s when I started seeing sales of my other books in those stores. It was a similar process for iTunes. It’s taken a while for the free ebooks to percolate through, showing up in the international Apple stores, but I’m now selling books every month in Apple AUD, DKK, GBR, etc. and am making between $1,500 and $2,000/mo overall in overseas sales.
After this blog entry, she posted a follow-up blog entry. It covers the following:
- Make The Ebook Version Free, Charge For The Paper Copy (examples with Seth Godin and David Gaughran)
- Eric Flint and the Baen Free Library
- Independent Author Robert J. Crane: Perma-Free Works
In this post I want to look, first, at a variation on the idea of using permanently free electronic books to increase sales of your other work: make the ebook version of a book free and use it as advertising for the paper version. Then we'll look at another indie author--Robert J. Crane--who uses the technique of perma-free to sell books AND he has been so kind as to share his sales figures.
Here is the blurb about Robert J. Crane and using perma-free works to push sales:
Indie author Robert J. Crane left a comment on my first post where he generously shared some of his sales figures. I have Robert's kind his permission to reproduce his comment here:
I have two books set to perma-free, the results are thus:
Released my first book [Defender] in June 2011. Between then and June 2012 I never sold more than low double digits (best month was something like 25 sales across 3 novels and 2 short stories).
Set my first series book free in my high fantasy series in July 2012, my urban fantasy series first book [Alone] permafree in September 2012.
July 2012: 169 sales Aug 2012: 319 sales Sep 2012: 1759 sales Oct 2012: 2727 sales Nov 1st to 20th: 3008 sales
Most of these are at $4.99 or their foreign equivalent. Hope this helps give a little inspiration or data to make a decision off of, at least.
Needless to say, I highly recommend perma-free. Wow! Look at that jump between August and September in terms of sales: 1,590 units more. That's over 5 times better than any of the previous months. And at 70% of $4.99 that's over $5,000.*
So evidence (though it may not be hard facts) does suggest that using free books/ebooks can increase revenue.
NOTE: I have sent Karen a message to ensure she is ok with excerpts from her blog post to be copied here.