The Business Rusch: The Halo Effect

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The Business Rusch: The Halo Effect

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

In October, my novel Wickedly Charming had a one-week e-book promotion. The book was free to e-book buyers on the big sites (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore) for one week only. This promotion wasn’t my idea. Instead, my publisher Sourcebooks set up the promotion with the e-stores.

I only found out about it because my short story e-book, The Charming Way, sold dozens of copies in one day.  Before that, The Charming Way sold maybe a dozen copies in one month.  WMG Publishing published The Charming Way, and all of the Grayson backlist that I control. (Kensington still won’t release the rights on two out-of-print books.)  And because I’m working closely with WMG, I get to see their numbers in real time.

I confess, I’m a numbers watcher, even though I tell other writers not to do that. I watch the numbers because numbers make things real for me.  Unlike most writers, I don’t take numbers personally. (Oh, no! That’s not selling! It must suck!) Right now, I’m watching the numbers to get this new world of publishing in my head. It’s not real to me partly because I’ve worked on computers since 1982.  The digital form is something that manuscripts are before I print them out. Watching the numbers—for me—is a way of reminding myself that the digital files are now selling, the way that books in a brick-and-mortar bookstore do.

In fact, my obsessive number-watching has slowed in the past six months as I am becoming accustomed to the new system.  Now I check some sites on a weekly basis, some on a monthly basis, and some not at all. My weekly check on Kindle corresponded with the start of the “free” promotion for Wickedly Charming. But I live on the west coast, and I work late at night, so I didn’t check anything until noon my time—and by then, The Charming Way had sold an astonishing number of copies.

By the way, WMG priced The Charming Way at 99 cents, which is where all of WMG’s short stories (under 10K) are priced. That day, I noted some movement in the other 99-cent Grayson short stories, but none of them were directly tied to Wickedly Charming, not the way that The Charming Way is.

Let me explain: I often write a short story long before I write the novel. I don’t plan it that way; I write a short story that suggests something longer, and then I write the something longer. When I’m working on a series, like the Retrieval Artist books or the Diving books, I will write short fiction as part of the world-building.

The blurb for The Charming Way says that it’s the short story that provided the inspiration for Wickedly Charming.  Under my Grayson pen name, most of the books are connected, but the short stories aren’t. The only other shorter work connected to Wickedly Charming is Standing Up For Grace, but you wouldn’t know that unless you’ve read Wickedly Charming.  Besides, Grace isn’t a romance—it’s a YA (or maybe a Middle Grade), if you have to put a genre on it at all.

So logically, the only connected work which could sell to the “free” buyers on the very same day as the free book is The Charming Way.  On Day One, there was no movement on the two novels, Completely Smitten and Simply Irresistible, even though both of them are romances. Both of them are also $4.99—not an impulse buy for the “free” reader.

I’m a “free” reader. I use the free promotions to sample writers I’ve always wanted to try but never felt like shelling out the cash, or to read books that sound intriguing by writers I’ve never heard of. In most cases, I’ve found that the free books by writers I have heard of confirm my suspicions—they’re not to my taste. But the free books by writers I haven’t heard of are often a great and pleasant surprise.

Anyway, I watched the numbers closely that free week, and saw the two WMG novels tick upwards toward the end of the week.  The Charming Way sold more than 100 copies in that period of time. But the fascinating uptick in sales for me—and the  most gratifying—came at the end of the week: Standing Up For Grace suddenly started to skyrocket. That meant people liked Wickedly Charming and wanted to read more about the characters.

After I blogged about the promotion, Sourcebooks kindly sent me the numbers for Wickedly Charming and Utterly Charming, their latest Grayson release, through October. I was going to examine them in a blog, but wanted to wait to see the halo effect.

By that, I mean this: I wanted to know if the free promotion would have an impact past the week of the promotion itself. I quickly learned that there was a secondary and surprising side to the promotion: after the book ran free for one week, it then climbed the “paid” charts rapidly the following week.  And there was an immediate halo effect on the other books, which sold five to ten times more than they had before the promotion.

The short stories, the cheapest offering, sold as well, but not all of them. The paranormals (which Wickedly Charming is) and the fantasy stories sold better than the westerns, which sold better than the contemporary romances. That pattern has continued throughout.

