I made the decision to release Chion as a freely downloadable ebook on 13 September. In the 54 days between then and now, the novel has been downloaded 262 times. If you think that means 262 lost sales, think again. Only 28 of these downloads occured through my website. The other 234 happened over at my book reviews blog, where I decided to create a little free ebooks section. Because I was restricting my offerings to quality-guaranteed books backed up by written reviews, the page got noticed by GetFreeEbooks.com, who publicised what I was doing. As a result, a lot of people downloaded the books I had on offer, and it shows no sign of slowing down.
The reason why this is not 234 lost sales is simple: If I hadn’t offered the book for free, these 234 people would not have known anything about Chion in the first place. Refusing to make Chion free would not have resulted in a single extra sale. Of course, it has to be asked: Am I selling less copies of Chion now that it’s a free ebook, too? Well, it continues to sell on eBay with the same frequency as before. What can I say? People like their dead tree books.
So, right now I’ve got my 300-odd paperback sales of Chion, plus 262 additional readers (increasing each day). The alternative was 300-odd sales and zero additional readers. I feel completely validated in my decision to make Chion free. How many copies of, say, Cell do you think would have sold, if the book had been released without the magic words “Stephen King” on the cover? Not the millions that did, that’s for sure. I’m learning to put priority on getting known rather than making money. That latter can’t be done without the former.