Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Giving away free books won't sell books

Go on grab some and throw them at me. Writers work for peanuts.

This is an update on my earlier post Could your publisher give your book away free?

I honestly wish I was writing an upbeat post.

One where I would hold up my hands and say, 'I was wrong.' That 'those people at Need2Know sure knew what they were doing giving away e copies of my books, without consulting me.'

But then the royalty cheque came for Bullying - A Parent's Guide and it was puny. Pathetically puny. And I knew that over half of the few sales I did achieve came from the reviews of the book I got on Amazon.

Check out your book on at novelrank if you want to know how it's selling on Amazon. Note - it will only track from the date you start tracking it.

‘How puny was that royalty cheque?’ you will be asking.

Enough for a week's shopping - on a budget - because apparently despite being one of the most downloaded books by Need2Know on their free giveaway site, giving something away free did not translate into sales.

And why would it? If someone gives you something for free, why the heck would you pay for it?

The moral of the story: get it in writing from your publisher than they have to limit book giveaways to prizes and review copies. I know I will, because I believe all writers should be decently compensated for their work.


  1. You are probably right. But I did just recently put my short story collection up for free at Amazon to see if there would be any residual effect. It's too early to say, but it DID bump sales very slightly for my other work.

    However, I would be furious if a publisher offered my work at no charge without letting me know. That's unacceptable.

    1. Heath, it's always worth testing it out. With some authors who have control of their work I think freebies can work. But too many people I talk to say 'my book got 600 downloads when I made it free' but then seem amazed when they put the price back to normal and it doesn't sell.

      People love free stuff and that includes books.

      The amount of books sold after this giveaway was 39 in six months! That to me is pathetic, especially when 21 of those sales were on Amazon that I generated by getting reviews. At other times before this giveaway the book was selling in the hundreds.

  2. Think of it as advertising that doesn't cost you anything out-of-pocket. I give away books all the time on LibraryThing in exchange for a review or on Goodreads and in giveaway blog hops on my blog. And while it doesn't translate into sales right away, it gets your title out there. After 2 paperback giveaways on Goodreads, I now have 400 people with my book on their to-read list.

    All publishers give books away in spurts to generate early buzz. And you have to play the free thing right. I didn't see an eVersion of your book. If you don't have one, you should put one out yourself, as long as your rights are not tied up. When it's marked FREE for Kindle, you have to heavily promote it, all over the place, so that the mass downloads will bring your book higher in the Amazon ranks. If you can reach the Top 100 FREE, your book is more likely to be noticed by book buyers. You should've been notified that it would be marked FREE, so you could've gotten in on the promotion action.

    Your book speaks to an audience with a trending problem, and with the Bully movie coming out in the US, you can tie that in. Look for safety blogs, mom blogs, etc. and try to get a blog tour going if you haven't already.

    Thanks for the tip about NovelRank! I signed my book up.

    1. Thanks Courtney, but it was it free ebook versions of the book they were giving away and it wasn't on Amazon - their ebooks were only avilable on their own free giveaway site as pdf files (maybe if it had been on Amazon it would have attracted sales).
      I don't consider it free publicity, just them giving away an unlimited number of free books, which isn't the same as giving away books to get people to review them. I was told that hundreds of people got my bullying book and not one person reviewed it. Not one.
      Thanks for your best wishes. I really appreciate that. We writers need to stick together:)

  3. You make a good point and I'm not sure I would want my book given away but it may help sales sometimes. There was one book about publishing poetry I liked in that range and I downloaded it for free and it looks good so I am going to buy it, as I need to have it handy for reference and not on the computer.

  4. Thanks Shirley, but I doubt most people are as honest as you and would buy a book when they got an ebook for free.


DI Duncan Waddell - Detective in a Coma Book 2

One lost girl. A bus full of secrets -'My new WIP

One lost girl. A bus full of secrets - My new WIP #amwriting