Why do a Free Giveaway of Your Book

Why do a Free Giveaway of Your Book.

I’m in the midst of running a promotion on my book Going Under (free June 25-29). There is some debate on whether or not authors should give their work away for free. I’ve analyzed both sides of the argument and in the end, decided to go ahead. I don’t know if it’s the best way to go, but this is an experiment. In fact, marketing of any kind is an experiment.

There’s enough work that goes into writing a book, I can see why some might not think it’s a good idea. We devote financial resources as well as hours and hours of our time into writing, editing, cover design, formatting and publishing. It’s quite understandable that some authors would say I’m crazy to give it away. Here’s some background going into my decision.

I’ve been keenly watching the self-publishing revolution since 2010 when I was given my first eReader. I embraced Ebooks and once I saw the benefits of digital books, I watched with fascination as the paper book industry started decline while Ebook distributors such as Amazon, Apple, Kobo and the Nook(B&N) took off. I devoured books like I’d never done before and was thrilled that I could find new, interesting authors, whose books were cheaper than traditionally published authors.

It wasn’t long until I found Smashwords and Amazon, and started seeing books listed for free. At this point they had to be permanently free to be on Amazon, which meant they were usually short stories or somewhat unpolished books, although I did find a number of great reads. Then, in 2011, Amazon started KDP Select, a program whereby, if you signed on to be exclusive, you could run a free giveaway for five days, every three months while in the program. I could be argue that this was the single biggest pivotal point in the EBook revolution. Once KDP Select launched, we started seeing higher quality books being offered for free, because it was only for a short time. This was a boost for writers and a financial break for readers.

Authors in Select quickly realized a huge benefit to running giveaways, which became known as “the bounce.” To step back a bit, Amazon has many Best Seller lists based on different categories. Each category has both a paid and free list. There are many people who peruse these lists often, looking for deals, new authors, and good books, with the idea that the cream will rise to the top. What authors found was that if they could get onto one of these lists while free, the book would “bounce” over to the paid Best Sellers list once their giveaway was done, hence the newly sought after “good bounce.” There are many reports of paid sales jumping once a book hits one of these lists. Of course, none of this is guaranteed. It’s a strategic gamble.

I’ve watched many new authors who have moved from being relatively unheard of, to doing quite well, if not amazing, using this technique. Brett Battles, J.A. Konrath, Joanna Penn, Jude Hardin, Russell Blake, Iain Rob Wright and Tracy Sharp are just a few that come to mind. Here are a couple articles from Joanna Penn and J.A. Konrath, on their experiences. There has been some talk that this bounce isn’t quite what it was in the beginning, but it still occurs. Amazon explains that a book will drop in ranking because of sales that occur while it is being switched over. Only Amazon knows what goes into redistributing the lists, but it may be an effective way to gain sales. Here’s a more recent article as well.

Even if there is no significant bounce and no increase in paid sales, there are a number of other reasons to consider giving your book away. The biggest is getting your name out there…name recognition. Marketing is about getting people thinking about you and your books. With a giveaway, this may happen as people see your book, as they click on it to download, as a book cover sitting on their device, from reading your book, or even from interacting with you during the giveaway itself. I’m convinced there are many people who are more than willing to connect and to pass your name along. These are all people who may recognize your name and be just a little more likely to click on something with your name on it, whether it be a blog post, another promo, or a new book announcement. I’ve connected with countless this weekend in the process of the giveaway and have no doubt I’ll stay connected with some if not many of them.

Giveaways may help increase sales of your other books. If you have any other books, a fan of your giveaway book might purchase one of those. There are many authors I’ve seen on the free lists that I’ve followed and watched, purchasing future books. One of my first ebooks was a permafree by J.A. Konrath and Blake Crouch. I’ve since read roughly 31 of Konrath’s and 16 of Crouch’s, purchasing most of them.

Another reason to giveaway a book is to increase reviews. All authors want reviews. Reviews help drive sales, at least in theory. In addition, some marketing sites require a minimum number of reviews, before you can use them. It’s a slow tedious process waiting for reviews and your hands are tied waiting. Why not speed up the process by getting more people reading your work.

As arguments against giveaways, I’ve heard a number. The most common usually has something to do the work involved and the idea that the author should get compensated for it. Although I agree there is a tremendous amount of work involved, nothing has financial value (to anyone else) if nobody is willing to pay for it. Obscurity is a writer’s enemy. Do what ever you can to get you work in front of eyes. A short term giveaway is like paying for advertising, only in a different way. Marketing is an investment. A giveaway is no different.

Another argument is that free books lower the playing field for everyone. This might be true but free books are here to stay. I don’t think we’ll ever see a day where people aren’t willing to pay for books they want to read. If someone likes your books, they will pay for them, even if they can get more free books than they could ever read in their lifetime. How do I know this? Because it’s happening right now. I’m a prime example. After years of watching the free Best Sellers lists, I’ve accumulated hundreds of books, but if there’s an author I want to read, I keep buying.

I don’t know whether you should do a giveaway or not. I don’t even know if I should have…but, I’m currently on day four of a five day giveaway. So far, the giving part has been far more successful than I thought it would be. Only time will tell if it pays off, but for now, I’m calling it a success. I’ll be doing a follow up post on the results.

Silas Payton

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