It’s Not Working (or why we’re not doing free)

WhiteSpace: Season Two Cover
Note: This is our Goners Newsletter from April 16, 2013 which we’re also posting on the website.
Hey there fellow Goner!

Sean here.

Dave usually does a kick ass job writing to you each week, but I asked him if I could take the reigns today since there was something I wanted to talk about. He said fine — that worked well for his schedule since he was planning to spend an extra hour thinking up new ways to write children in jeopardy.

This week we return to the creepy, paranoid Hamilton Island and the world of WhiteSpace.

Dave and I both feel this is currently our best series (we also agree that Breaking Bad kicks the shit out of our entire lineup). While Yesterday’s Gone is our most popular, and does have Boricio, WhiteSpace has a depth of complexity and character we absolutely love as storytellers.

This second season has been thrilling to write, and we’re eager for you to read it. But first, we wanted to let you know about a few changes.

We’ve had time to really think about what we’re trying to do at the Inkwell, both in regard to the worlds we wish to create, and the longterm business we’re trying to build. We want to do what’s best for us, while always keeping our readers (ESPECIALLY OUR GONERS LIKE YOU) happy and well tended to.

We love so much of what we’re doing, and feel like we are getting many things right. We are living the dream — building worlds and telling stories for a living.

However, we’re still writing full-time before we can afford to. Most of what we’re doing right with indie publishing are things that have never been done, or at least not by anyone leaving breadcrumbs to follow.

Most of what we’re doing at the Inkwell is made up by Dave and me as it’s happening. Some things work, others don’t.

For example, the weekly releases work great. Readers love getting their fix each Tuesday. We published weekly for most of the 2012 calendar, which was the best creative stretch in either of our lives.

With the release of Available Darkness’s second season, we tried publishing the entire season concurrent with Episode 7. This worked fantastically, with about half of our regular readers buying the entire season at once.

And we WILL CONTINUE offering both weekly episodes at .99 and the full season right on the first week for $5.99, so the season will cost you about the same no matter how you choose to get it.

We also tried releasing our individual episodes for free. THIS was an absolute failure, and we simply cannot afford to do it for WhiteSpace.

We feel that as a Goner you deserve to know why.

Free can be a terrific catalyst to paid sales, but only if and when it works.

Unfortunately, we failed to earn the response needed to justify our strategy. Amazon has changed things quite a lot in the last year, and good for them. We support most things Amazon does. The Kindle has made it possible for us to write full-time, and Jeff Bezos has done more to get people reading than anyone since Gutenberg. It’s OUR job as authors to find new ways to work within Amazon’s existing ecosystem that benefit both us and our readers, not their job to tailor a business model to our needs.

Once upon a time (like just six months ago or so), when authors published something for free, readers would download that title en masse, then review it and tell their friends. We’d see a boost in both social proof and sales.

But we didn’t come close with Available Darkness Season Two. We gave thousands of episodes away in hopes that readers would buy the full season. This didn’t happen. The vast majority preferred to read it for free. For the most part, readers who wanted the full season bought it immediately. Everyone else waited for it to be free.

That might have been fine if freebies earned reviews. But they didn’t.

After thousands of episodes given away, Available Darkness Season Two earned only 17 reviews in the US and 3 in the UK, many of which came from a core group of Goners who appreciate what we are doing and would have left them regardless.

The math is simple: Nearly two months of writing — with two authors — generated a few hundred dollars (split between us) and a hair over one dozen reviews.

This is bad business, not sustainable, and we cannot afford to do it again.

We truly appreciate every reader who buys our stories, but most readers consuming Collective Inkwell serials are not paying for them. Most of our income is from Yesterday’s Gone. Yet, as the title ages and its revenue shrinks, with new titles not generating new money, our ability to write serials full-time is quickly dwindling.

As a sustainable business model, what we’re doing simply won’t work. If we don’t sell books, we don’t make money. If we don’t make money, Dave is back to freelancing and I’m back to consulting. That means I’m on the phone telling smart people how to run their businesses more effectively.

And if I was on the phone with me, I would tell me to forget free, that .99 per episode is the lowest we can go.

One more note on FREE…

The only way to make a title free on Amazon is to make it exclusive for 90 days. So while we’re not getting the leverage, sales, or reviews we need from giving our titles away, we’re also tethering ourselves to a single platform and impeding our ability to reach new readers.