I was most curious, though, about what would happen in November, and then in December. How would the halo effect hit after the majority of readers actually had a chance to look at the free book?

If I had my druthers, I would have given the halo effect six or eight months instead of two. But two new promotions are running this week on both Wickedly Charming and Utterly Charming, which will (and already have) skewed the numbers.

So, since I planned on discussing the October promotion and a few other observations it brought up, I need to do it now, before December’s numbers overwhelm my memory and my inclination.

As I mentioned, Sourcebooks provided me with their actual numbers on the promotion. (Thank you!)

In that first week, Wickedly Charming rose to the top ten in the Kindle Free bestseller list, and hovered between #4 and #9 for the week.  On Amazon alone, Wickedly Charming sold 32,000 copies. (If you can count a free giveaway as “sold.”)

Note: this does not mean that every book that hits the top ten of the free list will sell that many (or that few) copies. It depends on what else is on the list at the same time, how many people are trolling the lists, and what the patterns are. I don’t know enough about Kindle free promotions to tell you if more people download in October than they do in January.

I do know that the paid bestseller lists for paper books have a true pattern: If you want to hit the list for the first time, put out (and promote the hell out of) a book in early January.  You’ll hit the list at a lower number of sales. The heavy hitters all come out in either late spring (for summer reading) or fall (usually late October/November/early December) for holiday shopping.

The numbers that will get you on the New York Times list in January won’t even kiss the list in November.

But does that strategy work on the freebie list for Kindle in the same way? I have no idea. I’m sure some of the major publishing companies that have done a lot of free promotions have an idea. I’m sure that Amazon knows for certain—as certain as they can be with two years worth of data.

At the beginning of October, Sourcebooks released my novel Utterly Charming. So the free promotion of Wickedly Charming coincided with the publication of Utterly Charming. The use of the word “charming” in the title, the fact that both were from Sourcebooks, and clearly part of a series meant that readers went from Wickedly Charming  to Utterly Charming in that month.

In the month of October, Utterly Charming sold 313 copies on Kindle alone in e-book.  As a comparison, Wickedly Charming sold 132 copies in the first month of its release on Kindle in e-book.  The promotion brought in 181 more sales of Utterly Charming.

How do I know it was the promotion? I don’t entirely. Except for this: Wickedly Charming’s initial e-book sales started high, and then by the end of its first month of publication (May) dropped, until the last week of the month when they hit the level that they would remain at all summer.

Utterly Charming’s highest e-book sales were the week after the promotion, two weeks after the book’s release. The sales remained high throughout the rest of the month.

I haven’t seen November or December’s numbers on Utterly Charming  or Wickedly Charming, but I do know this: the sales of Simply Irresistible rose significantly the week after the promotion. It took a little longer for Completely Smitten  to rise, meaning that readers went from the Charming novels to Simply Irresistible to Completely Smitten.

But in November and December, Completely Smitten’s sales outpaced Simply Irresistible. Why? Because Completely Smitten features one of the most popular characters from Utterly Charming as its hero. Again, if you read Utterly Charming, you would know that Completely Smitten is closely related.

The week after the promotion, Wickedly Charming continued to sell at its standard price. It rose to 300-something on the paid list (I lost my notes for that), and sold 560 copies in the second week.  Then sales dropped to levels much higher than the book sold in May, in its initial release.

Since I don’t have November and December numbers, I don’t know if those sales remained at that level. I won’t be able to track it either, because of the new promotion.

But, if the numbers on the WMG books hold true, then here’s what the promotion did: It goosed sales of Kristine Grayson books on Kindle—nearly doubling and (in one case tripling) the sales of the related titles. The other fascinating benefit is that the short stories all sell five to ten times better than they ever have before.

So the promotion improved sales somewhat.  One book does not a statistical analysis make, but I’ve seen evidence from dozens of other writers that the halo effect has worked for them. It’s company policy at Sourcebooks—they’re constantly promoting their backlist titles when their frontlist titles come out.  That’s one of the reasons I was very interested in working with them.

Sourcebooks and a handful of companies are working on what is called “the long tail,” which means they produce a lot of items at lower cost to have long-term continual sales. The use of the phrase “the long tail” as applied to retail (not to statistics, where it originated) comes from a Wired article by Chris Anderson in 2009. He later published a book about it called (of all things) The Long Tail: Why The Future of Business is Selling Less of More. (Please note that I haven’t read it, and therefore am not recommending it.)

Honestly, big retailers have worked on the long-tail strategy for decades before Anderson “discovered” it for Wired. But publishing companies rarely work on that model. Generally speaking, publishing companies do sell a lot of items in the hopes that something will hit big and make oodles of cash (see last week’s post). Only a few companies still in existence have worked on “the long tail” for more than thirty years. Harlequin is one. Others that existed when I started publishing got swallowed by conglomerates more interested in short-term profits than in long-term gains.

Which is why you see the long tail strategy employed by companies that are still (in one way or another) majority owned by book publishing people and not—say—media conglomerates like CBS (which owns Simon & Schuster) or some of the other conglomerates that have their fingers in pies other than books and media.

The long tail is a strategy that usually doesn’t fly in boardrooms populated by people who don’t understand all the businesses that come under their corporate umbrella.  The quest for short-term profits makes the “hit” or the “bestseller” the best way to go—something with a huge profit margin that can be repeated, rather than bunch of somethings with a small profit margin that can grow over time.

The same thing applies to indie authors with one or two products. If they offer one of those products for free, then they’re not really working on the long tail. They’re working on a get-it-now strategy that will hurt them in the long run. They’re better off producing a lot of product (writing a lot of books) than they are trying to promote one or two books.

Because what readers want—ultimately—are more stories. Constantly. They want more stories, more of the same stories, more stories that they might like, more adventurous stories, more strange stories, or just something, something that’ll suit their moods. And readers always go to their favorite authors first. If those authors don’t have new books out, then the readers search for something similar, something that might make them to a brand new and great reading experience, creating a new favorite.

How do I know this? Besides all the studies about what readers want, my own personal experience as a hardcore reader, and my years in publishing? Well, this month another promotional strategy hit my Kindle numbers.

Only I wasn’t doing a promotions strategy. I was just following my muse.

In November, WMG published the latest Retrieval Artist novel, Anniversary Day. I had planned to do a lot of traditional publicity in coordination with WMG, but our friend Bill’s death and the work Dean and I had to do on the estate precluded any involvement I might have had in any promotions. I barely had time to hit my writing deadlines, let alone do anything like help a new company on its first big promotion campaign. So we decided to jettison the campaign and do it on the next book.

WMG published the book with an eye toward next summer when the next (as yet untitled) Retrieval Artist novel goes live on (followed by its WMG edition two months later). Provided that something else huge and life-changing doesn’t happen, we’ll do the planned promotion then.

So Anniversary Day came out on December 1.  It started selling the moment the book hit Kindle, and hasn’t stopped since. In fact, it is my bestselling WMG title, period.

But that’s not the interesting thing to me. The interesting thing is what’s happening with all the other Retrieval Artist novels and novellas.  They’re selling like crazy. In fact, they’re outselling the Grayson books this week.

Why is that significant? Because this week, Amazon has placed Utterly Charming in its Big Deal promotions. This is an Amazon promotion, not a Sourcebooks promotion. Utterly Charming is 99 cents until December 23 (Friday), and it’s selling pretty well. Again, I don’t have the numbers, but I do know that The Charming Way has started its crazy climb again, followed by all the other fantasy/romance short stories. And Completely Smitten is selling faster than it ever has.

Concurrently, Sourcebooks is doing a “first book in the series” promotion for Wickedly Charming  (and several other of their titles), selling it at $1.99 through January 8. That promotion started on December 21. See why I said the numbers are going to be screwy from now on? I have to look at the effect of all the promotions on the Kindle sales, and I don’t think I can, given the fact that Amazon announced last week that it has sold a million new Kindles per week since November. So the new readers will have to get factored into the numbers as well.

Folks who’ve been doing electronic books and promotions for a long time now (all of two years) have said that series sell better than stand-alone titles. Yep, I’m seeing that. The same folks say that series sales increase when a new title in the series gets released. Yep, I’m seeing that. They also say that free bumps sales and the sales get set at a new normal. Yep, I’m seeing that too.

