#1 Paid in Kindle Books

by John Gilstrap

A couple of weeks ago, I posted our marketing strategy for Hostage Zero which included a limited time free giveaway of the ebook version of No Mercy in all e-formats. In principle, it seemed like a good idea: We’d let people have a risk-free peek at the first book in the series, and with luck, they’d have whetted appetities for the second installment.

Well, apparently the strategy worked. Within hours, No Mercy shot to #1 on the free-book Kindle list, where it stayed for its entire free-book run. The attention brought some very hot reviews to the amazon.com No Mercy page, and sparked some favorable cyber word-of-mouth. That’s all good, but free is free. Then a funny thing happened.

When the free-book status expired on July 5, No Mercy stayed at the #1 slot, only this time in the PAID Kindle Store, outselling Stieg Larsson’s Tattoo series books. I told myself it must be an anomaly. After a couple of hours, I figured it would slip off the list. Only it didn’t. The book stayed at #1 for over two days. As I write this, 4:37 on July 8, it’s still at #3 in the Kindle Store.

It gets better. Hostage Zero–my new release–is currently at #61 and climbing (falling?) in the Kindle Store. Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol is #62.

All of this is very cool, but I have no idea what it means in the larger sense. Hopefully, the trend will contine and my books will become one of those word-of-mouth sensations that sets the world on fire; but it’s also possible that this is a brief flash–fun for a while, but ultimately not a big deal.

It’s not at all clear to me whether the ups and downs of the ebook market has any effect on the paper-book market. When a Kindle reader calls her Luddite Aunt Betty to say that she just read this amazing book, Aunt Betty will need to be able to find that book in the local bookstore in order to share the experience. I venture to guess that No Mercy will be a hard find this far after its initial publication. Can a runaway ebook prompt a bricks-and-mortar bookseller to restock a title? I guess we’ll see.

Hell, I don’t even know how much I make off the sale of an ebook.

Whatever this is that is happening, though, is very, very exciting.

8 thoughts on “#1 Paid in Kindle Books

  1. #1 on Amazon.com is an impressive feat no matter what. But my experience has been that stores pay attention to Amazon.com bestseller lists. When my books were selling more than they are now, one of the things I noticed was that as the sales rank number dropped on Amazon.com the number of sales through store distribution channels increased. I have no way of knowing how many of these were brick-and-mortar stores and not just some guy trying to make more money by selling books online than he could get by redirecting people to Amazon.com, but it all has a ripple effect.

  2. I think it has been interesting to see how the e-books are going to help or not help sell. I still can’t bring myself to buy one but if someone read one that way and told me about it, I’d by the old fashioned book fast:)

  3. I got a Kindle a week or so ago and I went looking for your books. I thought this series sounded interesting, so I downloaded the first in the series–No Mercy. Only to discover after the download that it was free! Go me!

    So in that respect, no correlation. But I assume I’ll pay for the next one.

  4. Hope the strategy pays off – I took advantage of the ‘risk-free peek’ & Hostage Zero is now waiting on my Kindle tarmac ready to go. Just finished No Mercy – the very first book I ever read on a Kindle – it was a great read, & expect Hostage Zero will be even better. You do a great job with your characters & description. 5 stars. 2 thumbs up n’ all that stuff. (Would really like to try that helicopter stunt, but I ain’t gettin’ any younger.)

  5. Here’s what happened in my world. I lurk here, read about the free offer, downloaded it … loved it, bought your new release, and sent the link to 3-4 people saying, “free, good!” My friends being my friends, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re some of the people now paying for No Mercy. Certainly my experience is working in your favor. But hey, I got the best end of the deal, because I read two great books! Congratulations!

  6. I tweeted and Facebooked about the freebie and hope some of my small virtual circle did the same.

    I am the proud possessor of an autographed “No Mercy” (yes, I’m too sexy for my hat) and will be ordering Hostage Zero this week.

    Rooting for you at the Thriller awards!


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