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Free eBook Promotions Can Be Pure Gold for Authors

Well it’s time for another Free Book Promotion. The last one pushed by mystery novel, Black Mountain Secrets, up the Amazon ranking ladder to number ten. But it was definitely a learning experience.

One lesson I learned was you needed more than a general goal of being a successful writer. Giving your work away for nothing had to have a purpose for me. I know some authors refuse to give their books away. Being a relatively new author, I needed to get my work out in the reader’s hands.

As I always do in this type of situation, I went to my HBS Author’s Spotlight Crew to find out what their goals were in giving their books away. Maybe that would set a fire under me to try it again.

Below is a summary of the experiences the Crew had by category and subtitle. Their opinions are separated into five major categories: Exposure, Sales, Reviews, Rankings and Referrals. (Over 90 successful and outstanding authors were questioned about their giveaway goals and experiences.)

Exposure

According to our Crew, exposure was the leading goal for their giveaways. You know, get the word out and generate interest with readers so they will read a sample of their work.

Try a sample of my writing style

Award-winning and best-selling mystery Author Patricia McLinn @PatriciaMcLinn. She is the author of 28 novels offered this.

“I love being able to give readers a book for free. By giving a reader a book for free, I allow the reader a chance to judge for him/herself if my voice, characters and world suit them. My goal in offering a free book or other giveaway is to provide a stress-free (especially for me ) introduction to my writing … and/or to give a gift to loyal readers.”

Name recognition

International Best-Selling Author Luke Romyn @LukeRomyn. He writes Mystery & Thrillers, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy novels thought this.

“My book giveaways are usually extremely successful, generating huge buzz for my books and large sales afterward. But even the ones that didn’t end up selling me heaps of books were beneficial in that they help get my name out there, with new people reading my words, and hopefully making fans of them for my other works.”

Bestselling Author Tara Sivec @tarasivec is the  author of the Chocolate Lovers series. She said:

“If I have to give away free books to get my name out there more, that’s okay with me. One free book could bring in five new fans when the person tells them they loved the book, and that is totally worth the price.”

Visibility

San Francisco Author Chad Schimke @chadschimke writes Mystery & Thrillers. He had this opinion.

“I have one free book that’s available on my blog and as well as a Goodread’s contest to receive a physical book sent through the mail. I think readers appreciate the free book. It often prompts them to pick up another title because they enjoyed it. My main goal in promotion is to gain visibility…”

Find new readers

Author Catherine Bybee @catherinebybee is a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Romance Author, said this.

“Most of my fans come from my contemporary or time travel world. Giving readers something for free gives them the opportunity to see if they’d like my writing style in the paranormal.

I think giving away free books is a great way to find new readers. The only real drawback is for a new writer that doesn’t have more books to sell. In this case I suggest they hold off.”

Award-Winning Author Jade Kerrion @JadeKerrion writes the DOUBLE HELIX series. She offered this.

“I’ve had one Kindle Select promotion to date, and it was for my award-winning debut novel, PERFECTION UNLEASHED. The promotion was a success… My intention was to gain traction as a debut author and to get my book into the hands of readers. If they liked it, I figured they would buy the rest of the books in the DOUBLE HELIX series.”

Indie authors

Mystery Author R.P. Dahlke @rpdahlke is the author The Lalla Bains mystery series. She Applauded.

“I believe that Amazon’s KDP giveaways are the best thing that ever happened to Indie authors.”

Sales

Sales came in second in our list of goals. Many of the authors got a bounce in their sales after the giveaways. Some included the promotion as a part of their book launch. Most agreed giveaways were a good promotional tool.

First in a series then buy other titles

Young Author Richard L. Sanders @RichLSanders is a bestselling Science Fiction & Fantasy author. He had this advice.

“If I have any success it is 100% because I’ve been able to give the first book in my series away for free. This serves as a kind of demo that allows readers to give my stories a chance at no financial risk to them and it tells them that I believe in my product so much that I’m happy to give the first book away for free. More often than not readers who download the free book and read it are pretty willing to buy the sequels. Many of them send me e-mails and are eager to know when the next book will be out, which always feels like a pat on the back and brings a smile to my face.”