So for now, we won’t be using FREE promotions on Amazon. We would like to offer our Goners the occasional exclusive story without using Amazon for distribution, exactly like we did with “A Very Boricio Christmas.” Dave and I have wanted to get ahead on our storytelling enough to send the occasional exclusive freebie your way, because we greatly appreciate you reading. We just need to inch forward a bit more.

We are ridiculously excited for WhiteSpace, and the entire year to follow. Dave and I are riding a creative high, and feel our storytelling’s never been better.

If you have any questions or thoughts on this email, we’re always interested in hearing from our readers. Don’t be afraid to hit reply and let us know what you’re thinking.

If you enjoyed Available Darkness Season 2 and would like to leave a review, that would be wonderful. Please do so here:

Available Darkness Season 2

Amazon US

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BELOHIK/

Amazon UK

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00BELOHIK/

If you would like to leave a review for WhiteSpace Season 1, that would really help the second season’s chance for succeeding. Please do that here:

WhiteSpace: Season One

Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/B008ASB4GI/

Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B008ASB4GI/

WHITESPACE SEASON TWO

And finally, at long last, we bring you the anticipated second season of WhiteSpace.

Here’s the back-of-the-book copy, followed by links to the full season.

WhiteSpace: Season Two (Episodes 7-12)

From the writers of the bestselling, groundbreaking series, Yesterday’s Gone, comes the follow up to the reader favorite sci-fi thriller, WhiteSpace: Season One.

Hamilton Island has just recovered from a school shooting which rocked the small bedroom community. But the shooter wasn’t acting alone.

Roger Heller was part of something bigger…

A conspiracy of scientific experiments, missing citizens, and ancient secrets threatening the island and its people.

Behind it all: the enigmatic Blake Conway.

Can Jon Conway piece the mystery together before he loses someone else that he loves?

Can Roger Heller’s surviving family move on from his heinous actions?

Will Cassidy’s addictions destroy her new family with Emma and Jon?

Can Milo trust the mysterious Don Bellows?

What will happen when Brock Houser launches his own investigation?

WhiteSpace is a character-driven, mysterious, sci-fi thriller that would be right at home with superbly scripted TV shows likeLOSTThe Killing, and Fringe.

WhiteSpace: Season Two

Amazon US

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CDGV3S2/

Amazon UK

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00CDGV3S2/

As always, thanks so much for reading!

Sean (and Dave)

We’ll see you next week with news on our next serial and on our expansion to other stores such as Kobo, Apple, Nook, Smashwords, etc…

Feel free to email us at collectiveinkwellmedia (at) gmail.com

Or, if you want to leave a public response, you can do so by leaving a comment below.

2 responses to It’s Not Working (or why we’re not doing free)

  1. Jodi

    I’m kinda sad that the freebies are going to be stopped although I understand why you are doing it because THAT’S how *I* found you and I wouldn’t have discovered the “Goners” books and the rest. *sigh* But I totally understand why – but people are going to miss out. Too bad the folks weren’t polite enough to at least leave a review, But I thank you for starting the Goners series with a freebie because I wouldn’t probably have found you.

  2. DavidWwright Post Author

    Hi Jodi,
    Thank you for writing. We are working to make our first episodes of all of our titles (save for the 47North ones Monstrous and Z 2134) free at all times, so everybody will be able to read any of our first episodes without paying. Then, if they like them, they can buy the rest.

    But just giving stuff away doesn’t work. There are costs in creating books, both in people we pay for editing, costs for photos for the covers, and the cost of 140 or so hours per week that we put in between us, which we could be earning money otherwise.

    We don’t put DRM in our books, so people can share them, and we’re fine with that. But at the end of the day, we have bills to pay, and unfortunately banks, utilities, and other companies don’t barter in exchange for our books. Believe me, we’ve tried. “Come on, it’s Boricio! Everyone loves Boricio!” But alas, they said pay up.

    We’ll keep writing as long as people want to read us and support our work, though. And we love having the opportunity to create worlds for a living.

    Thank you for understanding. And like we said, we’ll still send out free short stories and such to our Goners from time to time, to show our appreciation.

    take care,
    Dave

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