Use of Smashwords coupons

A very useful way of offering free books are Smashwords coupons that enable you to offer a specific discount on your books (for example, 50%).
Let me emphasize once more that the use of coupons makes sense only if you promote the book on social networks. If nobody knows you have a promotion on, there will be no sales. Ways of creating coupons can be seen on the following images:


What happens if you are an unknown author and you offer a book free of charge on Smashwords?

In all likelihood you will sell only a few copies as no one actually knows that you have offered a book for free. It will also take a few weeks before the other distributors (Sony, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc.), supplied by Smashwords, will change their price to 0.00$. One weakness of the internet is that the number of books on offer is huge and you are just a drop in an enormous ocean. Unless you learn how to tell people that your book is free, there is no way they will know. But you should not be talking all the time on social networks about your books and nothing else. The right way is to create a number of friends and acquaintances with whom you will communicate and tell them about your books only when you really need a promotion. Everyone will be glad of a free book and happy to help you by passing on the news about your book to their friends and acquaintances.


Making Amazon offer your book for free for a longer period of time

If you also offer your free book on Smashwords, Amazon will fairly soon begin offering your book free of charge. But you cannot first offer a book for free on Amazon and then elsewhere. I even wrote to them and they told me that this option is not available. I found out only later that Amazon is making comparisons with other sellers all the time. They never want to be more expensive. If, for example, you are offering your book on Smashwords for 2.99$ and you then want to lower its price on Amazon to 0.99$, you will not be able to. The price has to be 0.99$ elsewhere first, only then will Amazon give it the same price. A similar thing happens if you decide to offer your book for free on Smashwords. You will have to wait ten to fourteen days and then Amazon will offer your book for free as well.


What you need to know when you are offering a book for free

Readers who seek free books all the time are open to many new genres, but also rather impatient when reading. This means that if your book is not interesting on the first few pages, they will delete it. As they got it for free, they do not value it. This is why it is very important that interesting events take place right at the start of the book, on the first few pages. Some people download a large number of books, knowing in advance they will only read the best ones.
You should be aware that many people do not read books immediately but download them for when they go on holiday. This means that they will read your book in a few months.
Another danger is that readers who are looking only for free books will perhaps not be ready to pay the normal price of your books, because they think there are so many free books that they cannot possibly read them all anyway.
In addition, when you are offering a book to a wider group of people, you are not actually focusing on your target audience. This may result in more negative reviews than you would otherwise get.
If you have already offered your book for free without any success, you must not despair. Maybe it is better if you find your target audience via Twitter or FB and tell them where they can get your book for free. Or send them a Smashwords coupon for a free book.


Websites on which you can offer a book for free

Here are a few websites:
  1. Get Free Ebooks
  2. Free Online Novels

You must be aware that the market is flooded with free books. In my experience, Amazon is the strongest. Through its KDP Select program you can offer a book for free for a certain period of time. In second place is Get Free Ebooks. From this site, my book Promise Me Eternity was downloaded by approximately 1500 readers in one month. On the website Free Online Novels the same book was downloaded only by around 250 readers.
From what I have managed to find out from various experiences on the internet, you can be very happy if your free book is downloaded by more than 500 readers. Everything over 2000 copies is very, very good.


The results of offering my book for free in KDP Select Program

Initially, the results were pretty good as finally something was moving. I published my first book in early 2011 and did not sell a single copy in the following months. But the moment I began offering books for free, sales started. A problem then arose because later the KDP Select program no longer worked as well as it had at the beginning. At that time I was not using Twitter for additional promotion. An example: in January 2012, I was offering the book Only the Strongest Survive for free and roughly 500 readers downloaded it within four days (every 3 months, you can spend 5 days promoting your book). Only one day was left. I decided on a Sunday. To my surprise, approximately 13,700 readers downloaded it on that day. You can read about it in my BLOG. Why that happened, I do not know. Consequently, I sold 707 books in January, as you can read HERE. But the fact remains that a great deal depends on what else is on offer and the way the electronic system on Amazon happens to be working at that time.
When in April 2012 I offered the same book for free, only approximately 90 readers downloaded it. This meant that the method was no longer working as it had in the beginning and so I decided to leave the KDP Select program, especially because Amazon was getting on my nerves by constantly warning me that my books were for sale elsewhere (Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Sony, etc.).
Later I found out that, in addition to the KDP promotions, you must include social networks, such as Twitter. Only then will the KDP program bring you good enough results.


An example of a free e-Book offer over longer period

The average rating for the book  The One You Love is 3.8. In the past it was even lower. It has many negative reviews, some saying even that the author cannot write at all. But the writer Paul Pilkington realized that arousing an emotional experience is the most important attribute of novels. And he has clearly succeeded in achieving that in his books.
His other two books - The One You Fear and Someone to Save You, which are not free and are selling well, as can be seen from the number of reviews and the ranking, have a higher average ranking of 4.1 till 4.3. The reason for this is that they were read only by those who were happy with the book The One You Love.
If you do not know who your target readers are and you offer your book to everyone, there is a risk that the average rating will be lower than if you offered it only to your target audience.


Free e-Book offer over a longer period

One marketing tactic is to have at least two to three e-Books available and offer one of them for free over a longer period (a few months or years). If your free e-Book is interesting, readers will buy the other e-Books, for which they have to pay.
Even stronger way is to offer one novel for free and one or more short stories. You have more chances that readers will first choose free short story (because they don’t have time) and if they will like it, they will upload also free novel.
However, additional promotion on social networks is also necessary, otherwise between 300 and 1000 readers will download your book, but this will not be of much help to you. 
The number of free e-Books on offer is enormous and readers have consequently become choosy even here. They will not decide that easily to spend a few days reading your e-Book, even if it is free. So you have to persuade them to do so. And free short (10 minutes) story is a good way to do it.
Another fact you must take into account when offering a e-Book for free is that from the moment you publish the book on Smashwords, at least 2 to 3 weeks will pass before the e-Book appears on other bookselling portals, such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Diesel, etc. I made the mistake of waiting only 7 days and because the book was not selling, I put the price back to 0.99$. There are many examples when a e-Book sells only a few copies a month, and then sales suddenly grow rapidly. Amazon’s policy is not to sell e-Books for free, but if you will offer your e-Book for $0.00 on other portals, Amazon will soon (after 10 days) change their price to $0.00 too.


How did I improve Amazon ranking from 350.000 to 2.724?

On the 20th of March I decided to put e-Book Only the Strongest Survive on Smashwords.com for free. Yesterday Amazon.com automatically put my book to price $0.00.

Consequently 73 e-Books have been loaded in about 24 hours.

My ranking today is 2.724, which is great.


How do you check you ranking on Amazon?

Let us look at the book: The One You Fear

Below you can see that it ranks in 900th place. You can see it has 150
reviews, which is a lot. The book is selling very well.