On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Whoa, Nellie! My Experiment with Free E-Books

For the past few months I've been selling on average 4-7 ebooks of Template per day (total monthly ebook sales between 120-220, plus print sales of 120-200). I'm just delighted that so many people seem to find Template helpful, especially since I wrote this for myself and decided on a lark to put Template in a book. A number of people have written to me with happy stories of what they're writing and how it's going. You guys go! Congratulations on forging ahead with an intimidating dream, and I don't doubt you will make it if you keep working.

I've been learning about e-marketing. This weekend I decided in the interest of research to offer my ebooks for free on Kindle Amazon.

I still don't know if this is a good or a bad move. The theory behind offering a free book is that you can get your name out there with more books, and also push up your rankings. The downside of course is that you lose sales money. I need to wait to see if my sales the rest of the month go up, stay the same, or go down. I can guess that offering one book in a series is an advantageous move, since you may pull more sales on the other books. My two books are both singles though so I'm not sure... will have to wait. If nothing else, this was an entertaining weekend, with some unexpected results.

My reaction in a nutshell was whoa, Nellie! There are a LOT of people who like free kindle books. I gave away 9000 ebooks in two days (7484 Lever/1517 Template), which dwarfs my normal sales of 300-400 books total (print plus ebook) per month. I suspect most of the people who grab these free kindle books troll the lists and download 30 at a time to store for possible reading in the future. In other words, this population is different from the discriminating, buying person who carefully evaluates each book to find the best value for answering a specific need.

My primary observation was unexpected: my novel (A LEVER LONG ENOUGH) was five times as popular as my nonfiction book (THE STORY TEMPLATE). LEVER, I think I've mentioned to you before, is self-published. (This is a long story why I took this road that I won't go into now). LEVER came out in 2009. It received very positive responses, including two well-known author endorsements, two independent awards, and 36 4- and 5-star amazon reviews (and one three-star). This novel is my baby, and I am very proud of it. However, despite marketing the heck out of it, in three years I've sold only a few more than 500 books. This is considered an extremely respectable sales record for a self-published novel, by the way, especially because LEVER came out just before ebooks starting ruling the market, and therefore most of these sales were print. However, these sales are pathetic compared to this past weekend, in which I gave away 7484 LEVER ebooks in two days. I figure if only 10% of the people who downloaded it read it, I'm still ahead of the curve. And wow! I'm excited about this, since for the past year I was selling zero to five per month. Since I wrote it I've wanted as many eyes as possible to see LEVER, more important to me than the money I might make.

It was gratifying to watch both my books climb the amazon rankings, even though I know it's transitory. LEVER hit #16 of all free ebooks downloaded. Here's a screenshot of it as #1 in the MYSTERY category.


TEMPLATE hit #130 of all free ebooks downloaded, not quite high enough to show in the top 100 list. Still, for a specific how-to book this isn't bad. Here's a screenshot of it as #1 in the Reference/Writing subcategory.

That was fun! OK, now it's time to wait to see how much damage/how much help offering a free book gives to my sales figures...


Monday morning, 6 am EST: At the top of this blog I've pasted my new report screenshot that I just took. 24 Template sales (thank you, guys, and I really hope this helps you write :-)  )and, wait for it, 44 of LEVER! This makes me happy, since as I said before Lever is my baby. It makes me happy people are seeing it -- a jump from the 0-5 sales per month it's been making, mostly from those who buy my writing book and then want to see what I've done. BTW for you TEMPLATE readers, since I wrote LEVER before I did my studies for TEMPLATE, it doesn't quite follow the template since my midpoint is at 40%, but my subplot midpoint is at 60% so it evened out.

LEVER is ranked 2887 in total paid sales right now.

And yes, for everyone who read Lever and is dying to know more, I'm working on the sequel. Hope to get that one finished soon. NANO is coming up in a few weeks for a kick in the writing pants, happily.


NOTE: Free Kindle ebooks can be found at www.amazon.com/Kindle-eBooks. Go to the right, scroll down, and hit the tab to "See all Best Sellers in Kindle Books." Categories are to the left.


  1. Those are some great stats! Thanks for giving us a peek at the numbers.

    1. Hi Jessica, I think these numbers are helpful for people to follow. Frankly I was blown away, especially since I told no one I was going to do this. Hope your writing's going well :-)

  2. Looks like this was good move for you, Amy.
    Congratulations on beefing up the sales.
    Something to keep in mind when I publish my novel.

    1. Hi Bill, still waiting on the stats, but so far they look good. Who would have thought?

  3. You and Mark Levine inspired me to form my own company and self-pub my novel in paperback and eBook formats. I dropped the price of "Grow Old With Me" to 99 cents back in March for Read an eBook Week. Wow!! I've sold nearly 20,000 copies. It's been an Amazon Religious Romance Best Seller since March when Inspired Reads picked it up as a Hot Deal of the day. Amazing results for an Indie author.
    I love Lever, BTW, and I'm glad to hear you're working on a sequel. Reading Story Template now.
    I hope your free trial period will keep those purchases coming for you.

    1. Melinda, You go! Congratulations on a super performance. Will you have a new book soon?

    2. I'm working on the next novel. Marketing is a downside to self-publishing. It cuts into writing time. I'll be plugging along at that book during NaNo.

  4. I know what you mean about marketing. I marketed almost full time for awhile with Lever, and found it frustrating. When Template came out I didn't market at all, and it's really exploded. Go figure. (I think because Template hopefully helps people write, and fiction is individualized).

    Hey, on NaNo make sure you buddy me! My name is Amy_D.

    Good luck. Will look forward to hearing how you do.