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