Free Book Promotions That Make Sense

When I posted about how Indie authors are undervaluing their work, reactions poured in via Facebook, Twitter, post comments, and email. After gathering all of the information, I drew some interesting conclusions.

Reader Reaction

Readers were quick to support my stance that authors should not feel obligated to give away their work. However, readers were also quick to point out that because of free book promotions, they have gone on to buy several other books in the author’s catalogue. This is exactly what authors hope will happen.

There was an odd takeaway though. One reader stated that an author she found through a free promotion tends to rotate which book she gives away. Because of that, the reader admitted to never buying any books from that author—she just waits for them to be free. While this is disheartening, can anyone really fault the reader?

So, even though I have heard many readers say, “I’ll get it when it is free,” the ones who do not share that opinion were quick to stand up and support the authors they love.

Author Reaction

The reaction among authors varied. Authors who had released only one novel unanimously said that giving away their work was not very helpful. Some got a few reviews out of it while others did not. Since few readers leave reviews, giving away books in hope of getting them was a crapshoot. (Getting reviews is hard. You can sell a hundred books and be lucky to get one review out of it.)

Writers who had released more than one book told me that their free promos worked much like paid ones. They got a high number of downloads, followed by an immediate boost in sales for their other books. The boosts ranged from a couple of copies to around a hundred. This was largely dependent on either the number of free copies downloaded or the author’s popularity. Regardless, once that boost was over, sales flatlined.

The best results, and the most insightful comments, came from authors I already knew to be successful. These authors have strong (some would say jealousy-inducing) followings. They don’t just throw books up on Amazon and hope for the best. They cross-promote with other authors, they interact with their fan base, and they have a ton of books out. For them, free promotions help dramatically, provided they use the right method. The authors give away either a novella (often related to another book) or the first book in a series, which nudges newly acquired readers to buy more.

The Takeaways

Free book promotions work best when done strategically.

If an author has only released one book, there is nothing left for the reader to buy; therefore, getting a few reviews and gaining a bit of buzz is the best they can do.

Successful writers tend to give away novellas, side stories, prequels, or the first book in a series. In other words, they usually give away something intended as an ad. More so, their giveaways are temporary. When it isn’t promo time, those books have a price tag. So, when readers get it for free, they score a real deal.

In other words, successful Indie authors understand how to run a business. They leverage promos, products, and prices. They show the value of their work, and they know how to offer deals.

The bottom line: Always make sure there is something left on your shelf for readers to buy.