Sunday, November 27, 2011

Freebooking Doesn't Always Go As Planned

A short but lovely trip to Louisiana to celebrate Thanksgiving with about 50 of my closest relatives almost netted me two new puppies -- but I was strong! Meanwhile, I learned a fair bit about the book biz while there, so maybe I can write the trip off come tax time... :o)

For those of you who have been following the freebook journey, that trip's had a few unexpected twists, some of which have been pleasantly surprising and others of which have been downright frustrating.

To recap, I decided to put Spoil of War up for free in late October. The plan was to get it free on Amazon and keep it free for only a few days. Since any good campaign plan includes a list of expected results, I hoped to 1) garner a few more credible reviews for the book and 2) capitalize on the book's better visibility once it came off free to spur sales before the holidays so that post-Christmas it would be in a favorable position to be discovered by lots of happy readers with new Kindles and nooks.

The first part of the plan went brilliantly. Apple kindly made it free right on schedule, followed by Amazon. I immediately started the process to unfree it -- and that's when I hit the first major detour. Apple simply refuses to unfree the book. I don't know if it's because of a glitch in the automated system between Smashwords, who distributes to Apple, and Apple, or if there is a human decision involved. Smashwords last week sent a message to Apple to help me expedite the unfreeing, but as of this writing, Spoil remains free there.

Amazon will presumably keep Spoil free now for as long as Apple does. In fact, Amazon decided being free in the US store wasn't enough, and, last Wednesday, they thoughtfully made the book free on the UK site too.

Now, lest those of you following this journey think this is the route all books take, let's look at one of the short stories excerpted from the Extinct anthology that went on this same trip earlier this month. The request to free it was honored on schedule by Apple and Amazon, just like Spoil. As with Spoil, I immediately began the process to unfree it the day it went free on Amazon. Unlike Spoil, Apple returned the book to paid status after exactly one week of being made free. Amazon followed suit within hours. Exactly the path I wished for Spoil.

Why the difference? Clueless.

My initial plan was to return Spoil to the paid list on Amazon while it was still in the Top 100 on the free list. When that milestone passed, I hoped it would still be in the Top 200, then the Top 300. Now I'm holding my breath for 2012. Free books usually start to lose their appeal and their rankings after 7-10 days. Spoil has enjoyed a decent overall rank for an extended period of time (which MAY be why Apple is reluctant to unfree it just yet), but a major fall in the rankings is inevitable. I'd really, really like to be shunted over to the paid store before that happens and the chance for visibility is lost.

Here are the numbers to date.


#1 Historical Fantasy
On the What's Hot lists for all of Fantasy and Historical Romance

I won't know total downloads through the Apple store before next quarter, so maybe mid- to late-January I'll have those figures.

63 ratings (38 5-star, 16 4-star, 8 3-star, 1 2-star) for an average of 4.5 stars. Three text reviews, all 5-star.


#3 / 2 - Historical Fantasy
#20 / 13 - All Fantasy
#14 / 5 - Historical Romance
#86  / 39 - All Romance
#388 / 107  - Overall Free Store

18,481 US Downloads
622 UK Downloads

16 new reviews since going free -- still pretty mixed.

It's frustrating to know where you want to go but to not be able to get there when you want to despite careful planning and through no fault of your own. I've enjoyed seeing the sights along the scenic route, but I'm ready to be at my destination now. Surely we must be close. Are we there yet???


AA said...

Sorry about this. Your plan was well thought out, too. What are they doing over there at Apple?

Whirlochre said...

For every well-laid plan there is a bad apple of a glitch.

I too have had a run-in with Apple along precisely these kind of lines and it does seem that they take forever to sort anything like this out. In some ways, Apple folk are inflexible as their software.

With persistence, you'll unstick it soon, I'm sure. AS a venture it seems to be going very well overall.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Hah! Screw the books. I want to know about the puppies. :-)

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Thanks for the empathy, AA and Whirl! If I didn't have something to complain about what would I write about, eh? ;o)

@Sarah: I was met in Louisiana by 2 cocker-mix puppies -- one black, one blonde -- about 6 weeks old. They belonged to the neighbor of the aunt and uncle I was staying with, but said aunt and uncle were feeding them and generally taking care of them. They were SO adorable -- I wanted to sneak them away in my travel bag. I'm pretty sure if they don't find a "real" home, said aunt and uncle will continue feeding them for the next 15 years, so I'm not concerned about their futures. When we're ready for another, I'd rather adopt something that isn't an easily placed puppy -- but, oh, there's a reason puppies like that are so easily placed. Heartmelters!!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Cockers - ah yes. Had one of those once. Most mellow dog I've ever seen. She was an older rescue (my favorite thing to do). The pound said she was 7, the vet said at least 10. She was with me for a little over 4 years.

Took her 6 months to bark - once. I think she barked a few more times during that 4 years. Her favorite pasttime was sleeping on the couch. And if she got to the point where she really wanted attention, she'd stand on me when I sat on the couch.

Wonderful, amazing girl with so much resilience and so many Cocker issues. She was a full time job in and of herself with the ear infections, skin allergies and cancer. Wound up having to remove half her lower jaw which saved her life and the life of my Buddy who is still with me. Long story about washing off the gravy in the can food that was poisoned with whatever supplement made it look like there was more protein in the can.

Spent a lot of time grooming and clipping hair so she would be more comfortable. When she left us - brain tumor - I suddenly had a lot of time in my day. So never again (and never say never) will I get a Cocker, even though they're amazingly cute and wonderful.

Jo-Ann said...

Sounds like Apple make their decisions by rolling dice.

Or maybe they have a sensor that can detect just how important the action is to you. Mine was the one that reverted back to the 99c price within an eyeblink, as I didn't really mind how long it remained free.

I'm interested to find out about what you learnt about the book biz during your trip, you already sound so very well informed to me, Phoenix.