The Free Experiment is Ending

And Here's Everything You Need To Know

The Free Experiment is Ending banner
By Dustin Tigner
Announcements
Too Long; Didn't Read

The Dungeon Runner serial and I’m a Fudging Vampire! will no longer be free. Make sure you grab these books before the price changes. See below for dates and more information.

After lots of heated debates with myself (“No, you don’t understand!"), I’ve had to make some hard decisions. You see . . . my big ol' publishing strategy got eaten by my big ol' dog . . . Rupert.

(“But you don’t have a dog.” — “Shut up, other me!")

Joking aside, I have a whole article worth of thoughts to share on these decisions. But for those who are not interested in why I’m changing my publishing strategy, let us dive into what’s changing and when.

The Changes

The Dungeon Runner serial and I’m a Fudging Vampire! will be published to Kindle Unlimited on Amazon. This program requires exclusivity, which means I cannot provide these books in any other way (but don’t fret! I’m sneaky; see below).

The Eizel serial will remain free as a newsletter exclusive.

But I Don’t Have Kindle Unlimited

This is where I’m being sneaky (while complying with the Terms of Service).

To anyone who registers for my newsletter—up until Dungeon Runner goes exclusive—you’ll lock in your free Dungeon Runner perks. I’ll send you a copy of Dungeon Runner via BookFunnel before each episode is published.

(BookFunnel allows you to read via your normal reading apps/devices or use its own. DRM free!)

I recognize that not all of my readers use Amazon. If you have Kindle Unlimited, though, using that will likely be more convenient and helps me out. Grab the free copy I send for your backup, then read via KU. :)

How Much Will They Cost?

Dungeon Runner episodes will be $2.99, which earns a few cents more than what I’d get via Kindle Unlimited page reads.

I’m a Fudging Vampire will be published at $5.99.

When Is This Happening?

Dungeon Runner 1, 2, and 3 will enter Kindle Unlimited on November 23rd. Up until that point, they’ll be available via BookFunnel. However, since other stores and library distributors can take a while to unpublish books, I’ll start removing the books from those places on November 1st.

Challenger Sarah—in I’m a Fudging Vampire!—gets her official book launch this December! I’m aiming for the first of the month, but Amazon can take up to 72 hours to publish a book.

Why The Changes?

My goal as a writer is to be read.

Every day, I work on these stories, worry about them, laugh and cry. I narrate every word as I write to ensure it comes across well. By the end of the day, my mind is goo, and my voice is raw.

Free was a core strategy to accomplish my goal: to be read. It thrills me to no end when others get to experience my work. I love hearing how they needed a laugh or how they related to my quirky characters.

It makes me feel like my work makes a difference.

Despite giving away 10,000 books—a big number for a small author; a small number for others, I’m sure—I don’t feel like I’m accomplishing my goal. The metrics I track aren’t progressing, which tells me these books aren’t being read nearly as much as they are being collected.

I realized that I’d gain far more actual readers by charging for my books and using the revenue to pay for advertising. This would solve a lot of challenges I’ve faced by using free.

If you’re interested in what those challenges are, read on!

The Challenges of Free Books

Expectations

People have expectations concerning everything. It’s how our minds work. It allows us to simplify an otherwise complex world.

Making the first book in a series free is common, especially outside of Amazon. But making all of your books free is not common. This goes against expectations. It signals our brain with a red flag, and we start to think something isn’t right.

Unfortunately, I like doing things outside of the box. I like to imagine how things can be rather than how they are.

I like to go against the grain.

Two months ago, I released I’m a Fudging Vampire! for free. This is one of my best books. It took a year to write. And I decided to give it away for free to build my newsletter and achieve my goal: to be read.

Unfortunately, the most popular FB groups—groups I’ve been supporting for years—wouldn’t allow me to promote the book. The expectation is for the book to be available for sale. This book’s cost was an email address, not money.

It has been downloaded less than 2% of Arachnomancer’s first book’s sales.

Promo Newsletters & Swaps

Authors are able to pay a promo newsletter—BookBub, Book Barbarian, Fussy Librarian, etc.—to market their books. However, if the book is not listed on Amazon, it cannot be included in the newsletter.

Further, most of these promo sites do not allow permafree books, such as Dungeon Runner. They want to give their readers a time-limited deal.

Authors can participate in newsletter swaps, where they promote each other’s books. But it can be difficult to find authors in the same genre with a similarly sized newsletter. Plus, recommending books you haven’t read isn’t good.

Price vs Value

When something has a near-zero cost to reproduce—digital assets: eBooks, music, videos, art, games, etc.—we associate things that are free as having a lesser value. Or, if not a lesser value, we anticipate a trick (see Expectations).

A free book can easily trigger our impulse to download. It appeases a basic fear that tells us we might run out of things to read. But that’s practically impossible. As such, these downloaded books go to the bottom of massive TBR lists.

We fear wasting our time, a finite resource. The true cost of a book is the time spent reading it. If we believe the story holds little value, we’re less likely to want to risk the time investment of reading it.

Target Audience

Entertainment is subjective. It is loved and hated because we’re all unique individuals with unique experiences. And we have different expectations.

Your sweet grandmother will probably not like your tentacle hentai. . . .

Ahem!

People who put money toward something rarely do so unless they’ve taken a moment to calculate whether or not it’s worth it. This doesn’t happen with free.

Free books have the lowest barrier of entry, allowing the wrong people access to the content. They read it, hate it, and hurt its rating. When Dungeon Runner 1 launched, its first few ratings were 2 stars. Luckily, this improved with time, but it’s still my lowest-rated book at 4.2 stars.

A Store’s Best Interest

Bookstores are not altruistic. They are looking after their bottom line. When someone searches for a book, Amazon is more likely to recommend a product that will help the company make money.

Free books do not make the stores money. In fact, these books cost money. Hosting and bandwidth are technical costs. But there’s also the opportunity cost of not being able to sell another book while the customer reads the free book.

Free Requirements

Amazon does not allow authors to price their books for free. They will only price-match other stores. This means, in order to have a free book on Amazon, you have to publish it to all the other stores. This is considered publishing Wide.

Unfortunately, my paid books that I would normally upsell readers—the Arachnomancer series—are exclusive to Kindle Unlimited. They are not available in these other stores. Readers I pick up from other stores will likely not buy from Amazon. The result is a scattered catalog.

Conclusion

Ultimately, I learned a lot from this experience.

Since free was a big part of my strategy, it’s quite ingrained with everything: articles, sample chapters, books, stores, and social media, to name a few. It’s going to be a painful transition. . . .

But I’m excited!

I believe, with these changes, I can make the Dungeon Runner format for future stories work (monthly episodes with free in-between-episode stories, like Eizel). This allows me to release new books far more often and deeply explore these crazy cool new worlds.

Thanks for reading. :)

If you have any questions, please reach out!