Kindle free book duplicity: Beware of the stealth series

For a writer, selling books with Amazon’s Kindle book platform is a great deal, and makes it easy to get a book online and out there quickly.

But then what? That sound you hear is crickets chirping and a coyote howling in the distance. How do you get noticed when every sentient being with a laptop and a nimble set of fingers is writing also? There is one method I have noticed seems a bit underhanded and, though it is widespread, I wonder if it even works. I’m talking about the stealth series.

One of the tricks Amazon offers authors is the chance to have book promotions by making their book available for a deep discount or even for free for a limited time. The idea is that people who wouldn’t spend money on an author they don’t know will download the free book and be so impressed they will buy anything else the author has written. (Needless to say, this probably is not a good strategy if you only have one book to offer.)

The problem is that the field is so crowded now that people who plow through the free Kindle offerings often find little that proves to be worth reading, or are not sufficiently impressed to spend actual money on the author. Possibly in response to this problem, some authors have resorted to what I call the stealth series.

Series have a long and respectable history in writing. Some are simply more stand-alone adventures of the same characters, and some are like parts of a serial, where each part is not complete without the rest. Romance authors such as Nora Roberts are known for writing series, and why not? Why sell one book when you can sell four or more?

So how does this tie into free Kindle books and the stealth series? Funny you should ask.

Some lesser known authors try to jump start their sales by giving away the first book in a series, hoping people will get hooked and buy the rest. It can be an effective ploy; drug dealers have been using the same methods for years. The sneaky part is that these authors often aren’t honest with their readers and don’t identify the free book as being one of the series. Readers invest the time to read the book, only to come to the last page and find that the story is not finished, only the free part is. (A variation of this method is to give away a book containing only a few chapters of the complete book without disclosing this up front.) Readers are conned into investing their time reading an incomplete work.

Why We Adore Book Series | Quirk Books : Publishers & Seekers of All ...

Even well known authors are guilty of the stealth series trick.The book covers or descriptions of these stealth series do not mention that the book is part of a series, and the other books in the series often have non-related titles that give no clue where they fit into the scheme. Stealth series are often so well disguised that it is hard to tell…

a) That it’s a series at all, or

b) How many books are in the series, or

c) The names of the remaining books

By the time you figure it out, it is too late. You’ve spent hours reading and investing in the story that you will have to pay to conclude.

So is this ploy successful? I don’t know, but most people resent being conned, and I wonder how many potential readers vow never to buy a book from the sneaky author again.

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