Rob Parnell - Author

Rob Parnell - Author
Writing faster than the speed of night...

Monday, July 15, 2013

As An Author, What Should I Give Away?

I'm in a bit of a quandary and I need your help.

Now you probably know that the most effective way to get subscribers to your newsletter is to offer some kind of freebie in exchange for a name and email address.

I do this on my writing resources sites - where I give away lots of free writing help, ebooks on writing etc.

But this blog in particular is about promoting my fiction - so what should I give away to entice subscribers?

Bear in mind that what I need to attract is readers - people who might actually enjoy my fiction. So there seems little point in offering free writing resources to readers who may never feel the urge to create stories of their own. 
But that's an option if you think it might be a good idea...

Five other things crossed my mind - which I'm happy to accept your thoughts on.

I could offer potential readers a short story - around the 5000 word mark. 

That would at least give people a taste of my fiction. But it doesn't seem enough somehow. And what if they don't like that story? They might think that all of my stuff was the same. I could put off potential readers for life by letting them see the wrong story! 
Already my mind is going in circles trying to think of which one...

Lots of writers offer excerpts of their novels - but that seems redundant now that Amazon offers the same service. Anyone can now read the opening chapters of Willow and Kindred on Kindle - for free. They just have to go to Amazon and click on the "See Inside" button. 
No, I need to offer something that people can't get somewhere else - something that is unique to this blog.

I still offer Willow for free somewhere on my site - I forget where. I have thousands of pages, built up over a decade of writing online. I'm not sure what's out there half the time. But I do know that around 6500 people downloaded the free version of Willow - that's now selling for a dollar on Kindle. 
I actually don't mind people reading my fiction for free. It's not about the money, anyway. 
I'd rather be read than hold out for royalties.

I did think about offering some kind of reader's guide to my genre. 
I thought maybe some kind of a guide to supernatural horror thrillers might make interesting reading for potential fans of my fiction writing. 
The down side to that is that I would have to compile a guide like that - which could easily turn into a lifetime's work! 
Nevertheless it's a possibility, if you think it's a good one, I'll listen.

Finally, I've been toying with the idea of a serialized novel. 
People could sign up and get a whole new novel delivered over time. What I'm thinking about is a novel called "Dead Center" - which I'm about a third of the way through writing. 
It occurred to me that I could offer the novel as it is being written. Say 2000 words a week until it's done. 
The story is exciting stuff - full of strange happenings, cops, good guys and demons. It's probably going to be my best novel yet.

And at least the pressure to write the next installment would keep me writing!

I like this idea because Stephen King once said he didn't think there was enough serialized fiction offered by authors. 
Dickens did it. As did William Thackeray, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and a lot of the greats. 
King himself tried to do it with The Green Mile. He says he would have done more but his publishers weren't happy with the way nobody wanted to pay for his fiction online. 

But, as I say, if it's not about the money, should I attract new readers with what is essentially 'live' novel writing? 
It's an interesting idea to me.

What do you think?


  1. Hey Rob,
    I like the idea of a serialized novel. I tried it myself - some people enjoyed it--but then if they have to wait too long they get bored and forget about it - so I think doing it is good, but perhaps a weekly installment instead of monthly or bi-weekly even.
    That's just MHO

    1. Thanks Billie. I'm glad you've tried it - and it seemed to work. I agree that the installments should be weekly. You know me - I like to challenge myself!

  2. How about a chance for the subscriber to be a character, or help design a character in an upcoming novela, or one of a fiction series? Make the true lovers of your work, your subscribers, have a chance to help craft your work.

    It's a huge risk, of sorts, but can also yield huge rewards!

    1. Great idea, Gibson. I'm not precious about these things. After working in film, you get used to inserting stuff - and working as a committee to create fiction! I like the idea of putting my readers into my stories. I think that might be fun for everyone!

  3. Hey Rob, I put a serial up on facebook. It was designed to be a quick read, just a few paragraphs each day, for people to read quickly while they stopped for smoko. I had several followers eager for each day's installment, which I set up to go on the page at ten o'clock every morning.
    I am surprised at how well it was received.
    Could you do this with yours?
    Just a thought.
    PS The title is Synchro if you'd like to check it out.

  4. Rob, I read The Green Mile, and I have to say I was beating my fist against the bookshop's door at five am; I followed the delivery truck... of course I did not but I was just as desperate to get the next installment. I read other Stephen King novels but because it was serialized I was like an addict looking for a fix. It turned out to be a great book, but like everyone else I know that read it, the mouse was the hook in my cheek. A great serial needs a great hook, without it no-ones coming back.
    I put this to my publisher as well. "I am happy to give away Light Surfer to anyone that wants it, free of any charge, because I know that 2 three and four sales will well make up for the loss on Light Surfer". He laughed at me.
    You are a breed among few Rob; forward thinkers.
    I believe a little sacrifice in dollars today to build your brand is always a good thing. See the investments and marketing strategies of any big company launching a new product... GIVE GIVE GIVE, get the name known by any cost. But then I am not your publisher. Nor am I very successful. I write because I love it... founding member of AA.

