Do You Give Your Book Away?

Do You Give Your Book

My writing goal has always been to get people to read my books. Pretty simple, eh?

Those of you who’ve been following my journey (or are published authors yourself) know it isn’t that easy. One of the things I’ve been tossing around is giving away my full-length novels for free.

I already give away short stories as subscriber magnets for my newsletter…but how about an entire book? Will this help me in the long run? Especially when I only have two books available for sale at the moment?

Despite the cautions from others that this devalues my work and it only makes sense if you more books in the series, I decided to do it anyway. Why? Because I want to know. Don’t you?

So, I did some experiments with my FREE days through my Kindle Contract. (For those of you who don’t know what this is, if you sign up to be exclusive with Amazon, they give you two advertising options during each 90 day contract. Either you can drop you book price to free for 5 days (consecutive or non-consecutive) OR you can participate in one countdown deal.)

Back in February, I blogged about my countdown deal for Love, Lies & Clones where I basically lost money…about 50% of my investment. Last week, I had a countdown deal on my other novel, Blood & Holy Water, where I did it smarter. The results? I still lost about 33% of my advertising investment. (i.e. I put in about $150 in advertising and made back about $110 back.)

So…what about FREE days instead?

With Love, Lies & Clones, I had five free days to experiment with. Here’s what I did. (Note, I don’t know if there is spillover sales for my other novel from these downloads.)

  • April 27th — No Advertising — 286 copies downloaded — $22 in extra sales over the next few days, no increase in Kindle Unlimited page reads. Result was a net profit of $22 with no advertising cost.
  • May 11th & 12th— Ran a Genre Pulse ad for $12.50 on the 11th followed by another Free day on May 12th — 810 copies downloaded over the 2 days (360 on day 1 and 450 on day 2) — $6 in extra sales over the next few days and an extra $14.50 in increased Kindle Unlimited page reads over the next two weeks. Result was a net profit of $8.
  • May 25th — Ran a Fussy Librarian ad for $27 and had my book priced 99 cents before and after the promo. 578 copies were downloaded — Only made back $3 because of the 99 cent pricing and had a page bump that only was an extra $3.5. Results were a net loss of $21. If I would have kept my book at full price, this promo would have broke even. I also had the memorial day holiday here, so I don’t know if this was run at the best time.
  • June 26th — Ran a Robin Reads Ad for $60 — 1483 copies were downloaded – Made back $42.63 in extra sales and I’m unsure on the KU page reads at this point. Probably will make this promo break even.

Non-Fiscal Benefits:

  • Newsletter signups: I have had 24 sign-ups from this promo. (I have a “download my free prequel” link in the front matter and back matter of the book.)
  • Social Media Follows: I know I’ve had some, but didn’t quantify them. Probably the same number as newsletter signups.
  • Reviews: I received some reviews on goodreads and amazon. (4 amazon reviews, 13 goodreads) I had been fearful they’d be extra critical because the book was free, but they weren’t.
  • Exposure: How do you quantify just having people see your story?

So, overall, free days appear to get your book(s) in more hands and bring in more net revenue than countdown days. (I don’t know how true this statement is if you’re doing a lot of cross promotion and not paying for advertising.) Giving your book away is also a great way to get your book out into the world, whether or not it’s the first in a series–especially for a newer author.

My Tips for Setting up a Free Day.

  1. No advertising is a good place to start. Perhaps promote it with other authors. People will find your book, and you may even get spill-over sales the next day (I did.) I will be repeating this method to see if it’s consistent.
  2. If you’re advertising, it appears best to only have your book available for free for a single day. Consecutive days will result in more downloads, but won’t make money back to pay for your advertising.
  3. Don’t spend a ton on advertising. Moving forward, I’m going to try to shoot for the $25 or under price tag.
  4. Keep your book full price before and after the free promotion.

I’m still left with some internal debates. Is giving your book away free devaluing your work? Is there long term complications? I don’t have those answers. I write because I love it and it’s fun. And seeing thousands of people download my book is pretty darn fun!

What do you think? Have you given your book away free, and what were your outcomes?

About Joynell Schultz

Writer & lover of all types of speculative fiction. I'm shivering in northern Wisconsin. Learn about my novels here: http://Author.to/JoynellSchultz
This entry was posted in Marketing, My Writing Journey and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Do You Give Your Book Away?

  1. I have but certainly not with the success you’ve enjoyed. I have however considered trying another campaign.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think a lot depends on your genre and cover. I have another author friend who just told me with the same Robin Reads Ad I ran, she gave away nearly 5000 copies. Just like paid sales, free “sales” have to find the right reader, too.

      Like

  2. I’m not ready to publish but I appreciate all the information I can find from other authors on the pros and cons of publishing. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kudos to you for ignoring the detractors and finding out for yourself! Just like not all books are for all readers, successful promos and marketing is different for each author and not a one-size-fits-all.

