Monday, February 18, 2008

33 Hours, 1.1 Million + Downloads

Thanks to an endorsement and hosting by Oprah, the (temporarily) free e-book version of Suze Orman's Women & Money got downloaded over a million times on Valentine's Day. Truly amazing results. Now I wonder if Romantic Times will accuse Oprah and Suze of undercutting other writers' advances, the way they did with me and Melanie last year. I'm thinking no, how about you?

Major publishers are now beginning to dabble in free e-books as marketing tools. NAL linked to my Midnight Blues free Darkyn e-book over on their new paranormal web page, which gave me some nice exposure and them some no-cost content for their site. Win/win. I think this is also one of if not the first time a major publisher has used free, author-published fiction like this.

Over at HarperCollins, they've launched their new full-access Browse Inside ~ Try Before You Buy feature which offers free online-reading versions of published books. They also offer a link/widget code for some of the books that interested readers can put on their blogs or web sites (I attempted to copy and paste the code from HC to show you the widget, but Blogger refuses to accept the HTML, and it's way over my head so I can't tell what's wrong with it, other than what the warning box says -- some tag isn't closed.)

I browsed through Renegade's Magic by Robin Hobb, and while the content has some problems (slow loading, fuzzy text, and weird gray shading behind the text that made the letters harder to see) it's readable. However, there were only 131 pages available to read, so evidently not all the books advertised on the Browse Inside page are full-access.

I have discovered something interesting while moving my freebie archives over to Scribd*. Before the move, tracking how many copies of my free e-books* were read or downloaded was impossible. Not anymore. Since I uploaded Lunar Marshall four days ago, for example, Scribd* tells me that 240 folks have taken a look, read it online or downloaded it. It's not 1.1+ million copies, to be sure, but it's the virtual equivalent of hanging out sixty free books a day to interested readers all over the place -- at no cost to me or the recipients. Can't do that with print copies. *Note 9/3/10: Since instituted an access fee scam to charge people for downloading e-books, including those I have provided for free for the last ten years, I have removed my free library from their site, and no longer use or recommend using their service. My free reads may be read online or downloaded for free from Google Docs; go to my freebies and free reads page for the links. See my post about this scam here.

The debate over free e-books and content will doubtless continue, but it's nice to see a few publishers at least dipping their toes in the pool. If you know of and want to share any freebies being posted online or given away by publishers, please post a link in comments.

*All of my freebies started as new, never-before-published work, much of which I wrote specifically as giveaways. I don't advocate giving away gratis e-copies of print-published books (unless you can get Oprah to host them for a day on her web site; then, baby, jump at it.)


  1. ebook tasters are definitely the way to go. Anything which convinces publishers that the internet isn't some giant money-losing scheme has to be a help. Imagine a future where you read a little buzz about a book, and you can nip over to the publisher's website and read the first five or six chapters. Enough to know whether you want the rest, not enough to harm sales of the book. (I got my publisher to agree to five chapters by first starting with one chapter, and then working my way upwards. The reaction has been good, although I don't track downloads.)

    And if I may be so bold, I should mention that four of my previously-published short stories are also available from my website for free.

  2. Anonymous1:43 AM


    As your own experience as a writer bears out, it actually helps a writer's in-print work to have some free reading online (and obviously it's not hurtin' Suze Orman, either).

    I've done this for years, so have many other writers -- and I doubt I'd have a career if I hadn't done it.

    But you're an excellent example of someone who's posted free reading online and whose career continues to soar.

    I've done free entire novels on the web -- since 1999 -- and most of them end up in print sooner or later (so far, all of them have, actually.) I also will take an older novel or novella or three and post them at my site for readers to read for free.

    Similarly, I have more than 40 published short stories with another 10-20 that I haven't sent out taking some of them and posting them at my website seems like a no-brainer to me. Plus, it's fun, I get feedback from readers, and I like sharing them at times.

    Speaking of which -- I'm posting a short story every month at right now. For free.

    So...I guess I, too, have ruined the publishing of books and stories, LOL. You, me, Suze, Paulo Coelho, Cory Doctorow, etc.



  3. Anonymous2:23 AM

    Tor Books is temporarily giving away free e-books until they launch their new website. One e-book each week. They started last week with Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.This Friday will be Old Man's War by John Scalzi. And next week, Through Wolf's Eyes by Jane Lindskold.

  4. Anonymous3:10 AM

    This comment is probably redundant since they've been doing it for years and I guess most people interested in e-books already know of them, but Baen gives away many, many free e-books in their Baen Free library and also in the CDs enclosed in some of their books. The books in the CD's can be read and/or downloaded from baencd at the Fifth Imperium.

    Baen is undoubtedly the publishing leader in using free e-books for publicity.

  5. I hope to get a couple of freebies up this year once my website redesign is finished. I definitely think it's important and I doubt very much if it hurts sales. If anything it adds to them. :)

  6. Not to mention that Baen has free excerpts of almost all - if not all - of their upcoming books on their website. They are light years ahead of any other publisher I know of in regard to having stuff online.

    Oh, and when they sell e-books, they have it in multiple formats. None of this "you can only use our format" BS that a lot of other companies have done in the past and, undoubtedly, are still doing.

  7. Thanks for the links, everyone.

    Just FYI, I received a comment on this post that quoted the Romantic Times article in question. As I was not consulted about the article at the time of publication, nor given the opportunity to respond to the erroneous assumptions and attributions in it, I feel under no obligation to give space on my weblog to those who persist in believing that it was fair reporting.

    I've tried to avoid embarrassing the other party by making this clear as politely as I could via private e-mail (and I continue to make the effort by not naming the other party), but by attempting to post this comment it's clear that my wishes are being ignored.

    I have no interest in getting into an online slanging match, nor will I correct RT's research for them and explain why the article was so inappropriate. I see no reason to defend myself when the attack was unprovoked and the damage is already done. So the only way I can think to handle it is to simply reject the comment and hope that the poster will finally accept my refusal to debate the issue.

  8. Anonymous7:47 PM

    I am an avid reader (and I read your blog regularly), and I have been thinking about free e-books from a reader's point of view since you have written about it. What I have arrived at is this .. I think that they are a great way to expose new readers to an author or to a series. If I read a free e-book and the story/writing intrigue me, I am much more likely to go and buy almost all the author has written, if I enjoyed the book, rather than just borrowing what the local library has (I would be broke if I attempted to have my book purchasing keep pace with my reading!) I started reading your Stardoc series and have bought all of your other series because of the free e-books you made available. Thank you

  9. Anonymous1:47 PM

    Speaking of ebooks, do you know if the Stardoc books will be available in e-format?

  10. Shiloh wrote: Speaking of ebooks, do you know if the Stardoc books will be available in e-format?

    Honestly, I have no idea, but I kinda doubt it. If it were cost-effective to re-release the series in e-book format, I think they would have done it by now.

  11. Anonymous2:40 PM

    Well, hell.

    I just got a sony reader, and I meant literally, just got. The nice guy in the brown uniform with the brown truck just pulled away and I'm currently surrounded by packing junk.

    I'd desperately love to have all my faves on this thing.

  12. Anonymous10:16 AM

    Well, I found ONE Stardoc book at the Sony ebook store.

    Eternity Row. Which makes me wonder if they won't maybe release more (I'm ever hopeful).

    Evermore is there, too.


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