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.