Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Wed Aug 28 11:28:14 EDT 2002

On Wed, 28 Aug 2002 08:20:40 +1000, Kathryn Andersen wrote:

>Baen have found that the Free Library
>has *increased* the sales of books -- yea, verily, increased the sales
>of the books in the Free Library!  Because they know, that if a books is
>a *good* book, then people will want to read it more than once.

AND they will tell their friends about it, and those friends may start by
borrowing the book, but if they like it enough, then the author/publisher
has just made a new customer....

I have an acquaintance who is a self-publishing success story; it's
unfortunately too long a story to tell here, and besides he tells it better
than I do.  The short version is that when he couldn't find a publisher for
his memoir of his father, he published it himself and then promoted it
everywhere.  Same with his second book.  Both were way successful and now he
has a three-book deal with HarperCollins.  But the relevant point is this:

I'm the secretary for a local literary organization and we have a writers'
conference every year.  Last year, this guy was one of the speakers.  He
showed up lugging several boxes of books that proved to be copies of his
self-published books, and asked for a table.  He then set out an attractive
display and a sign that invited people to take a copy and contribute $5 to
our organization.  I think we made three hundred dollars that way.

We were thrilled, but a little concerned about his not making any money.  He
said that, in fact, this was the best publicity he could dream of, and he
didn't know why all authors didn't do it.  (Aside from the question of
getting the publishers to disgorge a lot of free copies, that is.)  He told
us that by giving copies away, he was creating a demand--and name
recognition--that would increase his later sales.  This was not theory on
his part; he had seen it work before.  And by doing it there at the writers'
conference, where there were a lot of people who READ, he ensured that his
books would get talked about to other readers...who might go out and buy the
books for full price later on.  (Did I mention that he's extremely talented
anyway?  This wouldn't work if you had a crappy product that looked bad, but
he was also smart enough to hire a good designer for the cover and the books
look like they came from a mainstream press.)

This, and what Baen is doing, strikes me as good salesmanship.  It seems so
counterintuitive to *make* money by *giving* product away, but books are a
different beastie.  I wonder if any other publishers will follow Baen's

(Oh, and if you want to read the full text which Kathryn expertly
summarized, the link to Eric Flint's essay is 
and it makes me wish I liked more of Baen's texts because I'd really like to
support them, even if it meant <shudder> reading them online. :)

Melissa Proffitt

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