Kristan Hoffman - Writing Dreams Into Reality
Sun Oct 23 2011

On "selling" like hotcakes

On Friday night, I was hanging out at a friend’s place and decided to hop on his wifi and check on sales of Twenty-Somewhere at Amazon. The count was 13, as it had been for a few days. Disappointing, but okay.

Twenty minutes later I went home, got on my laptop, read emails, checked sales again. (Yes, it’s addicting.) Now the count was 113. I laughed.

“What’s so funny?” Andy asked.

100 sales in 20 min? Yeah right. “There’s some sort of crazy error on Amazon,” I said.

I refreshed the page, expecting the error to be corrected. Instead: 145.

Blink blink. What on earth is going on?

Turns out Amazon made Twenty-Somewhere free. See, they have a price-match policy, and I had set Twenty-Somewhere to be free on iTunes for the months of Sept and Oct. I knew it was a risk that Amazon would catch on, but 6 weeks had passed without their noticing, so I thought I was home-free.

Apparently not.

As I saw my sales climbing by the hundreds — or my downloads, really, since it was free and thus I was no longer earning royalties — I began to panic. What does this mean? How long should I let this go on? What if everyone hates it? What if this gets me blacklisted from any agent? What if what if what if?

Not wanting to (over)react too soon, I took a shower. I read some threads on the Writer’s Cafe forum of KindleBoards.com. I thought.

And I remembered that Twenty-Somewhere has always been my lab rat. An experiment in writing for fun, then in New Adult fiction, then in epublishing. Now in pricing. Sure, I hadn’t planned this new investigation, but that didn’t mean I had to cancel it. Why not ride it out for the rest of the month and see what happens?

So that’s what I’m going to do.

So far about 9,000 over 10,000 copies have been downloaded in less than 48 hours, putting Twenty-Somewhere at #9 on the Kindle Free list. To me that’s… staggering. Of course many of those downloads will never translate into actual reads. As a Kindle owner, I know there are “freebie hoarders,” and my story will sit forever in their Amazon Cloud.

But what if just 1% of those people read it? And what if some of them like it? And what if some of them come here to learn more about me and my writing?

(Or, in my fantasy, what if a Hollywood producer reads it and wants to make it a TV show?)

Who knows. Maybe absolutely nothing will come of this. That’s okay too. It’s a learning experience, and that’s what I want to do: learn. Adapt. Be open to possibilities and opportunities.

I expect it will be a month before I even begin to understand the effects of this. I’ll do my best to relate any findings here. In the meantime, I’ll still be finishing up my YA manuscript and then querying agents. With my birthday and Christmas both coming up soon, you can probably guess what’s on my wishlist.

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28 Comments
  1. Brian D. Buckley says:
    Sun Oct 23 2011 at 3:05 PM

    I think it was Cory Doctorow who said “The greatest enemy of the aspiring writer is not piracy, but obscurity.” In your case, of course, it’s not actually piracy, but the point stands: giving away your work for free entices readers, and can get you more sales in the long run.

    I think you’re doing the right thing by letting this ride. Get all the downloads you can. And congratulations on getting over 9,000!

  2. Rachele Alpine says:
    Sun Oct 23 2011 at 3:07 PM

    That pretty cool to see the count of your book go up so fast…free or not. I bet people will read the book and maybe that will actually be a good publicity push. When will the price go back to making royalties? I bought it and read it, so I know some of those people are bound to read it…it’s good! :) And yay to seeing the end of your manuscript…how exciting. What YA genre is it? I don’t think you’ve ever said. If you need a set of eyes for beta reading…let me know.

  3. Les says:
    Sun Oct 23 2011 at 5:24 PM

    Woohoo!

  4. Shari says:
    Sun Oct 23 2011 at 5:39 PM

    I love your fantasy. Sometimes those “what ifs” can be so fun to daydream about, right?

    I’m really, really interested to hear how things progress with this and what kind of feedback you get. Question – does Amazon allow it to be downloaded as a regular PDF file for the computer instead of straight to a Kindle? I don’t have one, but would love to read it.

    Good luck with the home stretch on your MS and the querying roller-coaster. I have total faith in you!! :)

  5. Aisha says:
    Sun Oct 23 2011 at 7:45 PM

    Awesome! It had been a priced e-book for a while so immense exposure at this point can’t be a bad thing. Hope something great comes of it!

  6. Kristan says:
    Sun Oct 23 2011 at 10:48 PM

    Brian-
    Thanks! That’s certainly been a big discussion lately (piracy vs. obscurity) and I guess I’m about to find out lol.

    Rachele-
    Yeah, I haven’t talked too much about the wip here, for a lot of reasons. It’s also kind of hard to describe. Let’s just say it’s “adventurous,” with multicultural themes and a dystopian feel, even though it’s more or less set in the present day. :P

    And thanks for the offer to read it! I may have to take you up on that.

    Shari-
    I can send you a PDF, or you can download the Kindle for PC program, which will let you read any Kindle book on your computer, not just mine. Also, if you have a smartphone or tablet (particularly an iPad or iPod or iPhone) you can download the Kindle App or get it from iTunes. Email me and we’ll make sure you get a copy. :)

    Aisha-
    Yeah, that’s what I figure. Unless I get like 10,000 bad reviews. I have thick skin, but that would make me cry.

  7. Sonje says:
    Mon Oct 24 2011 at 10:49 AM

    Like everyone else, I’m interested to see how this plays out. Is your short story still for sale for money? It would be interesting to discover if you see any sort of sales increase on that due the exposure you’re getting for 20SW.