  5. Hi David. Glad we're on the same page here! I agree that 'name recognition' seems to be the successful marketer's most valuable asset. I remember an advertising guy once told me that all the ads in the world aren't designed to sell things - as people often assume. Getting people and products into the public domain - talked about around coolers etc - is the real aim of most marketing campaigns. All heady stuff. But Paulo Coelho gives away his books too - he has a clause in his Random House contract that allows him to do it. That's forward thinking! All the best, Rob. Good luck with Light Surfer!

  6. Rob, before I read the other comments, I came here with the idea of saying that a serialized story seemed the most appealing to me. I see that others are mentioning it too. Good luck with whatever you choose to do.

    Randy Carney

    1. Thanks Randy. Yes, there seems overwhelming support for the serialized novel! Surprises me - and scares me too!

  7. Well you will probably get the most response with a serialized novel in one of the three most popular genres: scifi, mystery or horror. However, I would read a step by step by you on how to choose a book formatting program and use it to create the different formats, ie. kindle etc. I have purchased several but I lost all of my programs coming back from China when I went through the scanner in the airport. I will eventually get it all back when I can afford to pay to have the drive fixed. (Your books I bought a couple of years ago were on there too.) So I have to start over again and choose a new format. I would like to choose one that has a little copy protection, but not so much it gets in the way or frustrates people. I just want to keep honest people honest.
    As a writer, I know how to write and I teach it part time. Certainly I learn all the time also. But the nuts and bolts of putting the e-books together is a problem. I do not need to get rich from my writing, but it would be nice to become financially independent. So if you are writing for beginners or non-writers then do the serial. If you are writing for writers do a how-to.

    1. Karena might be onto something here Rob...
      I read an article the other day along these lines. I will try to get my hands on and email you a copy if I get a chance but you have probably seen it or something like it...
      More than 50% of the ebooks sold on Amazon are short, $0.99 how to books. Those that are sold as a series seem to do great too. Perhaps you could put your writing courses out there as a serial How to write right. Just to research it I purchased a few on a subject I already know about... they contained nothing new and all the information within them is freely available on the web.

    2. Hi David. Thanks for the tip. Funny you should say this because last night the idea of putting one of my how to books on Kindle hit me as - finally - a good idea. I have one in particular in mind (as a first go) that I'm sure people would find interesting and instructive - and isn't full of info already available!

    3. Thanks for the tips. Karena. I've heard about those pesky machines scrambling Kindles and tablets - that's bad news. I have something in the works about formatting for publication - as you suggest, it's a complex area - but one that authors need to know about fully.

  8. I have never read any of your fiction books. This is the first I've heard that you actually have some out there. I think offering free books, whole books, would be great. I love to read and would certainly be interested in this.

    1. Thanks PJ. If you email me direct I'll send you over a copy of Willow if you like. You being such a long term subscriber - I think you deserve that much! Luv, Rob.

  9. I like the idea of a serialized novel. One thing you might try is making payment optional. For example you might say at the end of the first installment:

    "Please check here to receive further installments. It would be wonderful if you would pay for this novel, even just a few dollars... but you are free to pay or not, as you please."

    I think, as long as you make it easy to pay (as close as 1-click as possible) you'll be pleasantly surprised at how many people will pay.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Johnny. Stephen King tried something similar - so it as to be a good idea!

  10. All your books are great, love 'em. A while back you had some of your writing courses free for just signing up to receive them. That's for the writers. To have something free for writers is a good idea I think. Also to have occasional free books available is also good for readers.
    How about publishing a series of "the Easy Way To Write" as Kindle books? Amazon, as you know, allows publishers to offer their books free of charge for the limited time of 5 days. Or it could be split up into one day at a time at different periods, but the news has to get out quick about it.

  11. Thanks for the feedback, Charles. I have seriously thought about releasing my courses on Kindle - but just not yet! For many reasons... which I'll probably write another course about soon. All the best, mate. Rob

  12. Well, thanks for your constant inspiration and encouragement and your do or die, never give up spirit. Both you and your wife have been a big help and inspiration in writing, editing and getting the proper perspective of the whole thing.

    1. Thanks, Charles. I guess it's about living as a writer first - and a human being second? Sounds awful when it's written down, but I think that's what I mean!

  13. Twist it... I like the idea of a serial, much like the weekly shows we wait for on the tube. However, as a twist, make it audible, which I prefer you tubing it. It is important as a writer to connect emotionally with your audience. This is the key to viralize anything. More people choose a video over reading anytime and if you offer a video link then you can add emotion and movement of body language to help your reader become more attached to you. Then you can in turn receive all of the free ideas in your video comments to help you guide the story to its completion. In turn you can add the other idea like offering to add a character into the book from the name of your favorite commentor.