On Weds June 6th, 2012 I put my book STRANGE ANGEL up on my site as a pay-what-you-want, DRM-free, eBook download (still offered over here). I did this for a few reasons:
- I truly believe that DRM is the devil. It does more harm than good, every single time. People who want to steal your shit will crack it, anyway. All you do is inconvenience your actual users. Why would you want to do that to them?
- I enjoy poking at new models for getting my work out there.
- I wanted to generate data on this model, given my set of circumstances, because I like to know things.
- I was, above it all, curious.
So, what did I learn? Lots of things. But first a few facts:
I have, currently, 1278 followers on twitter, 581 “friends” on Facebook and assorted numbers in the same ranges on Google+ and Tumblr and so on. Adampknave.com (which feeds to a LJ that has a few hundred of its own followers) has a few hundred daily readers.
Strange Angel itself was originally published in print back in 2009 but didn’t see an electronic edition until 2011. The print edition is about 15 bucks (normally as low as $10 or $11 on Amazon) and the electronic edition is $4.99 (on amazon / bn / ibooks / etc.).
I tell you all this to let you know some numbers going in. These numbers are important. also mostly public, I’m just saving you the problem of data mining for them.
Now, I put the files up for download by creating a page ( http://www.adampknave.com/strange-angel-experiment/) that had a PayPal donation button. If you donated you then got a link to a second page with links to download the book. However, PayPal doesn’t allow $0 donations so to allow people to also get the book for free (Free is an important part of pay-what-you-want – there are times what you want to pay is nothing) I had to put a link directly to the download page. I also did this because, I thought, some people might want to download the book, read it, and then maybe come back and pay what they felt it was worth.
Would anyone actually ever do that? I don’t know. But I thought they might, and I had to anyway, so why not just aim for that, too. The more options the better.
I announced the experiment on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, adampknave.com and Tumblr. I asked for help spreading the word. Then I sat back and waited to see what would happen.
People did spread the word (and for that I thank you) quickly and data started to pour in. I tweeted (but otherwise did no PR for it) twice more that day about the offer.
The second day I tweeted about it twice.
The third day I posted to Facebook again, and tweeted about it twice.
Over the weekend I didn’t say or do anything. The next Monday and Tuesday I tweeted once a day about it, and that’s been it.
So really, I didn’t push it as hard as I could’ve. That was on purpose, as I wanted to see some things. Things I can now tell you:
Tweeting about the book offer between 9am and 1pm EST gets the most results. 1pm – 6pm EST is second best, but gets roughly a third of the response. Tweeting about the offer anywhere from 9pm EST on gets almost no response at all.
The response quartered between days one and two, but doubled between days two and three. Then it fell off a cliff and never bounced back.
However, when people did respond to the prompts to go to the book’s offer page the following was constant, regardless of how many of them there were:
*** Approximately one in three people who visited the front book offer page went through (either pay or free download) to the book download page.
*** Approximately one in three who visited the book download page donated some money.
*** So roughly one in ten who hit the page donated money. That is an incredibly wonderful amount, honestly.
*** Donations ranged from $1 to $10 with the bulk being around the $5 mark.
I made, honestly, more money in the last seven days off of this eBook than I have in the last six months. This is not because of an overwhelming response. This is because my percentage cut off the net money made from selling the book online is much smaller than the $4.55 I make when someone donates $5 bucks via PayPal. In fact I normally only make about $0.80 per copy traditionally.
So you can see why this means I can sell less copies and make more money.
However! It also takes constant work and pushing. After my initial push everywhere, just to get some movement and make maybe ten bucks on a day I would have to hit that “Please go do this” note twice. It has not even started to gain momentum of its own. It’s also only been a week and I haven’t been hitting the button all that hard. I realize this.
I am just saying that if this was to become viable it would have to be a full on screaming bullhorn type of thing for weeks or months. And even then it may not take off on its own.
I have arranged no PR for this. No interviews, no blogtour, no banner ad campaign. I might! But I have not yet, because I wanted to see what a tiny push would do. That’s the first step, you know? See what the natural level is. See what the ground is shaped like.
My network is not huge. It is kind, and helpful, but it is not huge. So without pushing hard this was the extent of my reach. A short bump. A tiny bit of money. But a good well spring of data to work with for the next push.
I will start a second push a different way and then report back on that, in about a month.
I will also, in comments, answer any questions.