    Personally, this gets me thinking about my book. Bella Books doesn’t do Kindle versions because they feel like amazon gets too big of a cut. Of course you can by the ebook from the Bella website and put it on your Kindle, but I think your experiment is showing that a free book on any other website and a free book on amazon are two VERY different things. While I understand why Bella doesn’t want to do a Kindle version ($$$$), I wonder if it isn’t ultimately limiting your potential readership–by A LOT.

  8. T. S. Bazelli says:
    Mon Oct 24 2011 at 11:17 AM

    Ditto with everyone else on wanting to see how it turns out! I think it’s a pretty awesome thing to happen :)

  9. Kristan says:
    Mon Oct 24 2011 at 11:45 AM

    Sonje-
    It’s still for sale, but that’s something I’ll have to evaluate too, I think. Amazon doesn’t let me sell for less than 99 cents, so when 20SW stops being free, it and the short story will be the same price. (At least through the holiday season.) Not sure about that…

    I DO think not having a Kindle version is limiting… Amazon is hands-down the biggest ebook seller at this time. But I understand Bella Books’s issue with it, too… Not sure what to advise there.

    T.S.-
    Thanks. I’ve gotten a couple low ratings in the past 2 days, so now I’m nervous, haha. What if everyone hates it??

  10. V P Chandler says:
    Mon Oct 24 2011 at 12:03 PM

    Even if it’s free, it’s exciting to see those numbers climb! I’m looking forward to reading it and seeing how all this pans out. Seems like you have a good outlook.
    And relax! No one is going to hate it. :)

  11. Kristan says:
    Mon Oct 24 2011 at 4:17 PM

    Thanks, VP! You’re always so encouraging, and I really and truly appreciate it. :)

  12. Rachele Alpine says:
    Mon Oct 24 2011 at 4:21 PM

    I’m intrigued! Good luck as you reach the home stretch! :)

  13. Juliann Wetz says:
    Mon Oct 24 2011 at 8:07 PM

    I think this is really exciting, Kristan! It’s wonderful to think that you have thousands of potential readers. Wow!!

  14. Kristan says:
    Mon Oct 24 2011 at 10:31 PM

    Juliann-
    It definitely is exciting. I’d be so happy if “only” hundreds ended up reading. But only time will tell… (I’m about to hit 15,000 downloads after about 72 hours.)

  15. Erin Redick says:
    Tue Oct 25 2011 at 2:22 PM

    Kristan, Can I just say I am the person you described. I download free books for my Kindle and came across yours. Please don’t take any offense but I hadn’t heard of you. Can I also say I loved your book! I read a lot…I mean a lot. Like 100 books in the last 18 months or so. I found myself wanting to read more of your story and faster. I read your book in a little over 24 hours and I work full time (if that tells you anything). I know my download was free but will definitely be coming back for more. Your style is easy, laid back and I feel like it is a girlfriend telling me a story on the phone. If this book is any indication of your general style you have both of my thumbs up!

  16. Kristan says:
    Tue Oct 25 2011 at 2:27 PM

    Erin-
    Believe me, absolutely NO offense was taken to your comment. In fact, it’s got me beaming like an idiot, haha. Thank you SO much for downloading and reading, and for coming to tell me. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. :D

  17. Sherrie Petersen says:
    Wed Oct 26 2011 at 3:23 PM

    Holy crap! That’s SO cool!! Just the fact that it has climbed so high shows that people are finding it and interested enough to download it. That’s awesome! Obviously, it would be better if those were sales, but omigosh, it’s getting you noticed. That’s awesome!

  18. Kristan says:
    Thu Oct 27 2011 at 9:12 AM

    Hehe, yeah, it was a total trip seeing the numbers climb.

  19. Beth says:
    Fri Oct 28 2011 at 11:47 AM

    “But what if just 1% of those people read it? And what if some of them like it? And what if some of them come here to learn more about me and my writing?”

    I’m one of those people :-)

  20. Kristan says:
    Fri Oct 28 2011 at 6:13 PM

    Beth-
    Thank you! That means the world to me. :)

  21. Julia says:
    Fri Oct 28 2011 at 9:34 PM

    10,000 downloads! That’s fabulous. That means your book was intriguing enough to 10,000 people that they bothered to download it. You’re a rockstar.

  22. Kristan says:
    Sat Oct 29 2011 at 3:02 PM

    Up to 17,000 downloads/sales now! Not quite rockstar level, but maybe rising YouTube artist? Lol.

  23. Meghan Ward says:
    Sat Oct 29 2011 at 7:13 PM

    17,000 downloads! I think this is going to work in your favor. Does your book link to your website/blog/Twitter account? Please do write a follow-up post (I know you plan to anyway) to let us know whether you are getting more Amazon reviews, more blog traffic, more Twitter followers, etc. Maybe “free” is the way to go!

  24. Kristan says:
    Sat Oct 29 2011 at 7:32 PM

    I’ll definitely do a follow-up post! I feel like the saga is still going, though. :P

  25. Jon says:
    Sun Oct 30 2011 at 2:51 AM

    Great news! I think you’re on the right path here…Doesn’t it feel good to be a writer when things go well?

  26. Kristan says:
    Sun Oct 30 2011 at 7:55 PM

    Haha, of course! But doesn’t it feel good, period, when things go well? :P

  27. Meghan Ward says:
    Mon Nov 7 2011 at 12:59 PM

    Kristan – this article made me think of you: http://bit.ly/tmR8PN

  28. Kristan says:
    Mon Nov 7 2011 at 1:05 PM

    Ooo, thanks, Meghan! I may need to respond to that. (I’ve been planning to blog an update on my little experiment anyway.)

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