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Giving Away Free Copies of Your Book as a Promotional Tool

Over the past year, I’ve learned that one of the best ways to promote a book is to give away free copies. Yes, free.

That’s crazy! You might be thinking. If we give away free books, then we’re losing possible sales.

Initially, I thought that too. I didn’t want to give away free copies, especially to my closest friends and family because they were among the few I knew would actually go out and purchase my book without arm-twisting.

But over the past year, I’ve realized I was wrong. My sales didn’t go down through the distribution of free books. In fact, they went up. The people who received my book for free helped promote it through Amazon reviews, blog write-ups, interviews, and numerous other ways. Their promotion helped carry the news and excitement about my book beyond the scope of my personal reach.

When giving away free copies of our books, of course, we’ll want to employ discernment and strategy. We’ll need to evaluate how many copies to giveaway, to whom, and when.

How many?

Many traditional publishers devote a percentage of the marketing budget to giving away books (exactly how many will likely depend on the size of the publisher). Often they’ll send free books to key blog reviewers, magazines, book distributors, major reviewers (like Publisher’s Weekly, Romantic Times, etc.) to solicit early reviews. This is one of the benefits of having a traditional publisher—they can get your book in front of a wide variety of reviewers.

My publisher also gives each author a specific number of copies for Influencers—people who agree to help spread the news of the book. The author compiles a list of names and addresses of friends who want to help. My publisher sends the free book once it becomes available to those on my list. (See the end of this post if you’re interested in being an Influencer for The Doctor’s Lady.) Obviously, in self-publishing and some small publishers, the author would need to take on the full cost and responsibility.

On top of what my publisher does, I giveaway books on blogs that host me for interviews. Giveaways spark interest, attract more people to the interview, and spread additional buzz about the book. The winner may become a devoted fan who will hopefully talk about the book to others within their circle of influence.

To Whom?

We should ideally fill our Influencer list with people who are excited about and willing to help promote our book. They need to know that in exchange for a free book they’re agreeing to positively support us in some way—usually through a blog review or interview, but the promotion can be something simple too (see this post for more ideas: 10 Simple Ways to Support Authors You Love).

We should also let our Influencers know that if they read our book and can’t support it (for whatever reason), then they aren’t obligated to do anything. In fact, we’d prefer that they not damage our promotional efforts by saying something negative. If they didn’t like the book, we can inform our Influencers that they can still help us by donating the book to a local library or to someone they know would enjoy it.

When?

If possible, we should generate interest and pre-orders by getting free copies out before release date. My publisher starts sending out giveaway copies in the month preceding the book’s release, so those who sign up to be Influencers usually get a sneak peek ahead of the general public.

It’s also helpful to giveaway copies during the couple of months after the release. This helps to keep the momentum and excitement going.

I’m giving away free copies of The Doctor’s Lady!

The Doctor’s Lady releases in less than two months!

I’m currently compiling a list of Influencers to send to my publisher. If  you'd like to read my Christian historical romance AND host me for a blog interview during September or October, please send me an email at jodyhedlund (at) jodyhedlund (dot) com with your mailing address (or use my contact page). I’ll send you additional information about the blog tour and add you to my Influencer list. Then you’ll be eligible for a free promotional copy of my book in August.

As always, I’m incredibly grateful for anyone who's willing to help promote my book in anyway, big or small! Thank you to everyone for your generosity and kindness in supporting me and my books!

So, what do you think? Have you considered the idea of giving away free books as a promotional tool? Do you think it helps? Or do you have hesitations about giving away books?

Photo credit: Flickr


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