Although I’m only seeing the free impact on Kindle. The Nook free promotion didn’t work. (And the Sourcebooks folks tell me that something might’ve gone awry with the B&N side of that promotion.)  I have no idea about Apple, since I am not privy to those numbers in real time. I won’t see them for another month or two, and by then I’ll be onto something else.

But the increase in sales in the Retrieval Artist series makes my little writerly heart go pitter-pat.  Because all that tells me is this: the more I write and publish, the more readers will want what I write.

And oh, that makes me happy. It keeps my butt in the chair, and my fingers on the keyboard. It also makes me a bit crazy: I have more stories to tell than I could ever get to. I’m typing as fast as I can—and having a ball.

That’s what all the writers who’ve decided to embrace this new world will tell you. We’re having fun, some of us for the first time in years. (To me, writing has always had to be fun or there’s no point in doing it.)

I’m not sure if the numbers mean anything, really. I’m not sure if I’m reading tea leaves or simply seeing patterns where there are none. I’m not sure if I care.

Because, as I said, the numbers make this strange new world of publishing real to me. And besides, I promised y’all I’d give you an update on the promotion.

Which I have just done.

And I am tired. I did my normal number of fiction words today, and wrote the blog post. (I have a story that’s not letting me out of its grip.) So I’m sitting in my chair two hours past my usual quitting time, keeping myself going like I used to when I was in radio, with sugar and caffeine. (God bless the holidays and the calorie-free week I give myself each year.)

If I didn’t know you guys were waiting for the blog post, I’d’ve blown it off on nights like this so that I could finish that dang story. But you’ve all let me know repeatedly how much you look forward to the blog. Thanks for that. I appreciate all of the comments and the e-mails, the links to news articles, and the donations. And the support. It means a lot.

The blog is the only content that I don’t include completely for free on the site. I have a donate button here to encourage me to take the extra time to write something each week. If you get a benefit from the blog, please do leave  a tip on the way out.


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“The Business Rusch: The Halo Effect” copyright 2011 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.






44 thoughts on “The Business Rusch: The Halo Effect

  1. OK reading this blog made me go back and buy Wickedly charming on Barnes and Noble. I agree with you when I am looking for something to read I start with my favorite authors of which you are definitely one. Then I go to B & N free nook books then b & N nook books under $5. After I read a book I make sure I rate and write a review of the book on b & n website. I think that for those looking for something new to read if no one has done that before you makes it harder to decide if you want to try the book. I discovered the Retrieval Artist series at Thanksgiving and have read all titles in the series at this point. Right now I am reading your book Traitors then I have Wickedly Charming and Fey:Destiny waiting to be read. I also agree that I prefer the series read over just a stand alone book. I tend to go through the whole series before I will go back to look through my list of favorite authors and I put on my nook wish list the titles coming up so that I do not miss the next book in the series.
    I do not know if my behavior is typical of the e book reader or not but this is what I do.

    1. LadyNeat, I think your behavior is typical–except for being kind enough to rate the book. Thanks for that! I’m glad you’re enjoying the various series and I hope you like the Grayson books.

  2. Kris:

    I have you, Dean, and Robin Sullivan to thank for encouraging me to raise my prices.

    As the positive customer reviews started coming in, I raised the price of Devil’s Lair from 99 cents to $2.99 to $4.97 to $7.99.

    Devil’s Lair is now #385 in the Kindle store at $7.99, and earning me a life-changing amount of money.

    I know I’m an outlier, but I think this shows that indie authors can succeed at higher prices.

    So thanks for your advice!


  3. WRT nook, it might be their user unfrienliness. I tried getting a book some weeks ago and ended up filtering their mails as spam. I still receive more mails from them than from my other 5 e-bookstores combined.

    Merry Christmas

    1. Possibly, Ferran. I really don’t know. Apparently B&N runs a lot of specials. A friend of mine who loves his Nook says that the specials are wonderful. But I have yet to see how they work from the other side.

  4. Hey Kris,

    Just noticed the kittens on ‘Simply Irresistible’. That’s one cutetasitc cover!

    (Sorry about the off topic, lol. Just reading through JA’s post about price matching and noticed it.)

  5. Very helpful details and analysis – Thanks for putting such thorough information on your publishing/promoting experiences, which of course help all of us! Cheers.

