Ay-Mazing! When you give, maybe you DO get…

I have a friend, Ken Johnson, who is in the business of formatting manuscripts for e-book publication — a service that is eminently useful when you have a complicated book with a lot of illustrations or many levels of heads and subheads. Ken used to say, in the marketing department, that you should go along with Amazon’s constant hustle to cut your prices and even to give your books away for free, because “when you give, you get.”

His theory was that giveaways and ridiculously low prices would ultimately give you a higher return than offering your book “on sale” at a break-even price or at a small profit, because it would pay you back in higher numbers of sales.

In the past I’ve never found that to be true. I’ve done giveaways at Amazon. I’ve priced my books at rates that would never pay for my time and investment — assuming a minimum wage — even if I sold enough of the things to fill a Mac truck. And I’ve put the bookoids in Amazon’s “lending library” scam, one of the biggest rips for authors that ever came along.

Every month Amazon sends a “royalty” notice — though “royalty” is not, strictly speaking, what Amazon emits. Every month the amount ranges from $0.00 to about one or two bucks. Whoop-de-doo.

Well. I figured if I was going to give my writing away, I might as well look at it as a hobby — not as a perennially losing business — and just give it away. From my site, not from Amazon’s. Hence: the freebie downloads for The Complete Writer, Ella’s Story, and If You’d Asked Me.

But now, out of the blue, along comes a check from Amazon in the munificent amount of $18. Be still my heart… And yet…WTF?

Couple, three weeks go by, and next, what should waft into the snail-mailbox but a royalty check from Columbia University Press, which published The Essential Feature. This check is for actual money. Funds. Remember those?

It’s for a moderately respectable amount of money.

The Essential Feature was published in 1990. That’s right: in another century. For several years, it returned decent profits, because it was used in college journalism courses as a textbook. That means if one person — a professor — uses it for a course, 20 or 30 people buy it, because the students are required to buy it.

It hasn’t returned a cent in years. Nor should it: except for the chapters on writing skills, the thing is pretty much out of date.

At the risk of repeating myself…WTF???

Yea verily, what the freaking F?

Took awhile, but eventually a dim light dawned.

Apparently, visitors to P&S Press were reading installments of The Complete Writer and liking it. Not realizing they could buy the whole book directly from me — or possibly not wanting to pay for a PDF but hoping for a Kindle version — they were looking for it at Amazon, where they were finding The Essential Feature. Amazon gouges spectacularly for the book, charging ten dollars more than you would pay if you went direct to the publisher to buy it. So…that would explain a) the startling increase in Amazon payments and b) the unexpected resurgence of royalties from Columbia.

If that’s the case… It suggests that offering parts of a book serially, for free, may lead people to buy that book or related books, if they’re available through retailers.

Well. The Fire-Rider series is all over Amazon.

Since I’ve run out of gas with Ella’s Story (not for lack of ideas but for lack of time and energy to write), why not post bits of Fire-Rider, same as I’ve been doing for three other books?

So…that’s my plan.

Mounting an entire book online and setting up the site to auto-publish a post every few days is a large, time-consuming project. It will take a few days to get this started. But get it started, I shall.

Watch this space!