Science Fiction & Fantasy Author Kevin Rau @kevin_rau is the author of the H.E.R.O. superhero book series. Kevin added his experience.

“I keep H.E.R.O. – Metamorphosis, the first (and full-length) novel in the series free all the time or at least for the near future. I’ve got a dozen books out; it makes me feel good to provide something for people to look at and decide if they like my writing, and want to continue with it, at no risk/cost to them.

The goals include giving back something creative to people, another is to allow people to try out my writing, and decide if they like it.”

Amazon Best Selling Author Lizzy Stevens @LizzyStevens123 writes Paranormal, Romance and Woman’s fiction. She said this about first in a series.

“I have given my books away free in the past and probably will again in the future but I don’t like doing it. I had great success with it. I made it onto the top 100 list in several categories with it and was even in the top 10 of that list. But just because a book is free doesn’t mean people are going to go get it. You still have to market and promote that the book is free. You still have to work just as hard getting the name out there that it’s free as you would if it wasn’t free.

It’s hard for an author to compete with free books. It’s a good tool to get people interested in your books by letting them try one. So the way I normally do it is I give book one of a series away free in the hopes that it will help boost the sales of book two. So the thought process behind it is that I am trying to pick up sales for the newer released sequel to the one I’m giving away.”

Reviews

Reviews were next in the author’s goals list. They were looking for good reviews to influence readers in their buying decisions.

Author Diane Strong @DianeIStrong writes Mystery & Thrillers and Short Stories about running. Diane said this.

“The main reason I give books away is to introduce new readers to my work. Ultimately, when I give a book away, I would like to get a review. I don’t think readers realize how important it is to review books they have been given. If the readers return for more of my books because of the giveaways, I will continue to do it. Then it becomes VERY worthwhile.”

Sandy Appleyard @sandyappleyard is a Romantic Suspense and Mystery & Thrillers Author. Her experience was this.

“I do book giveaways all the time via draws on my Facebook page, Goodreads and KDP Select free promotion days. They generally create some interest in my work, but as far as impacting sales, I haven’t seen much of that yet. For my last book I received some great reviews from my giveaways, so perhaps the benefits aren’t necessarily monetary.”

Rankings

Any Amazon activity on a title moves a book up in the rankings on their list and within a genre. There are several reasons the authors thought were important to improve their rankings.

Top ranking

Best Selling Author M. R. Cornelius @marshacornelius writes post-apocalyptic thrillers. Marsha had this to say about rankings.

“Nothing compares to the giveaways on Amazon. If I really promote the freebie… During the two days that my book is free, my ranking on Amazon shoots way up. And I can usually get in the Top 100 FREE overall.

That’s priceless, because once my book goes back to $3.99, my ranking is right up there. Now buyers see my book, and buy it. And if I can stay in the top 20, on the first page of Amazon, that’s pure gold.”

Amazon promotes

Best-Selling Author Claude Bouchard @ceebee308 writes Mystery & Thrillers novels in the Vigilante Series. Claude likes to promote.

“Though it hasn’t been the case with everyone who has tried book giveaways via the KDP Select program, I have been fortunate enough to have several successful promotions.

Explained in simple terms, if one gives away enough books and obtain a high overall ranking in the Kindle Free store, Amazon subsequently promotes the book once it’s back on paid status.”

Bestsellers

Award-winning and best-selling Author Katherine Owen @KatherineOwen01 writes Contemporary Romance and Women’s Contemporary Fiction.

“I’ve had a mixed experience with giving away books. For a while, through the middle of last year, giving away free books on Amazon spun you into the best seller lists and to be seen is still everything. The free aspect has changed dramatically in the past few months. In my own experience with Amazon Select, the rewards for going free have been diminished and rankings on the best seller lists on Amazon are much harder to come by. (Your mileage may vary.)”

Need to promote

International Best Selling Author, Stacy Eaton @StacySEaton had the increase in the rankings that she wanted and more. Stacy added her advice.

“All in all, my experiences with listing my books for free on Amazon have been good. This last giveaway was the best and I loved seeing the numbers roll in. After I came off my free days, I continued to rank in some of the categories for almost two weeks.

My goal is always to get my story out there into the hands of readers… there were times I did not promote my free day as well as I should.”

