Episode # 160 – The Power of Free with Nathan Van Coops

In Uncategorized by Angela McConnell4 Comments

carlcovernewWe first met time travel adventure author Nathan Van Coops last November in Episode #126. This week he’s back to talk about the completion of his final book in his In Times Like These trilogy, why he’s changed his mind about producing audiobooks for permafree titles, and how giving away thousands of books has been his best marketing strategy so far.


Nathan’s Website

Nathan’s Amazon Page

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Show notes:


Last we chatted with Nathan nine months ago, he was hard at work on his third book in his In Times Like These series while continuing to promote his first two books in the series. Since then, the final book The Day After Never has come out, and Nathan has grown his author platform to admirable success.

His permafree first book has over 500 reviews, with an average of 4.4 stars, and pops up first in the keyword search “time travel,” consistently feeding organic traffic to his books.


“I think being generous to your readers as often as you can is a great long-term strategy.”

Nathan is active on goodreads, has successfully run Facebook launch parties, and even landed the golden BookBub (which resulted in 40,000 downloads in a week!) — and all of those things have helped significantly in his discoverability as an author — but he says his most important strategy has been having a permafree book in the series.

The long-term benefits have been incredible, he says. Consistency is calculated into rank with a higher value than recent sales, and that’s what’s kept his book at the top of the search. Nathan calls it the little engine that could, generating 150-350 downloads a day, keeping the title at the top, and introducing new readers to the rest of his series which are priced at £3.99 UK/$4.99 US.

“They’re [Amazon] in the business of keeping customers happy; and if what you put out there makes customers happy, then they’re going to keep promoting it.”

While the books in the trilogy can be read as stand-alones for the most part and are wrapped up at the end, Nathan hooks the reader into the next book by including a free first chapter at the back with a call to action to click on the link to buy the book.


Nathan had the second book in his trilogy Chronothon produced as an audiobook, but chose not to produce the first book in audio since it was his permafree title. Who would want to buy an audio version of a book that’s already available for free?

As it turns out, given the $1.99 audio version add-on option offered to ebook buyers, quite a few. The decision to buy the audio version of a downloaded free ebook is not an either-or situation, but a yes-and-yes situation. The reader asks himself, do I want this cool free book? Yes! Ooh, do I want the audio version of it for $1.99 (regular price $17.47)? Yes, please!

Another benefit of having the audiobook available on a permafree title is if your permafree title is consistently pulling in organic downloads, then that boosts its visibility on the audio side picking up new readers there.

Nathan has since revised his position on audio versions of permafree titles and has just finished proofing the audiobook for his first book, In Times Like These.

Next Big Thing

With his time travel adventure trilogy wrapped up, Nathan is now writing a new series set in an aviation-centric universe where people live in the sky. This time around, he says, he’s taken notes from Chris Fox and Libbie Hawker and has outlined the first book instead of pantsing so much. As a result, the writing is going faster, he says, and he’s having a lot of fun.

Advice to New Authors

“My philosophy is always that every book you write should be the best book you’ve ever written, and the only way to do that is to keep learning constantly. You’ve gotta be reading, you’ve got to be improving your craft somehow.”

And just work on consistency. The view is just as good if you go slow and steady versus rocketing to the top. Keep on plugging away and try not to compare yourself too much with other authors.

Action Steps:

  • Make time for your education. Read books, listen to podcasts, learn how other writers are doing their jobs. Then decide what makes sense for you. “You can’t necessarily adopt everyone else’s methods, so it’s trial and error for sure.”
  • Make sure you’ve got the old-school marketing strategies in place, like sample chapters from other books in your catalog and appropriate CTAs in the front and back of the book. These may be old techniques, but they still work.
  • Do you have an steadily-ranking permafree title that’s doing well for you? Consider producing the audio and increasing your visibility and giving your readers a chance to purchase the audio as an add-on at a hugely discounted rate, thus keeping your books high in visibility and attracting new readers. A win, win, win situation. :)

Simon Asks:

Do you have a title that’s permafree? What has been your experience using a loss leader?


Leave a comment below or get in touch with Simon by email at simon@rockingselfpublishing.com

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Angela McConnellEpisode # 160 – The Power of Free with Nathan Van Coops
  • Loved this episode! I totally believe in the power of free. I’m planning on ad stacking with a Bookbub to get some massive numbers in terms of free downloads. Plus, my best paperback seller is my permafree ebook.
    It’s only been about half a year since I’ve been building out the series (currently at 4 titles, hope to get it to 10 by the end of next year). At that point, I think the read-thru/buy-thru rates should give me some nice rewards!

    • Stacking some ads with your Bookbub day could definitely work and that would be a worthy investment. Glad you enjoyed the episode!

  • Besides the power of free, I think Nathan understands the power of reader loyalty. Traditional pricing strategy would scoff at the idea of giving a discount to fans who read through to the third book in a series. Why discount guaranteed sales? Because raving fans are a powerful marketing force! We should be asking not what our fans can do for us, but what can we do for our fans 🙂

  • This was one of the best episodes I’ve listened to in a while! I was excited to hear about the success you’ve had with a permafree book, especially since I’m working on a new strategy with my books and offering the first book as a permafree. And I completely agree with the idea of rewarding your most loyal readers with a discounted book. Building that good will is so important.