Giving Away Your Book Leads to More Sales

38693513_sNow that title may sound a little backwards; how do you give your book away for free and still make money, but it is a statement of fact.

Authors who have given away their book for the purpose of gaining book reviews have found that it leads to more sales.

There are a number of ways to give away your book and today I want to touch on three:

  1. Give away printed copies as a gift or door prize. When you are speaking at a local library or event, offer to have a drawing and give a copy of your book as a gift. Or at your local chamber event or rotary meeting offer your book as a door prize. Insert a book mark or post-it note with a request for an Amazon book review.
  2. When your book first comes out, email your contacts with the following message:

“I’ve just published my book called “The Best Book Ever” and would like to offer you a free electronic version of my book if you would be willing to write a review on Amazon.” 

As people respond, send them a PDF version of your book. This costs you nothing but offers the opportunity to create buzz about your book and hopefully garner additional book reviews.

Keep track of those who receive your book and circle back one month later and connect with those that haven’t yet written a review.

“Just wanted to touch base. I sent you a copy of “The Best Book Ever” last month and I noticed you haven’t written a review. Have you had a chance to read the book? Just wanted to remind you about your willingness to write a review. Here is a link to the Amazon page for my book: 

Visit your Amazon page and make sure you send each person who does leave a review a thank you note; whether the review is good or not, we should always take time to say thanks.

Author Brian Basham has this to say about the power of reviews, even those that are negative:

I’ve noticed that reviews push sales from my observations watching other authors. I’ve seen books that have an overall ranking of 2.5 with 50+ reviews outsell books with 5 reviews of 5*.

  1. Give your book away as part of the Amazon, GoodReads or BookBub programs. There are a variety of ways to give you book away using these large powerhouse retailers:
  • Offer the first book in the series for free
  • Offer your book for free for a limited time
  • Offer a sample of your book for free

Author, Molly Greene has written an insightful article called Reviews Matter in which she delves deeply into the process of getting reviews. Here is just part of her advice:

The best book in the world could be for sale on Amazon for $2.99  – or wherever – and not get a second look from potential browsers. And one of the fastest ways to rack up reviews is to give your books away …for free.

Lots of authors are anti-free, which I completely understand, although free giveaways are almost guaranteed to sell other titles, especially in a series. This email (and subsequent review) from a reader illustrates that point:

I stumbled across Mark of The Loon through a [free] BookBub email listing, but as soon as I started reading…I was HOOKED!! I purchased the whole Gen Delacourt series as soon as I finished Book 1.

Feeling more adventurous? Looking to give away more books? Writer’s Digest published the article, How to Get Book Reviews, by author, Joel Friedlander, that offers these great resources to check out:

  • Midwest Book Review welcomes self-published books, and their website is a wealth of information on reviews.
  • Indie Reader, a new website, invites authors to submit their books for review, and they have published over 150 reviews on their site already.
  • Self-Publishing Review allows reviewers to post book reviews, and members (just an opt-in) can post to the site.
  • Book Blogs, a site for book bloggers, has over 1,500 bloggers who say they review books. It’s a good place to explore.

One Warning: Paying or bartering for reviews or even writing a positive review about yourself is illegal.

From an article on the subject by attorney Aaron Kelly we learn:

That glowing review you bartered for on The boat-load of “atta boys” you bought on Fiverr? Well, they could cost you five or more figures.

The New York Attorney General’s office announced a multi-company settlement involving fake online reviews.

Back to the subject at hand…giving your books away for free; by giving copies to people who might be willing to write a review (good, bad or indifferent – a review is still a good thing.) you increase the awareness of your book(s) and help lead to additional purchases.

In the Molly Greene article, she quotes Ricci Wolman, founder and CEO of Written Word Media, who said this on Joanna Penn’s blog about reviews:

What we’ve found … is that the number of reviews is actually more important than the overall review score. Ten 5-star reviews is actually less good from a reader perspective than 50 reviews with an overall review score of 3 or 3.5-stars … because readers are skeptical of reviews sometimes, so when they see a small number of high-rated reviews, they assume it’s the author’s mom and sister and daughter who’ve reviewed the book. Once you get to 50, 100 reviews, some of that skepticism goes. [Readers] know some people are going to like the book and some are not. There are Pulitzer Prize winners out there with overall review scores of 3-3.5.

Bottom Line: I know how hard you worked on your book and the idea of giving something away for free that you have poured your whole heart and soul into may seem counterintuitive. But truly, the strategic offering of your book for free for the purpose of reviews will pay for itself and more over time. This is something we work with our authors on every day so if you have questions, please give me a call.