    The whole refusal to run a free-book campaign because it devalues work is lost on me. Our books only have value to us… until they’re downloaded/purchased. Considering the added costs of covers, editing/formatting, marketing, and the amount of personal time involved, our books have us sitting in the red column.

    Running a free or sale-priced promo won’t land a book on the bestseller list, but it will get an unread book into a reader’s hands. Value kicks in and begins to grow, especially if they remember our name and become a follower, write a review, and tell their friends.

    Continued success to you! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great insight here! I love your point about a book has no value if nobody’s reading it. And yes, in general, books are not a money maker. Some authors seem to have the magic formula, but I haven’t discovered it yet. Keep writing and a continued success to you, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m like you, I want as many people as possible to have the opportunity to read my work so I’m all for free giveaways. I’m currently enrolled in KDP Select and I’ve done 3 free days so far (the most recent day was earlier this week) since publishing my first novel in April. I don’t agree with those who say it devalues your work. I personally view it as a long term investment. When you’re an unknown author people are far more likely to take a chance on your book if they don’t have to pay full price for it. And if they subsequently enjoy your book and become a fan, those readers are much more likely to purchase your next book.

    The only real downside of giving free copies away is that you have no way of knowing when or even if someone will actually get around to reading your book. If the average Amazon freebie hunter is anything like me, it may be months or even years before they decide to read the books they’ve downloaded, and until they do they can’t become a fan and future purchaser.

    It’s also a little frustrating that lots of free downloads doesn’t translate into an increase of customer reviews, which is really important for self-published authors.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve read somewhere that it takes about 1000 free downloads to equal 1 review…and about 100 paid downloads to equal 1 review…so…to me, that would mean that 1/10th of the people read your free book. It’s still readers.

      The other part that I didn’t go into is if everyone gives their books away, readers come to expect all books to be free and may hurt all us indie authors in the future. I still choose to participate, though.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I also just did my first free promo recently! I was in camp this devalues our work, tbh, but I was also curious and my opinions are actually changing a bit. Most of my writer friends are on the traditional path, and I have a creative writing degree so was always kind of groomed for the traditional path. The self-publishing thing was an interesting choice for me but I still keep my eye on what the traditional world is doing. And when I think about it, they give away A LOT of free books, too. What is an ARC if not a free book? They have free days for their authors and these huge conventions are nothing if not free book days for the attendees. And in my genre (YA fantasy) where Big Five is king, I sort of can’t help but think I should be doing what they’re doing. I don’t have a publisher behind me to send out pallet loads of ARCs to reviewers to hype my book but I can give my book away for free on Kindle, so I gave it a go. I had something like 397 downloads in two days and I didn’t do any advertising whatsoever except for threw it up on Twitter and Instagram, so I thought that was pretty cool. And I only have the one book out but the second in the series coming out in three weeks. The preorders for my second book doubled and I too, saw some spillover sales. All in all, I think I would probably do it again! I’m glad to see you had success as well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great comment on the Big Five giving a ton of books away free, too. I hadn’t thought about that. I’m glad you’re seeing some success with Free books. I think if we had a long series, this would work even better…but, I’m just happy to know that when you give your book away, you’re not losing. All I see are gains, even if they are small.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I recently read an article through ALLi in which someone commented book three is the “game changer” so there’s that 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’ve read that too. Do you think you that’s third book in a series or just third book in general?

          Like

          • I would think it’s the third book in general. Sometimes I wonder honestly, if having three books in a series is harder than three books period. If someone doesn’t like your first book in a series, then you’re kinda in trouble with only having those be your three books, you know? Whereas if you have three books period, then you potentially have more chances to win people over, especially if your three books are in the same genre. Because if your three books are in the same genre, then I think you get the series effect even if you don’t have a series so it’s almost better? I’m not sure though. My two are a series (there will be four total), but it is weird because even though the second book is coming out, I feel like I’m still constantly promoting the first book because you have to read the first book first, so even though I sort of want to be moving it along, I’m still always going back to book one. The other complication is with reviewers, because you have to start them with book one as well, so I’m over here like, “I have ARCs, but you have to read book one first” which is a tough sell to reviewers.

            Like

  6. Great post Joynell.
    I always cringe at the thought of free or .99 cent eBook. However, as an introduction to a series or promotional campaign it does make some sense. The best form of advertising is word-of-mouth, and we all know that can’t happen if nobody has read the book.

    Like

  7. Steve Vernon says:

    Reblogged this on YOURS IN STORYTELLING… and commented:
    Because I like to sell my books widely – through Kobo, Nook, Smashwords and other venues BESIDES Kindle – I don’t have the option of setting up a free giveaway.

    I know there are book giveaway services, but I don’t have all that much incentive to use them more than I do.

    But, I thought that you folks out there might be interested in how one author does it – so give this article a read.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on E. Paige Burks and commented:
    Great article, as always, from Joynell Schultz!

    Like

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