Book Promotion Part IV – The Freebie
Today I’m going to talk about something that everybody loves: freebies. In the publishing world, authors and publishers have been known to give away promotional items to attract new readers. There are many different things that can be given away, from business cards and bookmarks to short stories… to entire novels. My question today is… does the freebie work?
Now, to be clear, I’m not referring to pirated websites and downloads. These sites are designed to steal the work from authors and offer it at no charge to the public. This robs both the author and publisher of royalties. Shiloh Walker has a very elegant post about this on her website. Her explanation of ebook piracy and it’s impact can be found HERE.
I’m also not refering to the free excerpts of contracted work, designed to hook the reader into buying the book to see what happens next.
I’m referring to either complete works of fiction or promotional items designed to lead the reader to buying your book(s). These things are offered legally, normally from the author or the publisher.
As I see it, there are three categories ‘freebies’ can fall into.
The first category is free reads. These are uncontracted works put up on a website or blog for all to enjoy. It can be written by an individual author or group of authors in a ’round robin’ format. The purpose of these free reads is to give the public a sample of what an author’s writing is like. Here are some examples:
The ladies over at the Midnight Moon Cafe have done many free reads as well.
For an example of a group round robin, done over a period of weeks on a blog, click HERE.
These works quite often have only been edited by the authors themselves and may or may not be packaged as an ebook. Sometimes when a contract on an ebook expires, an author will choose to put the book up for free on their site rather than submit it to another publisher.
Additionally, free reads can be offered through a publisher. Normally, the publisher will contact some of their authors to write 3-10 pages of a short story to tease readers and leave them begging for more. Again, this is to showcase the author’s writing and hook readers to buy the contracted books by the same author. Some examples of this can be found below:
For me, free reads work. There have been a couple of times where I’ve downloaded a short story from an author’s website and their writing lead me to buy their book. I can also see how free reads would make sense for the unpublished author. They can showcase your work to potential agents and editors who visit your site. (And they do visit your site, see part I of my book promotion series).
The second category goes to giving away entire novels. In addition to authors holding contests on blog sites, twitter, facebook, etc., publishers often give away the first book in a series, with the hope that readers will be hooked enough to buy the rest. Publishers may also give away books as part of a bigger promotion. Some examples are:
Del Rey Fantasy Books wants you to buy the first books in their series.
Barnes and Noble will let you download one of Karen Marie Moning’s books (and other books) if you download their free ereader software.
I find with this method, I download the first book and it sits around in my “to be read” pile for months. To date, I’ve never bought more books in a series because I got the first one for free. Although maybe this is because I just haven’t downloaded the right book. I’m curious to hear if this method has led anyone to buy more books from a particular author.
And lastly, there is the miscellaneous category. This is the giving away of non-book items at conferences and book signings. Things like book marks, bags, food, postcards, gadgets, gizmos, all of which are designed to entice the reader to pick it up and take it with them. I’ve found that this method doesn’t work wth me. If I pick something up at a conference, I normally end up throwing it away later. I have heard of instances where this method has generated sales, however. Angie Fox put out chapter booklets of her story The Accidental Demon Slayer at conferences. These booklets contained a picture of the cover and the first chapter of her story. They generated a lot of buzz and many people bought her book because of it.
So now we know the different ways both authors and publishers can hook readers with freebies. But are readers really enticed? Are you attracting the type of people who will want to pay for your work after they scoop up all of the free stuff you have to offer?
Or is it all just wasted time and money?
Like most methods of promotion, the freebie’s success or failure is hard to measure. Having said that, there’s no denying that people like to get stuff for free. So this is where I’m going to open it up to the EtS community…
Are freebies worth the effort and expense? If you are a reader, have you downloaded free, legal reads or read an ongoing serial on a blog? Did it lead you to buy more books from that author?
And if you are an author…
Do you give away ‘freebies’? I know it’s hard to tell what works and what doesn’t in promotion, but if there are any authors out there who have seen a measurable increase in sales due to give aways, then tell us about it!
And, in the spirit of this post, I went shopping this weekend and purchased somethings for not only my own “to be read” pile, but for yours. So, if you are interested in reading Anna DeStefano’s new paranormal, Dark Legacy, be sure to become a EtS yahoo group member HERE. On Friday, I’ll post a secret password. The first person to email me back the password through my website will win a copy of Anna’s book.
If you want a fee copy of Autumn Dawn’s futuristic romance When Sparks Fly, tweet the following:
I follow the Embrace the Shadows blog and I think those ladies rock! http://embracetheshadows.wordpress.com/ @Suzanne_Rock
(I’m so humble, aren’t I? heheh)
On Wednesday evening, sometime after 7pm, I’ll tweet the winner. (The exact time will depend on when I can wrestle the computer away from my husband, lol.)