Friday, August 3, 2012

Freebies: Are They Worth It?

One popular method of promotion is giving away free copies of your books. This has become particularly easy and attractive with the advent of ebooks (no postage!). However, some authors question the wisdom of freebies. Isn't it the case that every book you give away robs you of a potential sale? And don't ebook giveaways encourage piracy?

Clearly, each of us has to make his or her own decision. In my view, a free copy of a book offered today is an investment in the book's reputation tomorrow. There are millions of authors out there, flogging their  masterpieces.  The biggest obstacle to sales, in my opinion, is being heard above the cyber-din. And I think giving away a free book (occasionally!) can help.

Nothing beckons to a potential reader like the word "free". I know from surveying my readers that financial issues make a difference in their reading habits. Many of them are on limited book budgets. They pay attention to prices. And free is the best price of all!

By advertising a giveaway, I'm hoping to make some readers stop by and take a closer look at my work. Maybe they'll like my cover. Maybe they'll check out my trailer or take the time to read an excerpt. And maybe - just maybe - my name or the title of my book will stick in their minds, even if they don't win, even if they don't buy the book just then. Later, if they see a review, or an ad on The Romance Studio or Manic Readers, it might jog their memory, and raise the likelihood of a sale.

Meanwhile, when I select a winner and contact him or her to deliver the prize, I have the chance to forge new personal, connections with that reader. The reader may sign up for my Yahoo group, or visit my blog more often, or simply tell her friends about what a friendly, approachable, generous person Lisabet Sarai is! The best scenario, of course, is to have a winner read the book, love it, and give it five star reviews everywhere on the web. This does happen every now and again, and usually translates into a big bump in sales.

What about piracy? I think that someone who wins a book, who receives it direct from me, the author, with a personal note and an invitation to a relationship, is very unlikely to share the book illegally. Ebook and music pirates think the artists from whom they steal are faceless, nameless, selfish, maybe rich (yeah, right!). They don't feel guilty at least partly because they don't know who they're damaging. I may be naive, but I believe that most people are pretty decent - and they're more likely to act with honesty and integrity when they're dealing with individuals they know personally.

And a giveaway may actually stimulate direct sales. I buy many of my traditional books at second hand book stores. However, when I find a book that impresses me, it's not unusual for me to then go and purchase a new copy as a gift for someone else. I suspect - I hope - that my readers do that as well. They might never have picked up my book if they hadn't won a copy. But once they have, they may buy it for a friend or family member.

So for me at least, giveaways are part of my overall marketing strategy. And speaking of freebies, I'll be offering a copy of my brand new M/M erotic romance Quarantine tomorrow, Saturday the 4th, as part of The Sweet Spot Yahoo group "Reader Appreciation Day". To participate, you have to sign up for the group.

Then just show up! There'll be lots of books on offer - and lots of fun excerpts and chat!

See you there!


Annabeth Leong said...

Thanks for the post! I've often wondered about the wisdom of freebies, though for someone different reasons. A lot of times, I've seen situations where readers seem to have barely any interest in receiving the book free. I've wondered if it's a bad image to essentially be begging someone to take a free copy of a book. I worry that it lowers the perceived value of the work (i.e. a reader might be thinking, "This author can't even _give_ her work away -- Why should I buy it?")

I think this is a big issue for newer writers -- generally, the more established a writer is, the more he or she can find readers who are excited about a free copy. If there is someone who _wants_ a free copy, I totally agree with you about the value of goodwill, and the importance of just getting a book into another reader's hands -- maybe they'll like the next book, etc.

Emily said...

Thanks for your post! I agree, it makes it much more personal if you have an author send you a copy then if you just buy it yourself. I know that I've read new authors by winning an ebook of their work and it leads to me often becoming fans of their work and reading more of their books. I've gotten into both authors and series by receiving the first book from a contest. It's not only nice, but it shows that the author cares, that they're not just about the money. It is expensive to read all the books I want to, so I appreciate the book more when I win it or when the author gives me the chance to get it for free.

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