Friday, May 14, 2010

Free Kindle Books Given Own Bestseller List

In a move I find not surprising, Amazon has announced it will soon run two bestseller lists--one for paid books and one for the freebies. I've wondered about this phenomenon of freebies hitting the top of the list for some time. I've been the beneficiary of that--with my freebies of Exposure and Dark Pursuit hitting #1 and #2 respectively in January and staying there for nine days. Being at the top of the list garnered me extra publicity--not the least of which was being included in an article on free Kindle downloads on the front page of the New York Times. But I had to wonder--is that fair to authors whose books are selling at full price?

An exact date for the switch to two lists isn't yet known, but an Amazon representative said it will happen in "a few weeks."

It will be interesting to see what happens with my next two Kindle freebies, which will be available for two weeks in June (Brink of Death, first in the Hidden Faces series, and Violet Dawn, first in my Kanner Lake series). By then the freebie bestseller list should be in place. Will the splitting of these lists lessen the publicity and overall benefits of putting a book free on the Kindle? Perhaps. But I'm not sure it will. It will partly depend on how the lists appear on the main Kindle page. Right now the top 10 on Amazon's one list appear there. You have to click a link to see the rest (the list goes to 100). At the time of the Exposure and Dark Pursuit freebies, only the few top titles appeared on that page. I think that's what made it work so well for me. Anyone on that main Kindle books page saw the covers of my books. They could see right away that the books were free. So any cynical person could discount them. But the freebie promotion did work just by getting those books up there. So if a freebie bestseller list also shows at least the top few on that main Kindle page, I think the promotion may be as successful--if you get to the top of the list. That's the key. Just because a book is free--doesn't mean it's going to reach the #1 spot.

As I said in the NYT article--and was requoted yesterday in the Publisher's Weekly article about this new Amazon move, "When you push to No. 1 of any bestseller list, that in itself seems to beget publicity."

By the way, I don't see the new freebie list as a negation to our discussion here last week about whether or not we should label CBA fiction as Christian. The same naysayers will be around.


Cecelia Dowdy said...

I'm glad that you mentioned this. I was just commenting to my husband this morning about this same subject. I told him how some of the bestsellers on Amazon's list were available as free Kindle downloads and how I felt that it wasn't fair to the authors with full-priced books.

Sheri said...

I love the freebies because it has introduced me to some new authors that I didn't know about. (And of course that means that when I finished the freebie, I then went and bought several more of their books for my Kindle.) I think it's great publicity and widens your reading audience. Of course I've been buying your books long before my Kindle, so I appreciate the option of now downloading a few of them for free, for re-reading!

Jean said...

I'm new to Kindle (I use the iPad app) and e-books as a viable alternative to print in general. The free list serves three purposes for me. First, it introduces me to authors I might not otherwise be aware of. Second, it's an easy way for me to experience e-book reading and decide what will or won't work for me as a reading experience. From there, I expect I will eventually pay for e-Books, but, frankly, an e-book seems like a rental to me. Admittedly, a long-term rental, but there are so many things that make it nebulous to me -- Amazon's ability to pull it back, changing formats, device limitations. It's an iffy area, and I hesitate to pay full book price for something that seems transient in so many different ways. But the free books may be influencing me enough that I may reach the point where I'll willingly pay for e-books. (I'm sure that's part of the strategy.) Third, the the free books are a good way for me to pick up an electronic copy of a hard cover book I've already owned, read, and enjoyed (Violet Dawn is one example -- I paid for the book, loved it, recommend it to others, and will like being able to pick up an electronic copy of the book to augment my collection).

I'm glad to see a separate bestseller list for free books, but I see several books in the top ten even if you have to pay for them, so that says a lot for those author's and their books. Additionally, there are a number of free books out there, and that's no guarantee it will hit number one.