Giveaways: Past performance . . .

This post is directed at self-published authors in general and in particular people who are at the beginning of their writing careers who are seeking information about the ups and downs of self-publishing.

Having self-published my first novels (The Expendable Man, 2011 and Making the Grade, 2012), I’m at the stage where I’m still working on the best way to market those books. One avenue that’s open to self-publishers is giveaways. The idea is that you’ll boost sales and followers by giving away a number of copies of your book because some of those who received the free copy will tell their friends (assuming they like your book) and some of the people who put their name in for the giveaway will buy it, read it and share it.

I decided to try giveaways offered by Kindle Direct and Goodreads. Here are the results:

I put Making the Grade on Kindle Direct — a program offered by Amazon whereby you give them exclusive right to sell the digital version of your book for a minimum of 90 days in return for a combination of benefits that include up to 5 free giveaway days. Some people report immediate increased sales after using the giveaway feature. That didn’t work in my case. 551 people got free copies of Making the Grade on July 18 & 19, but I’ve not sold a single copy since then. So much for an immediate boost. Of course, I may get a boost down the road. Time will tell.

Goodreads offers a different giveaway program. First, you’re giving away print, not digital copies. Second, you set the number of free books you want to offer and allow people to enter their names over a set time period (2 weeks, a month,…). I ran giveaways for both of my books, offering 5 copies of each. The results has been much better than with Kindle Direct. In addition to gaining positive reviews from some of the people who received the free copies, each book has more than 85 people who’ve marked it “to read and” in the case of Making the Grade, 11 people say they are currently reading it. In both cases more than 500 people put their names in to get the free copy.

Although there is a cost associated with giving away print copies, and there’s no guarantee that the winners will read or review your books, the Goodreads program has worked better for me than Kindle Direct. I may continue to use Kindle Direct for other reasons and, if I do get a sales boost that I can attribute to the giveaway, I will re-evaluate the benefits of that feature, but at the moment I’m not impressed.

A Deeper Look

A point should be made about giveaways in general. Of course, in our society, discounts are rampant and free stuff is offered everywhere. When you add your product to the list, you risk cheapening it. The same concern applies to setting the price of your digital books. Many people counsel offering your books at $0.99. That may lead to more individual sales than if you charge $3.99 or $8.99, but the big question is will the people who get your book for free or for $0.99 actually read it? Talking to one person who downloads a free book a week off Amazon (as a Premier member), her Kindle is loaded with books she hasn’t read and may never read.

In this new world of self-publishing there are no set formulas that will work for each writer. Techniques that work for fiction may not work for non-fiction; some approaches may work for Young Adult titles, but not for Mysteries. Established writers will get different results than newbies. That’s why it’s necessary to experiment. Questions, feedback and reports of your results with these programs are welcome.

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