Permafree as an Indie Marketing Strategy~Interview with Traci Tyne Hilton

Today I’m thrilled to introduce Traci Tyne Hilton, a Christian indie author who has been so helpful to me personally, and an inspiration to so many other authors. She is a busy gal (as you will see!), but I wanted to tap into her wisdom on the effectiveness of using permafree as a marketing strategy, which is the latest buzz in indie circles. Permafree books are books that STAY free on Amazon and/or various other outlets, thus pulling readers in to read more books by that author (usually in a series). 

One of the things I love about being an indie author is that we share sales figures and marketing strategies. Please take time to thank Traci for sharing her experience with us. I’m pinning this post for easy reference! ~Heather Day Gilbert

Permafree as an Indie Marketing Strategy

Interview with Traci Tyne Hilton

Author Traci Tyne Hilton

HG: First off, how long have you been
self-published, Traci? I know you were one of the earlier writers to take this
route (and I know it has paid off for you!).

TH: It’s funny to think of myself as an early adopter, because
it feels like just yesterday, but my first indie title came out in paperback
around February of 2010, and then as an ebook that fall.
HG: On the issue of permafree e-books (I believe
the definition of that is “permanently free” e-books), how did you
decide you were ready to make one of yours permafree? And was it the first in
TH: I decided to go permafree with the first book in my series
because I was basically desperate. I was terrified to do it, but I knew I had
to make a change.

So, I had been doing pretty well, considering I didn’t know what I was doing,
didn’t have a background in publishing, didn’t have a budget, didn’t have much
of a plan, and wanted something I could do from home while raising my kids. I
was making about a thousand dollars a month, and felt great. Then, November
2012 rolled around and I made…almost nothing. Or it felt that way. I was down
to about $200 a month with no idea of how to make more.

I had already tried becoming a twitter-master (fifty tweets
a day, links to helpful posts, fun quotes—a link to my books here and there.) I
had tried writing fast and publishing fast (as fast as I could, anyway) and I
had tried being a part of Kindle Select and running short promos. I had run
Ereader News Today ads, Pixel of Ink ads, I had posted all over facebook. I
don’t know, if someone had suggested it, I had tried it, and not just one
little try, I had gone all out. And…I had short term success. Moments of good
sales, but absolutely nothing lasting.
I had to find the secret magic trick that would make my books sell (Click to Tweet!), or give up and go back to paying attention to my kids!

I said to a friend of mine who was known for never compromising on his advice,
“You are bossy and successful. Tell me what to do and I will do it. Whatever
you say.” He said make my first book free and write more books. So I did, and
it worked.

HG: Did you notice an immediate sales bump for
other books in the series when you made the first permafree?

TH: Yes, definitely. You remember I was desperate because after two years of
publishing and growing an audience my royalties had dropped to about $200 a
month, right? Well, the first month the first Mitzy book was free—and I only
had three books in the series at the time—I made $2800. I was immediately sold.
I mean, think about that…three books made me $200. I made first book free, and
two books made me $2800. I’d say that was an immediate result!
HG: What long-term effects have you seen from
your permafree decision?
TH: The biggest change, besides making heckuva lot more money,
is that I now have an active fan base! It’s a blast to get fan mail, and to
hang out with people on facebook who are there because they like my books!
HG: When would you NOT recommend an author go
permafree with his/her book?
TH: I would not recommend permafree if:

author only has one book
author’s titles are not in the same genre
if in the same genre the books are too different to be grouped into some kind
of series
author is philosophically against free. (There are plenty of authors who
consider free promotions damaging to literature. I would never try and talk
them out of their convictions.)

they are my direct competition. JUST KIDDING! I have happily talked lots of
other Christian Cozy authors into trying it out, and I think they are all
pretty happy with their results. (Check out the authors of to see what I mean!
     HG: I know that of all my marketing strategies
to date, going free a few days with my books has brought the most results in
terms of temporary sales boost. Would you say going permafree has been the best
marketing strategy you have tried? If not, what is?
TH: Writing a series that follows one lead character and making the first book of that series free is the only marketing technique I have tried that has produced an increase in sales that lasted longer than about three days. (Click to Tweet!) Every other technique—and I have tried them all—was less effective in
producing both short and long term sales (for me.)
HG: Finally, on a non-permafree note, how many
books do you think an author needs to have out before making a full-time income
on self-publishing, if you could give us an estimate? I’ve heard five books.
TH: I think an author needs to publish a minimum of three books
a year to make a living. The point at which they start making a living is
different for everyone. But it is the steady stream of quality new releases
that makes a person able to live off their writing rather than a set number of
books already published. Three is really the minimum for most people, and since it’s August, and I’ve only published one so far
this year, I had better say goodbye, and get back to work! Thanks so much for
the chat!

***Thank you, Traci! Readers, what about you–has a free book ever hooked you into buying a series or reading more from an author? Indie authors, if you have tried this strategy, how has it worked for you?***

Click to Find on Amazon
Traci Tyne Hilton is
the author of the new Tillgiven Mystery Series, The Mitzy Neuhaus Mystery Series,
and The Plain Jane Mystery Series. She was the Mystery/Suspense
Category winner for the 2012 Christian Writers of the West Phoenix Rattler
Contest, and has a Drammy from the Portland Civic Theatre Guild. Traci serves
as the Vice President of the Portland chapter of the American
Christian Fiction Writers Association.

Traci earned a degree
in History from Portland State University and still lives in the rainiest part
of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral
director, their two daughters, and their dogs, Dr. Watson and Archie.

More of Traci’s work
can be found at

Click to Find on Amazon