Before I start, this is not an original idea. Giving away free samples has been done for years. Even drug dealers know to give away a free sample. “The first taste is free, [then when you’re addicted] the next one is going to cost you.”
Q: Why not just publish one chapter for free?
A: Well, you could certainly chose to publish just one chapter. It’s a marketing tactic that has been done for years. But, it doesn’t work quite the same way. Sure, you can write 20 solid pages. But, there are many writers who don’t have the skill to write a novel. By giving away the first novel, you show the reader that you understand the implicit agreement between reader and author—the story ending makes sense and that the story should draw the reader into the world and keep him interested.
If you’re planning to write more novels, then you want to build a brand that lasts. Having an audience is the first step to building a brand. Giving away the first novel helps build that brand.
A well-told story will attract a reader more than a well-written first chapter.
Q: I put a lot of hard work into that novel, there’s no way I’m going to just give it away.
Right. I drafted at a rate of about 2000 words per day, and I’m editing at about 1000 words per day. So, The initial draft took me 45 days and the edit longer (more because I’m still learning the edit process). So, I put in probably two labor months into the process so far. That’s a lot of time. Does it matter? If my novel does not sell, then that time is wasted anyway.
You’re asking a first-time reader to invest hours (hopefully) to read and appreciate your novel. You’re asking him to spend some money. What if you fail to keep up your side of the agreement and deliver a lousy novel? By giving away the novel, you’re accepting the risk—not your reader.
Q: But, what if they never read more than that one novel?
One aspect of the publishing industry is they bank on those authors who promise commercial success year-after-year. A friend of mine knows an author who just got dropped after his third novel because the sales are not there. Wonderful stories, compelling writing, just not enough profit for the publisher. The author even had one of his novels made into a TV movie. Is he commercially viable? Not for the publisher. However, I’ll bet if he were to self-publish and follow the “free taste” model, he could better find his target audience.
If your free novel does not induce a reader to buy the next one, then frankly you’re not a commercially viable author. And, if you’re afraid of that and sell your novel for a price, then your commercial viability won’t change. It doesn’t matter if you give it away—you’re either viable or not.
Q: What if I don’t connect?
That’s one thing bought up in the book How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! There are millions of readers. A best seller sells at least 5,000 copies each week. Only one-percent of novels are Best-Sellers, and 90 percent sell fewer than 3000 copies. Why? In part because the author can’t find his audience. You’ve invested months on the first novel, and more than a year (over 2000 hours) in the first seven. Would you do it if you knew that only 21,000 copies of all those novels sold?
A free novel will do a better job of finding your market. A lot of readers will take it and move on. Those who stay and buy the next book belong to your audience. That’s who you’re writing for anyway. Even if they bought your first novel, they would put it down because they are not your audience anyway. Why make them pay to find out if they’re your audience?
Did you know Michael Bolton was originally a heavy metal singer? No, because his audience was the soft ballad crowd. He found his audience.
Now, go find yours.