  6. Thanks, Kris.

    Devil’s Lair just went back to full price after two days free and more than 9,800 free downloads.

    I’m not yet seeing much halo effect for my short stories. Sales are up slightly today, but it could be noise. We’ll see what happens over the coming weeks, plus I have some new ebooks almost ready.

    However, the free promotion gave a great boost to paid sales of Devil’s Lair, even at the relatively high price (for indies) of $7.99. It’s now #10 in the US Kindle store for historical fantasy and #63 for epic fantasy.

    I’ve had better days in terms of unit sales (at 99 cents), but this is by far my best day in terms of revenue.


  7. I, too, am one of those who eagerly waits for Thursday mornings for your post. I’ve been reading a lot of articles about the halo effect. I’m planning on putting a book into the Amazon select program come January, marking it for free at the end of the 90 days (when I hopefully will be posting yet another novel, probably not in the select program) and then we’ll see what we see.

    Thank you again for your analysis, posts, and time. Really appreciate it.

  8. “I do know that the paid bestseller lists for paper books have a true pattern: If you want to hit the list for the first time, put out (and promote the hell out of) a book in early January.”

    This was the most interesting thing for me… I wonder how that pattern will shift as publishers come to discover what indies already know – that the first weeks of January are probably the hottest weeks of the year for ebook sales. (That may change once ereaders have saturated the population, but a lot of those million kindles a week that are selling right now, are under a Christmas tree).

    1. Good point, Debora. I suspect that pattern will hold in future years. It has nothing to do with the release of new devices, but the fact that people will get gift certificates, etc, and will want to spend those on books. But you’re right: I hadn’t thought of it that way. And will publishers pursue the ebook bestseller list or the paper one? And which will have the prestige…?

  9. Thanks for the info, J.A. I’ll try that approach with my next pricing experiment. 🙂 I agree about KDP Select–I really don’t want to go exclusive. I wish Amazon and B&N would make it easier to set the price at zero, even if they limited it to 5 days.

  10. Thanks for reporting on the experiments, Kris!

    It’s been a while since I read The Long Tail, but if I recall correctly, Amazon was one of his examples of a business making money off of the long tail model (either by the author or those reviewing the book). Heh. With their digital publishing ventures, it’s truer now than ever.

    >>the more I write and publish, the more readers will want what I write.

    >>I’m typing as fast as I can—and having a ball.

    This! Everyone I talk to who has their heads on straight about what changes epublishing has brought is flat out excited about the playful joy in writing again, and in having a blast letting their imaginations run free.

    Thanks for keeping your finger on the pulse of the changes, and taking time out from your fiction writing to share it with us.

  11. I too experienced the halo effect. The first in my series sold 11,815 in a three day free promotion and made it to #14 in the Kindle Top 100 free store. Book 2 has already sold 4x as many as usual, and knowing sales usually remain high when the book comes off free, I raised it’s price to 2.99 from .99.
    I also broke into the UK market with a 167 sales (so far) and 60 on Book 2.
    Book 3 will be out in January. At that time I will use my last 2 free days to promote book 1 again. So far it’s my best month ever.

    1. Lisa, thanks for the report. Sounds like it’s working for you, and I love the fact that you raised the price to something profitable. 99 cents for novels simply doesn’t make money for the writer.

  12. Tori, Amazon is still price-matching to free as I just did it with one of my middle-grade ebooks, but it can take up to two weeks. It also helps to get others to help you inform Amazon of the lower price through the “tell us about a lower price” link on the book product page (they probably log the different IP addresses the notices are coming from). If all else fails, raise the price of the book and then hammer them again. Just a personal observation, but they appear to pay more attention to the books with a higher price.

    Until Amazon drops the exclusivity deal, or is willing to pay for that exclusivity, I’m not interested in KDP Select. So far, you do not need to opt in to get a book price-matched to free. The only plus of the KDP Select free program that I’ve heard about is the option to define exactly what days the ebooks go free (for a max of 5 days per book per 90 days) and that the free price extends to Amazon stores in other countries.

    Doing it the price-matching way might be less precise, but it will allow you to put a book out for free a more than only 5 days in any 90-day period. Plus, you can still offer the ebook in other ebook stores and in other formats. 😛

    1. I feel the same way you do about the Select program, JA, but I like knowing it’s there. It’s another tool for writers. We just have to choose how to use it.

