Freebies! We all love something for free. Nothing galvanises us like the word FREE! So here’s a few thoughts about when I go for freebies and when I don’t. And where I give them and where I don’t.
Obviously I’m talking here are legal free stuff. Downloading books (or music, movies, TV shows etc) that you should pay for is just wrong. You can argue about how much harm it actually does till you’re blue in the face. Or that companies encourage it with stupid release policies. But it’s still wrong. Anyway, that’s a different argument for a different day.
Legal freebies come in various forms. A book going free, possibly for a limited time, on a retail site. Or in a giveaway contest say on a blog post, or a Goodreads giveaway.
The free book on a retail or publishers site as a way to get people to check out an author is best done by those with plenty of other books that are not free. It can be a useful tool to get people started on a book series. Usually it’s the publisher who’ll decide when and if to do those. Self-published authors on the other hand can decide it for themselves.
I’ll definitely happily download a freebie from a retail site. The more downloads the better for the author’s ranking and a free books is a good way to try a new to me author risk free. The first Jordan Castillo Price book I read was a freebie offer of Psycop 1: Among the Living. It worked. I became a fan both of the series and of the writer in general. I only go for stuff I’m reasonably interested in. Some goes straight in the To Read folder, others go into the Maybe Later folder – which may come in handy some day if I’m skint for a while.
But I don’t any longer enter the giveaways contests on blogs etc. These are mostly done by a writer with a new release. Or maybe they’re giving away a copy of something from their backlist. Some sites, like Stumbling Over Chaos aggregate and link to the giveaways. Why don’t I enter them? Because I think there’s already quite enough of writers ending up marketing mostly at other writers. Ideally the writer wants a reader to win the giveaway – preferably a new reader.
Also, I don’t enter because I’m lucky enough that I can afford to buy as many books as I have time to read (not everyone entering these giveaway contests can.) If it’s a writer I love and I would definitely have bought the book anyway, then I prefer to leave the chances of winning to someone who might be a new reader and potentially new fan.
When I do giveaways I do them first on my own blog and later on a site like Stumbling Over Chaos and on guest posts on other people’s blogs, or donated as contest prizes. This applies for both ebooks and print. I don’t do Goodreads giveaways any more. I did one, and lots of people entered for it. Goodreads selected a winner – who turned out to have no idea of the kind of book it was. Clearly many people just enter every giveaway contest going on Goodreads. I’m sure that some of the entrants would be from people who checked out the book and thought it was something they might like. But most of them were not. And of the several hundred who marked that book as “to read” (which happens automatically when you enter a giveaway) very few seem to have ever read it.
I felt that giveaway was a waste of time and effort. So since then I’ve always preferred to make them targeted to actual fans of my genre. I’d rather have 10 people enter than 500, if I thought all of those 10 people had a genuine interest in reading the book. Seems like there’s much more of a chance of the book being read by the winner on that case, rather than languishing on someone’s To Read pile forever.
So my conclusions: