I've been reading Write. Publish. Repeat. (which, by the way, I'm enthralled with. I love their approach) and the authors have an interesting proposition: the product funnel.
Most of us have heard of "loss leaders." In retail, that's when your local grocery store drops the price of milk below cost so they can lure you in the doors to buy overpriced hamburger meat and overpriced butter. The loss leader is commonplace in retail because it works: people will travel to get a perceived bargain, and then while they're in the store, they pick up a few extra things to save time. The store is happy because it has your money; you're happy because you saved a few dollars; you're happy because you saved a trip to another store where you would presumably have had to pay full price for your milk.
A product funnel is similar to a loss leader in that you the author put it out there to get your reader in the door. Then once you've gotten the reader to look at your work, you've got a chance to convince the reader via your stellar writing and excellent storytelling to stick around and buy your other products.
The way this seems to work in publishing is for a writer to produce multiple books, usually books in a series but sometimes books linked by subject matter (category romances, for example.) The author then lists the first book in the series as a free book and promotes the heck out of the freebie.
Readers who have never heard of you might be willing to take a chance on a free book. Ideally, though, they'll love your free book enough that at the end, when you show a picture of your next cover and a brief description, they'll head over to their favorite retailer and pick up a copy of the next one.
Or, as the Write. Publish. Repeat. guys suggest, you could link them to a bundle of your entire series, available at a discount. See, you liked one volume. How about getting the next five books?
They also advocate running your first novel at $.99, since that's cheap enough for an impulse buy but also is going to self-limit potential readers to people who are already okay with spending money on books.
I've begun trying to leverage this style of marketing for my own books. For example, my publisher for The Boys Upstairs has published a short story about the main character and made it free. (We also have a nifty cover and a cool title, which helps.) Every so often I drop by the forums for freebies and promote it there. I'm still releasing my Seven Archangels novels, but once every few months I try to make one of those titles cheap or free to attract new readers.
(Please note: I haven't been doing this long enough to see an impact on sales. If you have been, let me know in the comments.)
The product funnel is, in effect, the free sample plus coupon combination you'd get at your local wholesale club. You're giving a reader a risk-free chance to sample your work, and in return, the recipient may be giving you a longtime reader.
Seven Archangels: Annihilation is on $.99 Kindle Countdown right this second. She has four kids, four books in print, two cats, and one husband. She lives in the Swamp and tries to do one scary thing every day. You can like her on Facebook, but if you want to make her rich and famous, please contact Roseanne Wells of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency.