How Twitter Can Make You Money

Or, alternatively, save you money. 

Since signing up for Twitter about six months ago, I have won three hard-copy books, and been given and/or alerted to over a dozen free e-books.  Total value: approximately $70.

I made seventy dollars just by following people and paying attention.

Now, I would have said saved $70 if I had intended to buy all of those books.  I’d actually intended to buy two of them, which still puts me at well over fifty dollars worth of merchandise I wouldn’t otherwise own.

Yes, a few of those books (e-books) were just free anyway.  But I didn’t have to go browsing for them.  I didn’t have to spend my time (which is quite often worth more than a free e-book to me) trying to find them.  They came to me.  I follow author’s I’m interested in reading (for various reasons).  And, conveniently, when they have books up for free, they tweet about it.  And I get alerted to a great deal without having to put much work into it.  All I have to do is check something I’d check anyways. 

So, what does this say about Twitter?

That it is a marvelous marketing tool.  When I get done reading through my free books there are some new books I will be buying.  Why?  Because I got to sample the author’s writing for free and I know I like it. 

Sure, on Amazon and other online retailers there’s typically a nice chunk of a book available for preview.  But again, I have to search for those books.  And I only get to sample the beginning–I don’t have the option of flipping to a random page like I do in the bookstore.  I have to spend time reading the preview, and then agonizing over whether or not it was really good enough for me to spend money on the rest.
Do I have to think about downloading a free book?  No.

Once I have purchased a book, I feel pressured to like it.  Because, damnit, I spent money.  And I’m frugal.  I’ve still got a poor college student’s spending mentality even though I’m currently comfortable in my finances.  I don’t like to waste money, and I agonize over purchasing anything I can’t qualify as a basic necessity.  And if I don’t like a book or don’t finish it, I’ve wasted my money. 

I don’t feel the same pressure when I read a free book.  Which means the experience is overall more enjoyable.  I’d even say I’m more apt to like a book if it’s free, because I don’t have to suffer during the slow parts wondering, “Will this be worth it?”

And I know I won’t feel guilty if I decided a free book isn’t worth it–my time, that is.  I’m ok with putting it down and moving on.  Not so when I’ve invested money as well as time:  I will often read at least a hundred pages past where I want to stop because I’m so eager for the author (and publisher) to earn the money I’ve given them.  So I invest more time, more willpower into continuing.  And if I get to the end and I still don’t like it…

It sticks with me.  And it’ll be a long while before I let go of my disappointment enough to buy from that author again.

Sad, but true.  It’s the way my mind works.  There are so many books out there for me to read that it’s one way I narrow down the list.  If an author takes my money and then disappoints me, he or she won’t be getting my money again for a good chunk of time.

Now, if it’s free, I don’t feel the pressure.  So I don’t sink in the extra time hoping for a payout.  So even if I don’t like the book, I’m not bitter towards the author when I move on. 

But if it’s free and I like it?  Then my good will abounds.  Hell, even if the next one disappoints the author might still get my money again–because I’ve already gotten a two-for-one.

Now, I do need to put some qualifiers in here.  I always read the books I’ve paid for before I get anywhere near freebies.  Why?  It’s that pressure thing again.  I spent money here, so I need to put my eyes on these pages rather than those

Also, my good will works best with short stories.  A good or even so-so short story can get me to buy a novel.  But an alright novel typically won’t get me to buy another novel, or another short story.  So free shorts work best with me.

Also, if it’s not just so-so, or boring, but bad (and I mean really bad)–I certainly won’t be spending any money there.  Will I peek at other free work from that author?  Perhaps, just to see if it’s as bad as the first thing I read.  But I’ve definitely got a three strikes and you’re out policy on free work.  I’ve got a one strike and you’re out policy on paid for work.

But, the overall point is that Twitter can help authors find readers and readers find authors, all through freebees.  For me it’s a wonderful win-win.

How about you?  As a reader, are you friendly towards free fiction?  Does it get you to spend money in the end?  As an author, do you think freebees are a valuable marketing tool?


P.S. Alas, I did not win Q4 of WotF.  But there’s always next quarter.


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6 thoughts on “How Twitter Can Make You Money

  1. Someday I’ll probably figure out Twitter. So far I’ve had no desire to add one more complication to my life. Perhaps once I have more fiction to promote…

    Sorry you didn’t win Q4. I’m curious though, you mentioned last time that the Q4 results are out but I don’t see them anywhere. I’ve got the WOTF blog in my reader, and I went searching through the website today and still didn’t see any results anywhere. I know I’m not in, but I do like to keep up on that. Are you aware of them posting things elsewhere? (Obviously you got called about being a finalist, but I’m just wondering if you have any info that I’m missing.) Thanks!

  2. Ethan says:

    I like your take on the free book thing (or free short stories) … I recently gave up on a book I bought for $36. It was a very painful experience.

    I think offering free stuff probably helps sell books or short stories–a lot of writers seem to use this as a promotional tool. It doesn’t really work on me, since I’m more likely to check out a book based on reviews, suggestions from friends, or a personal connection with the author (say I met them at a convention, or follow their blog, or whatever). Sifting through the gigantic pile of free stuff is a bit daunting. There’s so much garbage out there. The guy on the Terrible Minds blog said it was like trying to find a diamond in a pile of wildebeest snot, or something to that effect. I agree.

    Sorry to hear that you didn’t win Q4, though the fact that you’ve had two finalist stories is a pretty clear indicator that you’re writing on a professional level, so take heart.

    • Ah yes, very good point–sometimes there’s just so much free stuff you don’t know what to download. That’s why twitter’s a good filter, I think. I get info on free books from authors I follow–authors I like–instead of just any-old freebee.

      And yours is a good data point. Not everyone downloads a book just because it’s free. I think word-of-mouth is by far the best marketing tool. I also read a lost of books based on recommendations by people I know.

  3. And thank you both for your condolences.

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