Can Book Giveaways Hurt Sales?

by Kathryn Lively - Date: 2006-12-27 - Word Count: 628 Share This!

As an author and publisher, I have attended a number of Internet chats in support of eBook and print book releases. Internet chats are largely informal, hosted either by the publisher or a third-party website (usually a site for book reviews), where authors and readers can interact, ask questions and have fun. Look around some of the popular book review websites, particularly those which focus on romance fiction, and you will find chats are scheduled almost daily. Some eBook publishers, for example, host regular monthly chats to keep readers up to date.

Whether or not the chats do anything to stimulate sales is up for debate. At best, most freeware chat rooms used by such sites can host a maximum of twenty to thirty people, and publishers often have to be wary to see if the majority of chatters are the authors. Personal experience has seen scheduled chats comprised mainly of authors, chatting with each other! While it is beneficial to offer these promotional opportunities, it hardly does a publisher good if readers do not come.

That said, incentives are usually offered to fill the chat rooms with readers. Authors may give away a prize to one lucky reader, like a small gift or a free book. The question of whether or not it is prudent to distribute complimentary books as prizes has long been argued among authors, particularly in the eBook industry.

Some authors condone the practice on the premise that a book in the hands of a reader may encourage that reader to buy more books. Especially if the book is part of a series, the reader may wish to collect the entire set. Using a book as the proverbial carrot, too, may guide readers to the author's website, where they may find titles appealing enough to purchase. Also, an author seen as being so generous may develop a following in a faithful readership that will benefit them in the long run.

On the other hand, such generosity may backfire, according to other authors who condemn the practice. When you consider the tightly knit readership of eBooks, particularly in the romance genre, authors may tend to see the same Internet nicknames populating chats. If word gets around enough that free books are the prizes, an author might soon discover that he or she is giving away her entire catalog to the same readers without seeing any profits. An author can feel frustrated with the practice, and wonder if such regular contest winners will ever buy his/her book.

Of course, an author might feel obligated to give away something, and not upset the readers. Word of mouth is still the most effective method of promotion, and for an author to gain a reputation for being difficult or stingy can be damaging to future sales. Should an author feel trapped, however? The answer is an emphatic no.

There are ways to successfully offer giveaways without giving away everything. While gifts like soaps, teas, and other trinkets can add up over time (though they are tax-deductible, authors, make notes!), there is one giveaway trick that can help stimulate sales. The next time you participate in a chat, write a one to two-thousand word story that reads as a supplement to your novel.

It could be a sequel, a prequel, or a side story with supporting characters. Have it formatted as in eBook in HTML or PDF and offer it as an exclusive prize to one winner. The gesture may influence the winning reader to buy the corresponding book, and your other titles. As time goes on and you write more novels, you can offer these short tidbits to entice readers to sample your work, then buy! This way you are giving away a story, but not every story.

Give it a try, and watch your readership grow.

Related Tags: books, ebooks, novels, book promotion

Kathryn Lively writes for Compuslim custom fit weight loss for busy lifestyles.

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