When I started looking into ways of promoting One Green Bottle, I signed up for Sandra Beckwith’s newsletter, having read a positive opinion of her on one of the Book Country threads. She’s one among many who sells packages, webinars and courses aimed at teaching writers the tricks and ploys of marketing. That’s fine. Even if, as with most material of that sort, the tips apply mainly to nonfiction, there’s some good stuff in there for fiction writers too. But I haven’t actually forked out yet, having promised myself at the outset that this activity of mine would not be funded by the household budget – the costs would have to be met by the revenue generated. Sandra might say I’m putting the cart before the horse, since you can’t generate revenue unless you invest, but I know I’m far from alone in adopting that stance. Circumspect, shall we say.
Anyway, the first article to attract my attention in the newsletter was about giveaways, and it had the take home message: don’t do it! In fact it wasn’t written by Sandra herself but Rhonda Penders of The Wild Rose Press. Putting your book out for free, she says, devalues your work for one thing, and for another, the figures show that it doesn’t lead to greater sales later. “Authors hope that by giving away a book, readers will buy more of them or will buy the next book that comes out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t usually work that way. Readers are a very frugal bunch. If they can get free books, why would they pay for yours? They will simply pick up someone else’s free book tomorrow, and someone else’s the next day, and so forth.” And this does indeed appear to have been the experience of Kevin Brennan, whose account of his freebie promotion results makes for depressing news. Although there are counter examples like Hugh Howey, that does indeed appear to be the reality of the game we’re in.
I’m guilty myself. L.T. Vargus urged me to download a free copy of Casting Shadows Everywhere, so I did. And I read it and enjoyed it, but I haven’t bought any others of hers. I did, however, write a positive review on Amazon, which, as a writer struggling to promote my own book, seemed the least I could do. But of course, most readers are not writers themselves, and as Kevin Brennan’s post shows, writing reviews is the exception, not the norm.
You can read the full article by Rhonda Peters here, as well as all the comments it generated. These are interesting for the different points of view expressed. Several writers disagreed, but a certain consensus does appear to emerge, namely that freebies only work if they’re the first book in a series. Then, providing the reader likes it of course, it boosts sales of other books in the series.
That was heartening to read. It means that one day, I can give away OGB and still earn something from my writing. Maybe even enough to invest in a webinar. For that to happen, though, there needs to be another book in the series. I’d better get back to work…
Actually, since you ask, Perfume Island is coming along nicely for the moment. Approaching the end of draft three. Still a way to go, though, so for the moment OGB, sadly, isn’t free. Unless, of course, you agree to write a review of it on Amazon – yep, that’s all I ask in return! So if you’re up for it, yay! Just get in touch with me here and I’ll send it you forthwith. And if you’re undecided, which after all is understandable (reading a book is a few hours of your life gone, so you want those hours to be pleasurable) you can read the first four chapters here. Entirely free. Enjoy!