Tweet The First Tale and Checkmate & Other Stories free for the duration of Smashwords' Read an Ebook Week, and I kept a tally of how well downloads went. After all, I don't get that many downloads via Smashwords, so I wondered if the combination of making the books free and taking advantage of a promotion might boost the numbers.
In total, 27 people downloaded The First Tale, while 27 people downloaded Checkmate & Other Stories - naturally, I have no way of knowing if the same twenty seven people downloaded both titles, as not all of the receipts featured both books. The promotion began on March 3rd and I didn't make them free until March 5th, but I don't think that made a massive amount of difference in the long run. Even within a couple of hours of making them free, I'd had more downloads than I have done in months, so that was a bonus. However, I did notice a flurry of downloads whenever I tweeted the link, although I have no way of knowing if it is a link on Twitter that impels people to download books, or the inclusion of the word 'free'.
But what next?
Hopefully, the people who downloaded the books will enjoy them. Entertaining readers is my prime goal when writing, so I hope they come back to leave reviews to help other readers decide whether or not they want to read them too. However, it's all too easy to ignore a downloaded book if it has been free, since there's no financial impulse to read what has been purchased. There's no guarantee that a download will equal a book read. After all, I made Dead Man's Hand available for free upon release for five days in September 2012 and had 86 free downloads - and gained a single review.
I'm of the school of thought that it's not unreasonable to want to make a living writing - you wouldn't expect to go to a craft fair and pick up a hand-knitted scarf for free, so why should a book be free when time and effort has gone into its production as much as it would a physical object? I hope that the downloads lead to further purchases down the road - after all, if I've entertained you with Checkmate, might I not also entertain you with The Necromancer's Apprentice? Amanda Palmer might blather on that artists shouldn't expect payment as a matter of course, but should rather make their work available for free in the belief that true supporters will donate, but I've had a donate option on my blog for a couple of years now and I am yet to see any donations. I must point out, I'm not asking you to do so now, merely making the point. Amanda Palmer can afford to follow such a route but independent writers at the start of their career just don't have the same fanbase.
Of course, I don't have any other titles on offer at the moment so it could be that whoever downloads the books never comes across anything of mine again, but I suppose I'd rather they were downloaded for free and enjoyed than passed over entirely. I just hope that those who downloaded them enjoy them.