Don’t Say a Word by bestselling romance/suspense novelist Barbara Freethy was published by Penguin/NAL imprint Signet in 2005, but soon went out of print. In the past, that would have meant the end of the book’s sales–and future readers would never have had the chance to follow the book’s heroine, Julia De Marco, and her sexy ally Alex Manning, on their quest to discover Julia’s true identity. But Freethy re-released Don’t Say a Word as an e-book — and today it hit #2 on the Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) NOOK bestseller list, beating out new titles by mega-bestselling authors like James Patterson and Charlaine Harris. What’s Freethy’s secret?
Freethy, who lives in Northern California and has written a total of 28 books, is selling 13 out-of-print titles in the Kindle, NOOK, Kobo, Smashwords and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) stores–aiming to lure readers with low prices in hopes that they’ll get hooked and want to buy her new books (the Angel’s Bay series, published by Simon & Schuster), too. She created new covers for her e-books to make them a recognizable brand. Don’t Say a Word isn’t Freethy’s only bestselling e-book: Her Summer Secrets, for instance, is currently #86 on the Kindle bestseller list.
Promotions have been a key part of Freethy’s strategy on e-books. She often reduces their prices and sometimes even gives them away to help give them some sales pop. On April 10, she tweeted, “Summer Secrets is now ranked #184 on Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) selling at .99 for limited time only – want to help me break into the top 100? It’s only a buck.” In the week leading up to Mother’s Day, she dropped many of her e-books’ prices to $0.99 and gave some away free.
Freethy isn’t the only author to re-release her out-of-print titles as e-books. A website called Backlist Ebooks has nearly 80 authors participating and aims to make it easier for fans to find their favorite authors’ works. Many of the authors from the group are currently running a sale on their titles on Smashwords.
The Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Book Search settlement, which would digitize millions of out-of-print books and make them available for purchase, has been held up in court for over a year. As a result, for now, authors who want to re-release their out-of-print books in digital form are responsible for doing it themselves.
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