Free book giveaways – when do they work? When don’t they?

Is offering books for free still a viable marketing option or is the “free” era gone forever?

Nail Your Novel

5275640024_243d3bcfcb_zOnce upon a time, authors could get a great start if they made their book available free. Back in 2008 and 2009, I got huge traction for the original Nail Your Novelwhen I offered it free as a pdf. There wasn’t much free material out there, so it got attention. Indeed, as far back as the early 2000s, science fiction writer Cory Doctorow had been giving away digital copies of his novels on a Creative Commons basis, famously saying that his chief problem was to battle obscurity.

But times change. ‘Free’ soon became a deluge. If readers grabbed them in the digital equivalent of a supermarket sweep, they probably didn’t even remember they had them. In all likelihood, those books sat unnoticed in the bottomless vaults of their Kindles.

I flirted briefly with free when KDP Select started. Indeed, I organised a free event to coincide with World Book…

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  1. This is something I’ve wondered about. I mean, it’s nice to win a free book, and maybe other people are more motivated about it than I am, but when I see books given away for free or at a reduced price, it seems to cheapen them somehow, like they’re not worth full value. But then again, that’s coming from someone who gets the majority of her books used or on loan from the library.

    1. I feel the same way you do which is why I couldn’t grasp the marketing concept behind giving a book away for free. (Now I think the market has become so over saturated with free books that it’s almost impossible to even give away free books.) Having said that, I think the rationale for giving books away was to create a buzz about the book via reviews on Amazon, blogs, etc. When a book is being talked about a lot (look at Harper Lee’s new book), readers want to know what all the hype is about and will go out and purchase the book.

  2. That’s so true. Generating positive word of mouth would make it worthwhile to give away books for free. I’d rather hit up all my favorite book blogs for that. What are your thoughts?

    1. Offering a free copy of your book to bloggers in exchange for a honest review is a great strategy!

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