Free ebooks and the Underpants Gnomes

I asked folks at work to help me make Senator free.  And they did!  And it worked! It’s currently ranked #1 in the Kindle store for political fiction.  That’s almost like winning a gold medal, almost.

One of these nice folks told me he had difficulty explaining to a friend how making an ebook free actually helped its author make money.  I allowed as how my business plan was probably similar to that of the underpants gnomes.  He gave me a blank look.  I appealed to the other folks in the neighborhood.  Underpants gnomes?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?  They gave me blank looks.  I thought the underpants gnomes were part of our common cultural heritage like, well, “Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?”  They even have a Wikipedia page–although I do, too, so I guess that doesn’t prove anything.

Here, from South Park, is the underpants gnomes’ business plan:

Phase 2 of the business plan isn’t all that it could be.

Here is an Underpants Gnomes reference from Paul Krugman.  From the other side of the political spectrum, here is a reference from the Wall Street Journal.  So the meme is out there, even if my erudite co-workers haven’t encountered it.

Anyway, the underpants gnomes theory of free ebooks is:

  1. Give away an ebook
  2. ???
  3. Profit!

There’s got to be more than question marks for phase 2, right?  I think so.  I hope so.  I’m happy to get my book into the hands of lots of people, but really, it would be nice to get some actual sales out of this endeavor.  The obvious model for giving away an ebook is when it’s the first book in a series.  Get your readers hooked, so they’re willing to shell out real money for the sequels.  Here is Jeff Carver doing this with the first book of his Chaos Chronicles, Neptune Crossing(Check it out — it’s great!)  I don’t have a series, so I have to hope that people will like Senator enough to seek out and pay for my random other books.

If the plan doesn’t work, well, I can always make money from writing my blog.

Oh, wait.