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?

winning money

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:

Anya Bast    Celia Kyle  Rae Lori   Maya Banks   Moira Rogers

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:

Samhain     Changeling    Ellora’s Cave

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:

 Harlequin celebrates their 60th birthday by giving away free books HERE and HERE

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?

buying stuff on computer

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! @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.) 

Happy reading!

10 Responses to “Book Promotion Part IV – The Freebie”
  1. Suzanne, this is my favorite post in your series so far! As a reader, I love the opportunity to try an author for free. Sometimes, for me, it’s more about voice then premise and the best way for me to know if an author’s voice is one I want to follow all the way to The End is to have a taste of it.

    As a writer, getting your name, your voice and your stories “out there” is what it’s all about. I’ve given away copies of all my books. Has it increased my sales? That I don’t know. But, by its very nature, it’s increased my exposure and that’s my goal.

    That’s really what freebie promotion is all about. Whether it’s a free read or a free bookmark, I see giveaways as friendly calling cards I use to introduce myself to readers who might not otherwise know about me or my books.

  2. Dawn McClure says:

    LMAO! ‘Those ladies rock!’ Good one, Suzanne. 🙂

    When I first started to promo, I would give a copy of my book away for free. I have no idea if that worked or not.

    There’s a freebie room at Nationals, and it’s very popular. I bought a book because of a free bookmark before. The blurb on the back hooked me.

    Also (this is really sweet), about a week ago I blogged about a book I’d read, Sliding Home, by Kate Angell. She contacted me by email a few days later and said thank you. I was shocked – and I went completely fangirl on her. lol I told her I was heading to the bookstore to get the rest of the series because I’d started with the fourth book in the series. She replied and said she’d mail me the other books in thanks for blogging about her book. How awesome is that? (Now I’m a super-fangirl. lol) I’ve told all my writer friends, and some of my family members. They are going out to buy her book. Here’s her website –

    I’ve yet to make up bookmarks, because I’ve had only e-books so far. For Asmodeus, which will be in print in Novemeber, I’ll probably do that. I’m still not sure what works and what doesn’t, where freebies are concerned.

    Great post!

  3. susan leech says:

    As a reader and reader’s group leader I feel the little freebies help promote an author’s books.When I retired this year I went looking for more new authors and books. I clinked onto books and found all these web sites and also found the contests which I had no idea was even around. Since I found all of this I have really changed my life in many ways. I started a reader’s group which is so much fun, I tried books that I thought I would never be caught reading ( I was completely a romance and mystery reader) . Now I read about shifters, vampires and really hot books where you need a fan to keep the book cooled off as well as the reader. The new genes of books came about after I sent for a package of goodies and I got bookmarks, pens,write ups, candy and keychains telling me about books that were out. I also was lucky enough to win books from the contests and in almost every case I read the book I won and went seeking back issues as well as now I have a list of authors whose books I must get whenever a new one comes out. I had three authors I got books of and no others..NOW I have a whole page of a notebook full so I guess you can say I expanded a wee bit. ha ha I am working a part time job and my budget was increased to a little more than I was allowing myself..just so I can get the books I want plus I know if I really have to I can go to the library and find good books by all the authors I never knew about before..not giving up on my first three but sure glad I found more. Thanks for all the goodies being offered. Well now I just wrote my own book here but I really wanted to let authors know they are not wasting their money or time if they get goodies…at least in my eyes. susan L.

  4. Sarina Hermann says:

    Hey Suzanne! I have to say that the freebies, along with the free reads usually catch some attention from the ‘average’ reader. But when you are an author/reader then it is harder. You are the one who is use to doing the promotions. As for the free reads, yeah it does catch the attention of the readers to see if they like the authors or not. The book covers also help on that account too!

  5. sandrasookoo says:

    I’ll have contest, giveaway goodie bags and the occasional free book. I’ve got free reads on my website. Who knows if any of it helps LOL But it’s fun to do

  6. Bonnie H says:

    I’m definitely into the contests, winning free books – I’ve found some of my favorite, auto-buy authors that way. And then I’ll usually buy one of their books for various friends as gifts, and a couple of those friends are the types that go out and buy the whole backlist when they like a book, and they’ve always liked the ones I send LOL
    The bookmarks etc are hit or miss with me, I have actually bought a handful of books based on the blurb from a bookmark or something.
    The free reads not so much, but that’s just me.

  7. Judy Cox says:

    I am a reader. I love contests!! I am challenged by the scavenger hunts for sure. I do not download too many of the free reads, maybe if I had an ereader I might:( I enjoy winning, just like most people do, but the contests, especially the blogs help me learn about authors I do not always read and buy. I have found alot of books, from the contests, that I put on my to buy list and I buy them!!! I also enjoy winning other items, bookmarks, mugs, personal items, etc. I have only one negative thing to post. When an author runs a contest and then does not honor the prize. I have been playing and posting for years and just here lately I have come across quite a few contests that have not been sent out when I won. That will definitely make me not trust you. I am happy to say most sends everything immediately, just a few in this past year have disappointed me.

    Really good post

  8. Robyn Bski says:

    Another great post!

    I dig freebies. I’m also a pack rat, and I have a collection of bookmarks and other goodies from various authors. I’m a pushover when it comes to buying new books and trying new series, so it’s probably pretty easy to win me over with freebies.

  9. Nadia Lee says:

    I prefer free reads over GC contests, etc.

    If someone offers free reads, etc. I can enjoy them any time as there’s no deadline, etc. to enter and so on. (like w/ contests since they all have entry deadlines).

    If someone does contests for GCs, etc. it’s nice, but there’s no guarantee that I’ll win. Also I still have no idea if the author’s a good writer or if she’s someone I may want to buy.

  10. Beverly G says:

    as a reader i have and do buy books after i get promo items excerps and so forth from them deliah marvell was so kind to sen dme a copy of her mistress of pleasure i loved it so much i baught another copy then baught her seocnd book for it for me i t all depends on how well i liked the first one and such

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