Referrals and Recommendations

Referrals and recommendations from readers is an important goal in giving your books away free.

Hoping for a recommendation from a non-buyer

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Ruth Cardello @RuthieCardello is the author of the Legacy Collection. Ruth added this.

“I put my first book FREE on all the major vendors in April of 2011. Since then approximately 1 million people have downloaded it. Now, not all read it, I’m sure. Also, not everyone loves it.  However, enough people come back to purchase book 2 that I consider it the number one most successful promotion I did for my book series.  It put my book in the hands of many readers who may not have taken a chance on a new author if they had to pay for the first book.”

Read lists

Author Kellie Larsen Murphy @aguiltymind is the Psychological suspense author of A Guilty Mind and a freelance writer. Kellie shared her experience.

“I have only done one giveaway and that was on Goodreads. I gave away 5 books and had nearly 500 people enter to win. Although I felt that the giveaway did put my book in front of people and about 250 of those same folks added my book to their “to-read” list, it’s difficult to say whether it will translate into sustainable sales. I don’t think there’s really any downside with this type of marketing campaign; however, since it’s not really expensive and potential readers might find your book.”

Downside – Maybe Fools Gold

Some of my authors had warning for other authors trying the Free Promotion route, “Free promotions maybe FOOLS GOLD”.

Short-term Attention, no long-term gain

Author Cheryl Shireman @cherylshireman is the author of the ‘Life is But a Dream’ series and the ‘Cooper Moon’ series among many novels. Cheryl offered.

“Since Select has made it possible to give away books for free on Amazon, there have been a lot of writers who have offered their books to readers for free. It can be a good way to attract short-term attention to your novel, but I am not sure what long-term effect giving away free copies will have on sales. If those readers love the book and continue on to the next book in the series, that would be wonderful. Any way you look at it, a lot of readers were exposed to the series, and that is always a good thing.”

Crowded marketplace

Award-winning Author Jessica Kristie @jesskristie is an author, poetess and an activist against human trafficking. Jessica sees something happening.

“I’ve had tremendous success with Goodreads giveaways. The Kindle free days have found some success but the market is now flooded and the competition is great to even be successful giving it away free. You have to go into it knowing that you’re growing your readership and getting your name out there. There is absolutely value in that no matter how you look at it.”

Saturated – Free book fatigue

Rachelle Ayala @AyalaRachelle is a Romance Historical author. She had this to add.

“I’ve had great success with the first giveaway on Amazon of each of my first two novels. However, subsequent giveaways have not been that rewarding. I am seeing a diminishing return on giveaways in the less than one year that I’ve published. The reasons are many, but I suspect it is free book fatigue.

That said, I do believe free is useful for gaining exposure. But in the future, I think authors would do better to target their free books to the audience most likely to read their books.

I had great success with giving away books back in 2011…it’s not as much of an attention getting now that the market is so saturated.”

Ranking dropped

Author Carol Davis Luce @CarolDavisLuce is the known as the NightWriter for her series of “Night” mystery novels starting with Night Stalker. Carol had a different experience.

“It can be useful for the first in a series, and for new authors breaking into the market. I’ve had better success with the .99 cent book promotions where, after the sale… I’m not a big fan of giving my books away. The two times I had a Free promotion, my ranking dropped significantly, only to quickly rise higher than before the promotion. I strongly feel that in the past year the market has been glutted with free ebooks. Stop the insanity, please!”

Companion post: Free Books: Give it away. Just give it away.

This post discusses the 10 Easy Planning Steps for a book promotion, as well as, Setting up Goals and Objectives, and How to Develop a Strategy and Pre-Promotion plan. It is a must read if you’re going do a Free Book Promotion.

Black Mountain Secrets – FREE

Black Mountain Secrets – A Jonathon Stone Novel – a Mystery Book FREE at Amazon Starting May 23 for 2 days. It has it all: Murder – Espionage – Intrigue.  Just in time for your Memorial Day weekend reading.

Conclusion

Our top authors give their take on Free Book Promotions; the good and the bad. Whether your goal is more exposure, increase in sales, good reviews, high rankings on Amazon or referrals to other readers, you must remember there could be a downside. Like Author Katherine Owen said, “Your mileage may vary”.

Questions

What are your goals for your next Free Book Promotions?

