Periscope Depth

so you find yourself somebody who can do the job for free

When I announced that Too Close to Miss was on sale, I also made it available as a free .pdf. Word of mouth is more important to me than revenue at this stage, so I wanted as many people as possible to read it. I also wanted to show consideration for people who didn’t have a Kindle, Nook or iPad yet. (There is a print version coming soon, I promise)

Last week, I quietly took down the free PDF from the site. The initial burst seemed to have slowed. At this point, people were more likely to discover the book through Amazon, B&N or iTunes than through my blog.

So, thank you to everyone who downloaded the .pdf, read it, and spread the word about the book.

What I learned from my little experiment:


  • First, get a good download tracker if you’re going to try a stunt like this. Google Analytics will tell you that it’s easy to track downloads of a file – just paste some Javascript into the link, set up a Conversion point in your Goal Funnel, and voila! It is not, in fact, that easy. I will never get mad at a client for delay in putting tracking pixels on their website ever again.

  • If you’re unwilling or unable to do that, then have fun deciphering access logs! I was able to get the raw access data in .csv format from my web host. I then pasted it into Excel, separated out the IP addresses, and filtered out duplicates, since a given IP address might “call” a page more than once in a short time.

  • The result? 125 people* downloaded the free .pdf of my novel between December 2nd and December 21st. Again, thank you all!

How do those numbers fare?

Honestly, I’m happy with it. I’ve sold somewhat more than 125 copies of the book each on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Presuming a 1% conversion rate of “reader” to “fan,” I can expect somewhere between one to two fans: people who will proselytize about the book to their social network, which can in turn lead to more sales, which can in turn lead to more fans, etc. Since every fan is precious – I blush at each new Amazon review – I consider it a worthwhile investment.

I don’t count the 125 downloads as lost sales, either. While $0.99 isn’t much of an obstacle to trying me out, I recognize that “free” is even more appealing. There are people who downloaded the .pdf who would never be ebook sales, whether due to platform difficulties or different price points. Besides, at a 30-40% royalty on $0.99, the $45 I (conceivably) lost on free downloads is a worthwhile investment if it produces one fan.

Of course, this is all a grand experiment. It’s all part of my fumbling, newborn efforts to market myself as a writer. And as my CEO told me once, no marketing campaign is truly a failure. You learn something from every dollar you spend**. So I’m happy to learn, and I’m happy to share what I’m learning.

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* “People” in the Internet definition of the word. It’s possible that a given user may have accessed the file from two different IP addresses, but this is a possibility that afflicts any tracking program.

** Even if it’s “don’t color our regular cola cans the same shade as our diet cola cans, even if it’s Christmas“.

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