  13. Hi, Kris,
    I ran my own halo effect experiment partly because of what you said here about your experience with Wickedly Charming. I wanted to see if my sales would jump, and I also wanted to see if Amazon would do the price-matching thing. I priced the new book in my Amaki series (Blood Moon) at $0.99 at Amazon and B&N, and free through Smashwords and all their expanded distribution channels. Because I forgot to opt out, I was (oops) also selling at B&N thru Smashwords. I had a great response to the free price on the B&N Smashwords edition.

    Is this making sense? It’s a little confusing even to me.

    Somehow, the Smashwords edition sold over 3000 copies at B&N in about a month, where before I was lucky if I sold 5 copies across all sites. I also saw a surge in sales on the other 2 titles in the series. Unfortunately, Amazon never price-matched, and at $0.99, I didn’t see much positive effect on sales. I sold 7 at B&N at that price, and 6 at Amazon.

    Sales of that series are still at a much higher level than they were before the promotion (except at Amazon). I’ve reset the price to $4.99, but Sony has yet to follow thru and is stilling offering it for free. Since the book wasn’t moving before, I’m not going to complain yet. 🙂

    So, I don’t know if it was just dumb luck that got me all those B&N sales, or what, but the pricing experiment certainly worked for me. Now if I could just get Amazon to play along without going into the KDP Select Program.


    1. Tori, looks like JA already answered you on how to get Amazon to lower the price. Thanks for reporting your Halo effect. It’s looking like the 99 cent Amazon sale is doing the same thing, but I don’t know if that’s because this is an Amazon promotion, heavily advertised by them, or if it’s also the price. Don’t know if I can find out, either.:-)

  14. Thanks Kris for sharing. Very interesting to read the difference between short-term and long-tail. My personality falls into the long-tail approach, so I’m happy that I’ve made a few choices that work with that.

  15. Kris,

    Great post. I have read the The Long Tail and do recommend it. It has some really thought provoking ideas in it for writers. Anderson has also written a follow up book entitled Free. I don’t remember the subtitle, but I intend to read in the next few months. Here’s wishing you and Dean a great Christmas and Happy New Year.


  16. The same thing applies to indie authors with one or two products. If they offer one of those products for free, then they’re not really working on the long tail. They’re working on a get-it-now strategy that will hurt them in the long run. They’re better off producing a lot of product (writing a lot of books) than they are trying to promote one or two books.

    This is something I definitely want to avoid. Once I upload the last in my novella series, I’ll probably drop the first one to 99 cents until the end of the year, then jack it back up to $2.99 (following Dean’s suggestions on price).

    And then I’ll get my butt in gear and start putting up a lot of other things. 🙂

    The interesting thing is what’s happening with all the other Retrieval Artist novels and novellas. They’re selling like crazy.

    I love this series! 🙂 But, true to form, I always have to start at the beginning and work my way through (even though I knew about the Anniversary Day novella). I’m so glad to hear that they’re selling like hotcakes (definitely worth every penny). After Christmas, I’m going to get the next 1 or 2 in the series, and I’ll keep getting them for as long as you throw ’em out there. Squee! 🙂

    (To me, writing has always had to be fun or there’s no point in doing it.)


    1. Thanks, everyone. I have a super busy day ahead, but will answer posts later on breaks. Just wanted to say thanks for all the good words!

    2. Sounds like a good plan on the writing, Nancy. And as for the Retrieval Artist books, I’ll be throwing them out there for years. I always saw it as my 87th Precinct, and Ed McBain wrote those from the early 1960s until he died a few years ago. So lots of reading ahead.

  17. Thank you, Kris. I AM one of your constant readers, and every Tuesday I start waiting for your Thursday post. 🙂

    Romance author Beverly Kendall has a very interesting post on free at her blog —

    She also saw NO effect at B&N from her free promotion, and speculates that it’s because B&N has little to no visibility for promoting titles that go free. She had a huge effect at Apple, so it will be interesting to hear about your numbers there, Kris.

    Hooray on your continued success. I picked up a copy of the Amazon promotion of your book yesterday. I’ve read your sf/f for years, but I haven’t read any of your romances, despite being a romance writer myself. How can that be! Will rectify posthaste. 😉

    1. I wondered the same thing, Anthea, about B&N, and mentioned it to Sourcebooks. They said, no, sometimes the free promotions there work. So there’s something else in the mix. Dunno what it is. (And I hope you like the romances!)

  18. Cool post, Kris.

    I’ve got about 10 free titles (all the 1st in each series). My experience is pretty similar to yours, except mine are all short stories.

    Keep up the good work and thanks for the post. I enjoyed it.


    P.s., I’ve had two successes this week myself. 1: Hitting 350 titles. 2: Almost getting 10 sales on a double story pack I have up. It’s good to be a writer!

  19. “I have more stories to tell than I could ever get to. I’m typing as fast as I can—and having a ball.”

    That says it all for me!

    And because I have so much I want to do, I can totally understand the newbies who want it all now. I know that I won’t hit that “critical mass” that makes promotional efforts worth it for either of my series until maybe 2014, so I feel free to experiment.

    And yet as I read your post, I felt that desire to change what I was doing! Now! Not because it made any sense, but because this is all exciting and cool, and I felt a lot like the cat who is currently attempting to help a family member with the Christmas decorations.

    But I’m off to go write, because it would be cool to get all those books done sooner.

  20. As a reader, I can completely confirm the halo effect. I actively participate in perpetuating it!

    I’ve been watching the digital edition of the Stupefying Stories Anthology since it launched in October – a new anthology comes out about once a month.

    When the new one arrives, the previous anthologies jump in Amazon rank.

    It is kind of like when you knock a ping-pong ball into a narrow gap: it just starts rattling along!

    When I was a kid, I remember absolutely dying between Joel Rosenberg’s Guardians of the Flame books. I’m really happy when I come across a series late (like I did with e.e. knight’s Vampire Earth books), so the plodding publication schedule can still stay a little bit ahead of me.

    In a perfect world, series novels, stories and anthologies should function like tribbles! Let them pour out.

    1. You’re welcome, Carradee. 🙂

      Paul, I love your ping-pong analogy. I wish writing could go as fast as reading! Imagine all the stories I’d finish…:-)

  21. Thank you for this insight, Kristine. I know you’re not a fan of the Kindleboards forum, but a number of folk there have also shared their experiences with the halo effect. What that helps do is provide data across the spectrum that other authors can study and use. For instance, I’d bet there was no glitch on B&N’s side regarding the free promo. They do not promote free books the same way Amazon does, and most free books fizzle there. Also, I’m not sure you’ll ever be privvy to the number of free downloads from Apple if you don’t upload there directly, but you should be pleasantly surprised by the halo effect on your paid sales there as well. Apple loves to promote free the same way Amazon does.

    Another tell regarding the effectiveness of a free promo is that in exchange for 90 days of exclusivity in its new “Select” program, Amazon KDP offers authors/publishers 5 days of pricing the book to free at the author’s discretion. Many, if not most, authors who joined the program did so specifically because of that perk.

    With more books now going free, though, does that mean the halo effect we enjoyed before December and the start of the Select program will be less in the future? I’ll be watching the Kindleboards threads for the first word in trending…

    1. I’m not fan of the Kindle boards, Phoenix, because they’re an echo chamber that often produces bad behavior. But some writers seem to use the boards well. Me, I just get cranky. 🙂 But you’re right: I know that Kindle board authors have had the halo effect. I’m in a large group of authors who’ve been early adapters on e-books, and those writers are all reporting the same thing. And I doubt that more free will hurt the free promotions. It takes a certain kind of reader to troll the free stuff, and that won’t go away. Some readers never will, and others will never download anything but free. So it’ll be interesting….

  22. This is a timely post for me. Yesterday I made my fantasy novel Devil’s Lair free on Kindle for two days, using KDP Select.

    In the first 18 hours of going free, over 4,000 copies were downloaded in the US, UK, Germany, and Italy. Now, about 23 hours into the promotion, Devil’s Lair is #38 on the free Kindle list in the US.

    My other available titles are short stories, a story collection, and a play, but I have another novel coming out within the next couple of weeks, and two more that are in first-draft form and need to be proofed.

    I’m hoping the halo effect works for me, too.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. 🙂


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