We live in a culture of free stuff. Buy this, get that. Enter here, win there. Author Kate Moretti is here today to discuss the pros and cons of book giveaways with tips for making this crazy craze work for you.
Kate’s next book, The Vanishing Year, comes out in September and I’ve read it! It’s a marvelous thriller with a female protagonist and a little bit of a romantic tinge to go along with all the OMG scary stuff. Kate will be back in the Fall to talk about the book.
For now, settle back and learn from one of the best and brightest authors I know (and someone who chats with me before dawn). I met Kate because we’re both members of Tall Poppy Writers. You can check us out in the sidebar <—!
Please welcome Kate Moretti to WFW!
by Kate Moretti
There is much debate over giveaways these days. What authors gain, what readers gain, what is the real cost of giving away books and is there such a thing as too many?
In the age of the internet, everything can be gotten for cheaper. Services like fiverr will draw you a logo for less than a Starbucks – a service that used to cost hundreds and a creative partnership with a graphic designer who would work with you on your vision for your brand. Now, you present an idea and with (very ) little back and forth, voila! Here is your image file. Colors a little wonky? Font not quite right? Too bad. It was $5. Who could complain?
It seems like art is commodity these days, subjected to the rules of capitalism: can a reader get a cheaper book than yours? Sure, but it’s not your book. Does that matter? Maybe, maybe not. Authors are a dime a dozen. It’s a grim perspective, I’ll admit.
The only way to combat this is to build readership loyalty. To instill in YOUR readers that they want your books, your voice, YOU, regardless of price and market glut. To do this, every sale and more importantly, every reader has to count. Author have never worked harder for less return. This is the reality and there is very little we can do to change that.
I do think one of the tools in our arsenal for building readership is THE GIVEAWAY. I know. I just said art is being cheapened. It’s true. Does giving it away for free help or hurt that? It’s a fine line. If you give away a book a week for a year, your readers will stop paying for your books. They know that if they wait, they’re likely to snag the same book for free. All they have to be is patient. Time cost a reader nothing – there are a ton of books to read in the meantime (all being given away for free)!
There’s an antidote to this. Stop giving them away for free.
But. You just said… I KNOW.
The real trick is to make sure your reader – or rather, your new potential reader – always gives you something. It doesn’t have to be money.
There are a few ways to do this:
- Don’t walk away from any giveaway empty handed. If it doesn’t net you Goodreads shelves, Twitter followers, new emails for your mailing list, Facebook likes, simply do not do it. Expanding your reach to 100 new people is worth the price of admission (in this case, one, maybe two books). Will those 100 people stick around? Who knows? This part is unquantifiable, but even if you net a 10% ROI, that’s ten new readers who didn’t know about you before. Or weren’t following you before. That’s fine. That’s great. Every reader counts, right?
- Do joint giveaways. This is my biggest thing. Join with like-minded, and only slightly like-audienced authors. Don’t turn to your writer BFF. You’ve likely been shouting about them for a while now (and vice versa) and your audiences are now shared and you’re both just noise. Find a new friend. Someone whose book you’ve read and loved maybe. Do your homework. Who are you “like”? Who would your readers like to read? Find that author. If they’re new to you, chances are a sizable portion of their audience is new to you.
- Partner with someone unique. Write a beach book? Find a beach clothing line. Write a mystery? Find a funky homemade candle shop. Make sure to get your price of admission (email, etc) but recognize that many of these entrants come to the party for the free food and that’s it. It’s your job to keep them once they’re there. If your price of admission is an email, follow up your giveaway with a newsletter that could possibly convert your new audience. You’re still going to lose some of these people. That’s ok. Some will stay. Some will open. Some will click through.
- Lower your expectations. Understand that a book giveaway on your own page, for a backlist title is going to net you the least amount of gain. Alternatively, if you gather 250 new emails from a partnered giveaway and 150 of those are fake emails, and then 50 unsubscribe, don’t lament the 200 you lost. Celebrate the 50 you gained (an important side note: blindly running all of these through your newsletter service will likely get you in trouble and/or labeled as a spammer. Find a way to vet them first. MailChimp has a double-opt in feature. Use it).
- Be judicious. Participate in giveaways when you have something to gain. If you have one book, giving it away garners you almost nothing. Should you never do a giveaway as a debut? Of course you should. Should you do ALL THE GIVEAWAYS? No. Pick and choose the ones that get you the largest return. If you’re a debut, don’t partner with another debut (unless one of you is being heavily promoted by your publisher and might come into the game with a sizable audience). Find a more established author and see if they’ll partner with you. Use services like Rafflecopter or Gleam to make sure you offer them a return, too, in the form of followers, subscribers, likes.
The bottom line is: giveaways can be great. They’re also colossally abused. Don’t abuse them, don’t sign up for every one you see. Realistically look at what you can afford to give away and pick which giveaways will give you the biggest return on your investment. The largest audience gain (large joint giveaways through Rafflecopter, with an option to follow you, for example). One by one, you can build a readership that is willing to pay for you with what’s in their wallet.