August 2011 short story sales

Well, August has certainly been an interesting month in the sales department.  Since summer obviously slows things downs quite a bit, I decided to experiment.  What's the worst that could happen?  A repeat of July?

I've already tried to play around with prices with lackluster results.    Despite all the rampant theories about 99 cents vs. 2.99 vs. 4.99, it really doesn't seem to make any difference for short stories.  People either want them or they don't.  A customer who really wants a novel to read will feel short changed regardless of the price paid for the short story.

So I decided to set Celebrity Space for free on Amazon/B&N.  For several months, I've had flash fiction posted for free on Smashwords.  I also wrote a blog post on whether or not writing for free was worthwhile.  Strangely enough, my views have not really changed since that original post.  But let me post my August numbers first and then I'll go more into that.  As before, these are only the numbers for my under 10k words and collections:

Amazon (US,UK,DE):
              # of works: 14
              # of sales:  30

            # of works: 14
            # of sales:  11

Soo... a definite increase in sales.  I did not include the number of free downloads; it's not really relevant.  I should note that Celebrity Space is the first in a series.  So most of the increased sales were for the other standalones in the series or for the whole collection itself.

But I'm still not entirely sure about the whole free thing.  With the increase in sales, I have also had an increase in reviews.  Some of them positive, some of them give the usual "would have liked to see this as a novel."  Basically, free attracts people outside of my target audience.  It does also seem to devalue the work slightly.

However, I can't argue with the increase in sales.  It's been free for a few weeks now and the number of free downloads has slowed down compared to the frenzy of the first few days.  With the drop off in downloads, there has been a slowdown in paid sales as well.  But still better than previous months.

So free works... kind of.  It works on sites like Amazon, not Smashwords.  It works if the story you set for free is part of a series.  It works for just sheer exposure.  As a new author, these are important things for me to consider.  Where free doesn't seem to work is attracting people to my other stories.  It also doesn't necessarily attract my target audience.

For now, though, I believe the pros outweigh the cons.  Frankly, I need exposure as an author more than I need people to value my work.  I also need reviews, good or bad.  I also need  to get on the customers also bought lists on Amazon.  Free will help me do this for the time being.  So I'm going to try another month of free and see how it goes. 


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