Book Giveaways: Author ToolBox

It’s time for my May contribution to the #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop where dozens of authors post their thoughts on subjects of writing.  This month I discuss the pluses and minuses of book giveaways.  Are they a good idea or a fool’s paradise?

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Last weekend I ran a Kindle Direct Publishing giveaway for MELTING SAND, the first book in my Miles Stevens, CIA suspense series. Hundreds of copies of the e-book were shot into cyberspace, moving it handsomely up the Amazon ranking, if only for a short period. This was my second Kindle Direct giveaway in the past eight years, each lasting two days.

I’ve provided limited copies of my books to advance reviewers, friends, and family.  I’ve also run promos on Amazon and Goodreads where I’ve offered a small number of books via a lottery system.  But pricing my e-book at $0.00 is not something I easily do, even for two days.

So, why do it?

Authors are divided on the benefits of offering free books. Researching the subject, I found as many writers are against giveaways as there are favor. Some of their opinions are based on empirical evidence; others on gut feel.  Here’s a brief summary of what I found along with my experiences:

Reasons supporting giveaways:

  • Authors need to generate interest in their work. With an estimated 600K to 1 million book titles published each year in the U.S., half being self-published, it is difficult to rise above the crowd. What better way to get your book in the hands of readers than to give them a copy? With the Kindle Direct giveaway program, it costs the author nothing, other than lost revenue, and can get hundreds, if not thousands, of copies to readers.
  • Giving away one of your books may generate sales of your other titles. My hope in giving away the first book in the Miles Stevens series was it would generate interest in the others in the series, including the recent release of GONE VIRAL. I saw evidence this occurred, but not what I’d consider a “swell in sales.”
  • You can build a following by asking recipients of your free book to agree to receive your newsletter or to follow your blog. My recent Kindle giveaway didn’t require additional action, but I’ve tried to gain email followers by offering free e-books in the past. Results were minimal.
  • Giveaways can generate book reviews. It’s true, but to get just a handful of reviews may require giving away hundreds of books.  It’s too early to assess results from last week’s Kindle giveaway, but I have received reviews from Amazon and Goodreads giveaways. A small percentage of those getting copies did review my book(s), particularly on Goodreads. (Note: Goodreads recently changed its giveaway program.  My experience was with the old program.)

Reasons against giveaways:

  • Giveaways cheapen your product. Why would anyone pay for your e-book if they know you will eventually offer it for nothing?  If an author gets a reputation for offering free books, it could make it hard to demand a sufficient price for his/her other titles.
  • Few of those receiving free books read them. We all know readers with Kindles and iPads filled with free titles that they’ve downloaded from BookBub and dozens of other sites.  They will read very few of them and write reviews on even fewer.
  • It’s hard to make a living giving away your time and your product. Authors spend months (maybe years) writing and editing each novel. At some point, writers need to demand a fair price for their work, or writing just becomes a time-consuming hobby.

My conclusion–When the time is right, I will offer Kindle giveaways of my older titles, particularly those that might stimulate sales of my new releases, but it is not a marketing program that I will use regularly.

To enjoy other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, click HERE.  Happy blogging!Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

You can check out excerpts of my work in progress, AT THE RIVER’S EDGE, by going HERE:

