Sramana: Hugh, in your case is Amazon’s algorithmic promotion driving the bulk of your following?
Hugh Howey: I would say that my following has driven Amazon’s algorithms to drive my book to new people. It has to start with a readership which is word of mouth. One person has to read something they love, and then they tell 10 people about it via social networking. Once that happens, the book explodes. That has happened in all three of our cases. When you do something well it will get people chatting.
It is hard to do with one book. When someone reads a book that they like then they will want to see more material. They are going to look at your back list and read something else. Social media has made it possible for things to go viral instantly. You have to put in the hard work which is giving you the lottery ticket, then you have to hope your number comes up.
Sramana: What is your experience Jasinda?
Jasinda Wilder: I came into this with no reader base whatsoever. At the time I saw on Writer Chat that people were getting quick success doing free runs through the select program that Amazon was offering. I thought about it and realized that if someone was offering me a free book, no strings attached, that I would probably grab it. I also knew that if I liked it I would probably buy other things from that author.
I figured I had nothing to lose. I had several different series going at the time and I decided to offer up the first book in each series for free to see if it would work. I did that as a way to work the 30 day cycles at Amazon and it worked really well. The first month I did that I was bringing in 1,200 dollars a month. The second month I did that I brought in over 10,000 dollars. That grew my fan base very quick. I heard people tell me that they read my first book quick, and then went out and read everything else I had.
I had a lot of material out there for readers to buy. I did not have to do a lot of work looking for the readers. They came to me when I put those first readers out there. I hit a chord with my Big Girls series and almost overnight I had a couple thousand Facebook fans. People started following me on Twitter and I did nothing. That gradually built. I still have those books free to this day. That brings in a lot of readership for me. When someone downloads the free book they typically return to purchase the remainder of my 20 books in the back list. That helps me build readership quickly.
Sramana: If I were to net out what I heard from each of you, one of the ways to get the appetite of the readers is to get at least one book of a series of books in the free program.
Jasinda Wilder: That worked for me. I don’t think there is one way that will work for everybody. At the time I was willing to try everything. I would do anything I could to get readers and that was an easy way to do it. I think there are several different ways to do that and it worked well for me.
Hugh Howey: That has worked well with my Wool series as well. It started with the short story and that short story is what has allowed me to write full time and sent me onto the New York Times list. It’s free now. It used to be my primary source of income, but now that the series is doing well I have made it free as a way to give back to the readers. It also lets anyone try my work with no outlay at all. It is a very low barrier of entry to the series.