Publishing a book people will read is a challenge. The marketplace is flooded with millions of books, but the median number of books the average adult reads per year is only four.
Not only do you have to write an exceptional book, you need to find creative ways to get your name and your work in front of your target audience. Even though what I’m about to suggest sounds counterintuitive, it has proven to be a successful strategy for established and first-time authors: Give your book away for free.
Now, I’m not saying you give your content away forever and always. (Though, this can be a good strategy for certain authors and books.) But, what I am saying is offering your book for free is a radically generous move with a host of benefits. Below are five reasons why you should consider giving your book away for free.
1. To Reach New Readers
As an author, you need to creatively create awareness for your work among a sea of options. Giving away your books is one way to get your name and work in front of others.
Shawn Coyne explains, “Exposing 10,000 people who care about the arena of your book gives you a chance that enough of them will actually read it and then recommend it to someone else.”
You see, word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful tool. It’s one of the four primary reasons people purchase books. And it has a compounding effect. Think about it this way.
Say you give away one book and the person who read it recommends it to three other people, who in turn purchase your book. Then, say these three people read your book and recommend it to three more people. If you’re doing the math in your head, the one book you gave away resulted in a total of 12 book sales.
Depending upon the type of book giveaway you conduct, the positive results of your giveaway can be observed in the short-term (e.g. free eBooks) and in generating long-term sales. This is why Shawn Coyne further states, “That word of mouth will keep [your] book alive from one year to the next.”
There are additional tangible benefits to giving away copies of your book, which we will explore below. But, I first want to stress this: You need to be strategic about your book giveaways. This leads me to my next point.
2. To Generate Reviews
More people reading your book will lead to more people leaving a review of your book with their favorite online retailer. There are two benefits to people reviewing your book.
First, positive reviews of your book provide a high-level of social proof for potential readers. Whether people are searching for a bike, restaurant, or book, positive reviews from consumers provide proof for readers your book is worth purchasing and reading.
Second, obtaining reviews for your book is a great way to enhance your book’s ranking with online retailers, especially Amazon. “What’s the most helpful thing an author can do to improve conversion of their book page?” is a question book marketing expert Tim Grahl posed to an Amazon employee. Her response? “Get more customer reviews.”
Amazon doesn't reveal many specifics about their algorithms, but apart from people actually purchasing your book, obtaining book reviews is key to enhancing the placement of your book with online retailers.
3. To Increase Sales of Related Books, Services, and Products
Book giveaways have an ability to create awareness for your related books, services, and products. For example, say you have published more than one book. Those who receive and enjoy a free copy of your book are inclined to read your other books. This also holds true if you offer related services and products to the content of your book, such as video courses, coaching services, and more.
4. To Develop Long-Term Relationships with New Readers
For your next book giveaway, consider requiring readers to provide their email address in exchange for downloading your book. You can do this through your personal website or a service like Noisetrade.
This tactic isn't only about increasing your reach, but, more importantly, it’s about developing a long-term relationship with new readers by connecting with them via email and providing ongoing value to them through the words you write.
5. To Spark Renewed Interest in Your Book
A book giveaway is an excellent way to spark renewed interest in your book. Whether you published a book 20 years ago, 10 years ago, or last year, a book giveaway can help increase flattened book sales.
Making this Work for You
There are many different strategies and tactics when it comes to giving away copies of your book. Here are some ideas to consider:
• Give away galleys of your book prior to your release date
• Mail your network free copies of your book and ask for an honest review
• Connect with “influencers” and send them a copy of your book
• Send media contacts a free copy of your book with a press release
• Give away your book at events and conferences
• Provide one of your books in a series permanently free to promote your other titles (This strategy is called permafree.)
• Run a short-term free promotion online
• Give away copies of your book via Goodreads
• Provide free copies of your book through your social media platforms
• Use Noisetrade to promote free copies of your book
There are a litany of ways you can strategically give your book away for free to reach more readers. Regardless of the method you use, develop a plan ahead of time to reach new readers, generate reviews, increase related sales, develop long-term relationships, and spark renewed interest in your book.