The good and bad of book giveaways

I have been following some indie author blogs talking about the value of giveaways (e.g., through Amazon Kindle Select program) in boosting the book sales. Through my publisher I really know this to be true. But does it really work in the long run?

On one hand, a successful giveaway can generate a long trail of sales, simply because your book is magically boosted in ranks or is otherwise pushed to the front page (to be honest, I have not figured out how this works, but I know this to be true). One of the best success stories I heard of was giving away 13,000 books in one day, followed by months of 30 book downloads per day. Nevertheless, these sales invariably trail off until a new giveaway can boost the ranks again. And so on. These strategies can generate months of steady revenues and boost the sales ranks to a respectable level.

The harmful flip side of this strategy that I have recently become aware of concerns the way of thinking that sticks in readers’ mind during such giveaways. This is a free book, and therefore it has not been professionally published, or subjected to professional editing. Readers think this way even if it is not the case. And, they read the book looking for problems rather than expecting to enjoy it.

I have become aware of it through some recent reviews of THE PRINCESS OF DHAGABAD, which has not only been professionally edited, copyedited, and proofread, but went through this process twice by some of the best editors in the business during its recent re-publication by Dragonwell Publishing. However, some of the reviews I get start with the words “surprisingly good for a free book”, “did not expect to enjoy it when I downloaded it for 99 cents”, and “I got this book for free and it was lying in my pile for a long while until I accidentally picked it up”. Such reviewers mean to praise the book, but do it in a way that also trashes it for some. On the worse side, I had several reviews saying “the book is poorly edited, which is not surprising for a free book”, etc. A very recent reviewer really enjoyed the story but gave the book three stars based on the fact that it has obviously not been professionally edited.

I don’t normally respond to negative comments, but I was baffled by these, simply because my book has been edited probably more than an average book from any publisher.  And, the whole situation made me wonder whether giving away books to generate readership is really a good strategy long term.

Perhaps fortunately, KDP Select giveaways have been recently capped by a heavy-handed move from Amazon, which cut all the earnings the bloggers normally used to get for spreading the word. So, independent publishers and authors are left with yet another dilemma of how to get their books out there without any negative stamps or moves that may be considered unprofessional by the readers. Combined with self-publishing revolution this seems to be a hard one.

Thoughts? Comments?

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About Anna Kashina

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One Response to The good and bad of book giveaways

  1. I’ve been thinking a lot about the free ebook giveaway lately. It used to work quite well for selling a series. It still does except that there is such a glut of free ebooks that it’s much more difficult to get any attention. I have become worried that many readers are steering clear of the freebies because they think they are junk instead of promotional samples. I’ve experimented with 99 cents but get about 90% less attention than for free. I’ve even wondered if I should put one of my Book 1s at a full $4.99 price point and see what happens after I get some more reviews. Maybe that will expose me to readers who poo poo on free. I’m still very undecided about this however.

    For me, even if a review says “good for a free ebook” I still consider it positive. I think the most infuriating review I got was one that insisted I had no idea how to use punctuation. I realize people may not like my novels, but I do know how to use punctuation. I think some people get their jollies writing bad reviews.

    I don’t know if there is a solution for getting some readers to recognize that indie authors can and often do produce great reads. Those people will just have to left to their limited universe. I’m grateful for all the people over the years who have given my novels a chance. One of the 5 star reviews at the UK kindle store for one of my novels even stated that he had stumbled across my novel. I assume he had accidentally clicked on the wrong link somehow. Maybe his cat rubbed his elbow because I know I certainly don’t get any merchandising love from Amazon. He was thrilled by his discovery.

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