Book giveaways, believe it or not, are seen as a promising way to promote your book. You are probably wondering why someone would suggest you give away books when you are actually trying to sell them. This thought did occur to me and I adopted my book giveaway with a somewhat skeptical state of mind. Most authors want to sell books, not just give them away. However, if you are a newly published author (that’s a kinder way of saying “unknown”), book giveaways can be a way to acquire some visibility. Readers do not mind taking a risk on something that’s free. The assumption is that once they get to know you, they will pass the word around and be willing to buy other books that you write in the future, because they know what to expect from your writing. There are several things you can hope to accomplish from a book giveaway:
As a relatively new author, you get the advantage of people taking a chance on you. The more people entrants there are in your giveaway, the more your name gets passed around. Where, you ask? In book blogs, on social media sites and in places where books are sold. I am still quite amazed that in the short time since I published my book, a few hundred people have heard about my book just from the giveaway (more have heard about it in other ways)! While I would dearly love it if ten million people would drop whatever they are doing at this moment and buy my book at once, I am also quite naively charmed by the notion that a bunch of people have heard about my book since it was published. From where I stand, every single new person who hears about it is some sort of an achievement for me.
One of the most important things a new author needs is reviews of their book. People often hesitate to buy a book when it has no reviews. Think of all the times you have shopped on Amazon and hesitated to buy a product that had no reviews. I know I have. I pay very close attention to what reviewers are saying about a product before deciding to buy it. Books are no different. People want to make sure that a book they buy is a good investment of their time and money and they are going to look for a review of your book to help them decide whether to acquire their own copy or not. Unfortunately, until someone actually buys the book, you are not going to find customer reviews for it. It’s a vicious cycle, one that can make authors want to gnash their teeth, slam doors, tear up papers, etc. It’s in these trying circumstances that book giveaways come in handy. The more books you give away for free, the more potential there is for getting a review from some of those readers. Sadly, not everyone who gets a free copy of your book will express his or her gratitude to you in the form of a review.
The arguably most popular social media site for readers, Goodreads™, claims that 45% of giveaways result in reviews. Obviously, the assumption is that the more books you give away, the greater the number of reviews you receive. This is a good way to get authentic reader reviews. Folks on Goodreads™ are likely to buy books that other Goodreads™ readers recommend.
Ostensibly, this is the primary reason why you gave away your books for free, in the first place. Book giveaways do result in sales, but the outcomes are dependent on how carefully you craft the giveaway. Goodreads™ recommends running your giveaways for a month. They also recommend giving away as many books as you can. They actually provide an interesting breakdown on how many people enter a giveaway, based on the number of books you offer for free. Apparently, giving away 25 books jumpstarts the number of entrants into your giveaway. They also recommend running your giveaway for a month. However, there is some disagreement about the best way to do a giveway. Some believe that a giveaway is more successful at driving up sales if it runs for a shorter duration such as a week. The reason for this is that some authors find that sales increase at the beginning of the giveaway and then again, at the end of it. People who really wanted a copy of your book but did not win one, will purchase a copy when the giveaway ends. Currently, Goodreads™ requires giveaways to run for a minimum of one week.
I ran a Goodreads™ giveaway for my book “Love and Mutiny: Tales from British India” for 31 days. I offered 20 free Kindle copies of my book. I was excited to see that 569 people entered my giveaway. I found my sales increase at the end of the giveaway by 93%. In addition, Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library readers also downloaded my e-book. It has been eleven days since my giveaway ended. I have not seen any reviews posted as a result of it. However, I am sure that some readers will eventually make the time to post a review. Goodreads™ sends giveaway winners a reminder, eight weeks after the giveaway has ended, to encourage them to post reviews. I am very hopeful that I will get feedback from some of these readers. I will post an update when it is eight weeks past the date of my giveaway. Would I run a giveaway again? Possibly, but with a few modifications. I will take the advice of the Goodreads™ experts and offer 25 books next time. However, I will only run my giveaway for a week.
Things to Keep in Mind
Keep in mind that giveaways cost money. Goodreads™ offers two packages: one costs $199 and the other costs $599. This will need to be a part of your marketing budget and you will need to evaluate what you can afford. Additionally, you can run giveaways on other sites too, and not just on Goodreads™. For instance, book bloggers sometimes host giveaways on their sites. Depending on the number of people who follow their blogs, a giveaway may generate interest among hundreds of people in this manner. If a book blogger is also willing to review your book and/or promote it, a giveaway on that site could very well result in sales.
It is essential that with giveaways, as with all book-marketing endeavors, one keep one’s expectations realistic. It would be wonderful if all the people who didn’t win your book ran out and bought a copy the minute the giveaway ended. If that did happen to you, you also probably won the lottery and don’t care about sales, anyway! For the rest, remember that you are trying to generate a name for yourself and your book. You are attempting to gain visibility and recognition. You are also trying to get reviews. A giveaway that doesn’t result in stellar sales may provide you these other, less tangible, benefits. At some point, however, you need to think about generating revenues for the investments you make in book promotion. Depending on the genre, one’s involvement in book promotion and all the different book promotion activities one is involved in, different strategies of book promotion work well for different books. Therefore, if something is not working for you, after a couple of attempts, pull back and reevaluate where it would make the best sense for you to invest your time and money in the world of book promotion.