I published 'The Stud Farm,' an 8,000 word short SF story originally appearing in Jupiter #30,'Hermippe.' It went live on Smashwords very quickly as it was only #33 in the queue. Quickly downloading an Epub version, which seems to be the most finicky, I reassured myself that it was okay and then clicked on the 'Facebook/Like' button and put out a link on Twitter.
The product was checked using Mobipocket reader, which is on the desktop.
That product came live at about 12.35 p.m., June 1, 2011. Then I went to visit my elderly dad at the old age home.
By the end of the day, fifty-three copies of the story had gone out the door on Smashwords.
At midnight, my stats page was tallying up over 300 page-hits, in less than twelve hours.
When combined with the total of free downloads of 'The Handbag's Tale, on Smashwords, and copies of that book distributed for free on Amazon.com, US and UK, then I gave away something like 125 free e-books in one day. This is the result of half a dozen links, a few RT's and with about 800 feebs and a similar number of tweeps, and of course I'm on a half dozen other 'plats.' Last time I checked, it was 204 books from both titles in less than two days. Note that 'Stud Farm' has a nice image with a pic from Morguefile.com. Although the actual graphic design is not exactly award-winning stuff, it does the job.
Does giving away mass quantities of free short stories actually rub off and stimulate sales of other titles? In the short term, I would have to say no.
The author is unknown. The pruduct is unknown. People took an attractive free product, and some of them will inevitably 'hoard' it as a kind of wealth (or wealth substitute,) and never actually read it. But they will have it if they need it.
In that case, a little shiny cellophane packaging might go a long way to moving more books...but I digress.
Once a few people read the story, and let it simmer a while in the old brain-bucket, there is a much greater chance of them spending a buck and trying another title.
At that point, I'm not such an unknown quantity--it's really more a matter of expectations at that point.
I am never going to run out and buy a cookbook. If I know you publish award-winning cookbooks, and sell millions all around the world, that's very helpful to me. Don't take this personally, okay? I'm not likely to pick up your product by mistake, because I know what is in there. I don't want to read a cookbook.
So customers need to know exactly what a Louis Bertrand Shalako book, short story or other product is all about. At that point, personal tastes, discretionary spending criteria and impulse shopping factors come into play.
The thing has been successfully launched, we have initiated roll program, and we are riding on a pillar of flame, metaphorically speaking.