Did we miss a goal along the way?

HBS Author’s Spotlight Crew

The author comments are excerpts from the question and answer section of the individual author’s posts conducted by the HBS Author’s Spotlight. You can view the author’s complete answers on their individual posts. Just click on their name above in their comments or click their name below. The link will take you to their profiles and Q/A session.

Follow me:

Follow Me on Twitter: @jimhbs

Or EMAIL at: jim@jamesmoushon.com

View my website: James Moushon – Mystery Writer

Or visit my blog: The eBook Author Corner

Take a look at my Author’s blog: HBS Author’s Spotlight

Check out the Jonathon Stone Mystery Novels: Call Off The Dogs

Or newly released: Free starting 5/23/2013 for 2 days – Black Mountain Secrets

About James Moushon

Avatar of James Moushon
I am a published writer in the electronic document field. Starting over 15 years ago, I helped lead the startup of the electronic forms industry in the creation, conversion and usage of electronic forms by supplying that industry with a continuing source of published literature, software products and training seminars. I worked with over 200 companies and organizations like the IRS, Commerce Clearing House, Nutrilite, UPS, MGM, Sony International and Royal Paper Box with their conversion from paper forms to electronic forms. In 2003 I changed my focus to ebooks and their development. I commented in a recent interview: “The start of the ebook industry as a major publishing method in many ways parallels the start of the acceptance of electronic forms by businesses in the mid 1990’s. Back then major companies controlled the process but with the advent of inexpensive technology (laser printers), the ease of entry and the development of software to drive these devices, the electronic forms industry was formed. Today the ebook reader and new software are driving the startup of the ebook industry.”

11 comments

  1. thanks Henry. you do such a good job of taking my plain post and making it look great. the authors will all respond in some way. either by comment or social media I am sure.

    james

  2. I have been successfully self-publishing since 1989. I have three true best-sellers – each with over 100,000 copies sold.

    One of the reasons for my success is that I have given away over 13,000 copies of print editions of my books. The cost to me for this is over $50,000. But I have generated over $1.5 million in pretax profits from my books over the years. Of course, there are many other reasons for my success. Most of the reason for my success have to do with doing what others are not doing. In fact, I like to do just the opposite of what the so-called book experts say that should be done. An example, I shy away from Social Media, knowing that there are many much more powerful ways to market books.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    International Best-Selling Author
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 175,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

  3. I’m afraid I may be changing my tune since James and I first talked about KDP Select. My latest campaign with them, June 3 & 4, was very disappointing. I have sold over 900 copies of my book once it went back on sale. The minimum sold was just over 200. One week after my freebie, I’ve sold 7 books. I heard Amazon changed the way they converted sales once the book went from free to paid. Ouch! Won’t be doing that anymore.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this information. I agree with James, you did a great job and it looks great. I will share it for sure.

  5. As an author, this was a helpful post for me. I often struggle with the “to give away or not to give away” question regarding my work. In the end, I think giveaways ARE a good way to gain exposure, just as they are in other sectors of the retail business. When launching a new item, big companies often give samples away for free or reduced price to get customers to try their products. But, eventually you do have to charge for your work or people will begin to view it as inferior or even worthless. If you don’t emphasize the value your own “product”, nobody else will see it as having value, either.

  6. I have written and published nine books on Amazon.com and Createspace.com. “The Edge of Light”, “Beyond the Edge of Light”, “Life’s Journeys,” “Coming Out” and Discovering the Rainbow,” Terry, In Loving Memory,” “Sammy,” “Points to Ponder,” “A Prince That Would Be King,” and “Life’s Attractions.”

  7. I am the author of urban fantasy and chick-lit novel Sweet Jasmine, Cakes and Magic. I attend many functions and charity events. I always donate my book as a prize and sign the copy for the lucky winner. It’s a wonderful way of creating free exposure and it’s always nice to give someone something special. The book is then past around and read by more and more people. I think donating your book is therefore positive.
    My book is available through Kindle and promote my book to the world sometimes you have to speculate to accumulate x

  8. Catherine,thanks for your input. I think you touched on a key point. If you can get readers to pass it around that could huge in the long run. if the book sets on a shelf or dies a slow death on a kindle, your exposure is limited.

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