Earlier this month, I predicted unhappily that the recent changes to Amazon’s algorithms would mean Select authors would see fewer sales after making their books temporarily free.

Last week, I made Breakers free anyway.

I don’t really remember what I was expecting out of this run. I think I was hoping to get between 2000-6000 downloads, to sell a few dozen extra copies in the week after, and to get some personal experience with Amazon’s new system. Instead, I gave away nearly 26,000 copies of my book.

I’m going to pause for a second to say that if this makes me sound like some sort of expert at giving away books, I’m not. This was a happy confluence of circumstance. I hadn’t given away many copies of Breakers before and had only been mentioned by any of the major sites once, back in early March and late in the afternoon. When I went free this time, all the major sites listed me. And the book was almost completely fresh to their entire readership. If you want to try to duplicate that, go ahead, but trust me, “do mediocrely for three months in preparation for a gamble on a single massive free run” wasn’t exactly my strategy.

Anyway. So I thought the recent changes would be bad for free runs (and most reports indicate people are seeing a steep decline in post-free sales), but I had a suspicion that if you gave away enough copies–“enough” meaning “enough to land high on the popularity lists despite your giveaway copies being steeply discounted by the formula”–you might be able to do well anyway. And since the new lists count for 30 days instead of 3-4, if you could do well, there’s a chance you’ll do very well.

A day and a half after my free run ended, here’s Breakers:

That’s based on 173 sales and 93 borrows over that span.

I feel like I might have just buried the lede. Lead? Whatever, it’s early. Anyway, what does this mean long-term? I don’t know. I’m trying not to know just yet, because I don’t want to get my hopes up. But prior to this free run, Breakers was #121 on the Technothrillers popularity list and worse than #500 on Science Fiction > Adventure. On day three of its run, it improved to #10 Technothriller and #27 Sci-Fi > Adventure. Right now, it’s #8 and #24. I’m guessing sales will slow down after an initial rush, but hold, driven by the pop lists, at a decent clip, for an unknown length of time. If that happens, I will be a very happy Ed.

Other results: three new very nice reviews, a 5-star and two 4-stars. Also, I learned borrows report almost immediately. Possibly because borrows are completely internal to Amazon and they don’t require any payment processing. So if you have a run like this, when you revert to paid, you’re going to see a wonky ratio of incoming borrows : sales until sales reports start catching up.

I’m going to try to force the goo between my ears to not analyze this any further for the next week. By then, the trend should be more clear. Right now, I’m just going to be happy.

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