Monday, April 27, 2009

Book Marketing Ideas - FREE Books!

Book Marketing is a topic that should interest every aspiring fiction and nonfiction writer (as well as published authors too!). Since I work in publishing and have done so for years from various vantage points, this is a particularly important issue for me though it can be a sensitive one for some writers.

Anyway, so I've been posting on some Book Marketing ideas here recently, including Neil Gaiman's recent marketing idea, and I will continue to do so.

Lately, I find myself stumbling across another "book-marketing" phenomenon - Free eBooks. And this new method of marketing is taking many forms. It appears to be particularly useful for new authors in order to garner attention for their books.

The idea is simple, but totally antithetical to the idea of selling books. Basically, in order to sell more printed copies of a book, an author will literally, give away his or her ebook for FREE.

The most common avenue that both publishers and self-published authors are trying now, is simply to give away the KINDLE version of their e-book (especially if its the first book in a series) for 2-4 weeks to drum up some interest in the book, or the series overall. The goal is to garner word-of-mouth, and everyone knows you can't get the buzz if no one is reading the book. Every day, when I'm searching for something on Amazon (yes, I'm on there daily), I'll check the rankings in one category or another, and invariably I find free books ranking very high.

So whatever your place in the publishing world, this is an option that you might be able to exploit for some quick buzz-building action.

Recently, fantasy and science fiction author Brandon Sanderson gave away his novel Warbreaker as a word file on his web site (probably for a limited time), even though Tor Books has released the printed edition of the book. You can find a FREE copy of the entire novel Warbreaker here, at the same time you can order the printed version of the book on Amazon.

Does this sound totally crazy to you? Because I can promise you that this concept often sounds nuts to any traditional publisher or editor out there, and not because they're total louts, rather, because this flies in the face of every old publishing rule in the book.

Well, perhaps it's time we throw out the old rule book.

What Sanderson and others seem to be doing is building up the good will of their readers, through the savvy use of social media. Sanderson knows that a word file of his book (or a print out of the book) will not be as easy or enjoyable to read as sitting down with the printed book itself. My own personal guess is that most Sanderson fans will download the book, read a portion of it, enough to spark some curiosity, which will then entice that reader to buy the book when it releases in print.

On the Huffington Post back in October, author M.J. Rose wrote about how she was giving away her novel The Reincarnationist for a ten day limited time. Why'd she do it? She said that simply wanted to give people a chance to sample her writing, and not just the first chapter, but to sample her as an author. So she gave away the entire book.

David Meerman Scott tried this for his book World Wide Rave this past March, allowing people to get his book for free for five days, and only the Amazon Kindle. He asked people to blog and tweet about the free book, since he was giving it away, and it worked (though, to be fair, I never heard about it hitting any bestsellers lists). Anyway, you can read about his experiment on his blog, where he writes that while the idea sounds "counter-intuitive, the best online marketing ideas often are."

So here's my question to you:

Would you be more or less likely to buy a book if the author let you download it for free? Would you be motivated to support an author if he or she GAVE you a free book?

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Ed said...

Giving away free "samples" is a long established principle in marketing. When it comes to writing, I'd be less inclined to pay for the exact work I received for free (except in the case of valuable reference material), but more inclined to buy the author's other work if I liked the free one.

kimenycricket said...

I have to physically hold & smell a book. I tried Andy's ebook reader and I felt like it wasn't the full experience.

I'd read samples or parts of a book to preview it... it might make me more inclined to purchase the real mccoy.

Alexander Field said...

Yeah, Kimmie, I think I'm with you...the ebook would get me to buy the real thing, but I don't think, at this stage in my ebook experience, that I'd read the entire thing as an ebook. Not yet! : )

Alexander Field said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amydeanne said...

I like holding the book too, so if if I really enjoyed the books.. like my favorites, I'd be buying it definitely for my library... though i think it's nice to review books online for new authors, I still don't like sitting at the computer all the time.. I suppose using the laptop would be good eh? lol
Have a great weekend!

Alexander Field said...

Yeah, I think this is an idea I would probably try if I had a new book coming out. If others liked the book, then I would hope that it would encourage people to check out the real deal.

Janet said...

It depends a lot on how good the book is. I think it's Del Rey who is giving away free downloads of a good number of books, the kicker being that they are all the first of a series. I downloaded the first of Naomi Novik's Temeraire series and loved it. So there is an excellent chance that I will buy it and the rest of the series.

When I am "sampling" an author, I normally do it for free anyway, at the library, or curled up in a chair at the bookstore. I don't normally buy unknown authors unless they have a very strong recommendation from someone I trust to share my tastes and interests. Other than that, they have to be dirt cheap or I have to have sampled them somewhere.

I think it has a lot of potential, myself, although if e-readers gain a lot of popularity, it might become a less viable option. Then giving away the first half might be the way to go.

Please note, that I am thinking in terms of fiction here. Non-fiction could work rather differently.

Alex said...

Funnily enough I have actually faced this choice of downloading a free ebook or buying a copy before: in the case of Jeff Vandermeer's novella 'The Situation'. I chose to buy it, not just because I don't like reading fiction onscreen (can't really define why I don't mind reading blogs/etc though) and because I love owning real books - I'm a total hardback fetishist, often tracking down ones I already own in PB.

Somewhat irrationally I do sort of feel like it DOES devalue my purchase of the hardcopy in some way if it's already available online for free. Once again this is something I can't explain. Certainly wouldn't stop me buying a book if I really wanted it though!