Headsone in Creepy Cemetery with Bridge in background

25 thoughts on “Book Giveaways: Author ToolBox

  1. It is definitely tricky. I’ve often heard the theory that the fact that something is “free” often slants the recipient’s views about its value, but I also agree that it can be very challenging to stand out.
    I think one alternative can be to reduce the cost without making it completely free, and to specifically offer a copy to those who have established themselves as serious reviewers, and who agree to provide an honest review.
    Some of the authors I’ve interacted with have focused on providing advanced copies, with the aim of getting at least 6 honest reviews of the story posted shortly after the book is released, ideally with the reviewer also posting it on their own blog and other media.
    Another technique I’ve heard is for authors to specifically seek out local reviewers and book groups in their region who have a taste for the author’s genre. That way, after they’ve read/reviewed the book, the author can meet with the group and conduct a little in person round table discussion.
    Of course this is all second hand advice.
    There are many possibilities, but eventually we all find our way.
    Thank you for sharing your insights.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Adam, all good points. Funny you mention local reviewers. I have plans (this summer) to offer my current WIP to a regional writer’s group for advance reviews. I’m also planning to give away a limited number of my new book at signings, asking only a minimal donation to a local animal shelter. Both target to writers and readers who are more likely to provide reviews and follow my work.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember listening to a Joanna Penn podcast (at least I think I’m remembering correctly), and the point was that giveaways, as you point out in the ‘for’ column, are great for series. If you have three books, giving away the first one for free means sales for the rest of the series. I like the idea of giveaways, but I’m not sold one way or the other yet. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Some great points for and against giveaways. It’s tricky to know what to do, but I think with my trilogy giving away the first book around the release of the second might be the best idea. With my standalone books I’m hesitant to give them away at all, but maybe offer sales every so often instead!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m with you! I don’t like the idea of giving my books away for free. I’ve written two series, though, and am considering limited giveaways for the first book in each series. It’s the common advice, isn’t it? So far, giving books away hasn’t lead to much beyond an initial spike in ranking.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have a short story that’s permafree. It’s a little story between books 2 and 3 in my series. I had hoped it would generate interest in the other books, but I’m not so sure it has. Although, it’s the one ebook I never have to promote. It does well on its own. lol

    I don’t agree that giveaways cheapen a book, though. If done right, it’s a great thing to do. I see a lot of authors giving away a free copy during their release for a new book, which I don’t like, because I believe more people will try to win it then buy it. It’s better to wait to do a giveaway for a new book.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A great informative post on all sides. I side with you. It sounds like giveaways are a good thing for early work to generate numbers and exposure to your writing and more recent publications. I am also a firm believer in temporary deals and giveaways to generate excitement and traffic. Happy Hop Day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve noticed that some authors with many books in a series offer the first one for free. It’s not so much a promo like yours, but a sampler of the series for the reader looking for something new. 🙂


  8. As a reader, I will admit the “free first book in a series” gets me pretty often. I read that first book and then want to know what happens next! So purely from personal anecdote, this is effective for series. Not so much for standalone books. As an author, I’m with you. I’m not sure how worth it a giveaway is for my sales! The second book in my series under a pen name comes out in a few months and I plan to at least give this tool a try 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great points. There is a lot of overlap between this and game marketing as well. With the glut of cell phone developers, there was a huge shift in the market to have the cheapest game available. If an indie developer tried to sell a game for more than a buck or two there would be feedback calling them greedy even though many spend four or more years to develop a game and the feedback occurs regardless of how many hours of gameplay the game may offer. The market just won’t bear prices any higher than this now.
    As I saw a similar thing happen in the book market with the rise of indie published authors I feared the same thing would repeat in this market. The last thing we need is a drop in the believed expense for books. Hence, I am not a fan of releasing books for free. I believe just like in games it devalues the market as a whole. There would need to be a rise in teaser books ending in cliffhangers instead of complete novels to drive sales to the next book higher to compensate. Or book markets would need to develop some scheme repeating the freemium marketing strategy that still feels sketchy to me in the game market.
    Of course, many marketing strategists recommend it, including my own brother. Personally, I say do what feels right for you. I might take a tact like you and offer older books that are the first in a series for free, but I hesitate to release anything for free.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Victoria Marie Lees

    I agree that it seems absurd to give away your hard earned story, but then again, how do you acquire readers and people who actually want to purchase your writing? We need to get our name, our reputation out there to be “discovered.” It’s a difficult choice to make to give away your titles. Thanks for this informative post, D.R.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I have to say I fall on the side of not giving away free books. I do give print editions away for charity events and such. For eBooks, they are so inexpensive already. I worry if too many free books are out there, who is going to buy books? Just my personal thoughts.


  12. A good list of the pros and cons!

    I recently read a post on Goodreads giveaways. The author said they were still a good idea, even with the new cost, but she didn’t actually provide any sales or earnings figures to back up her assertion, so I’m not convinced.

    But I do think there is a benefit to occasional giveaways on the first book in a series, or even a 99c sale.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t decided if the new Goodreads giveaway is a price performer. For $119 it seems the primary value they add is notifying your followers, informing them of the giveaway, and they send a note to winners eight weeks later asking them to review the book.


  13. I have been going back and forth about giving away books, and kind of came to same conclusion as you. Sometimes a giveaway could work, but I don’t think I want to make a practice of giving out books. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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