Some authors are fearful of giving away too much free information, but it can be very effective to give out free samples of both fiction and nonfiction books. In today’s guest post, Vikram Narayan, founder of BookBuzzr Book Marketing Technologies, shares some creative ideas for using giveaways to promote books.
“The Enemy of the Author is Not Piracy, But Obscurity” – Tim O’Reilly
Here are seven ideas to market and promote your book by giving away free stuff. Each of the ideas or ‘models’ is named after a person or company that we associate the model with. The idea is to stir your imagination and help you get creative with how you price and promote your book.
The Timothy Ferris Model: Buy a current book and get a future, uncompleted book for free.
A few months ago, Timothy Ferris, author of The Four Hour Work Week was on an audio interview with the folks from Duct Tape Marketing. While finishing up the interview, Tim gave a special offer: if you bought 4 copies of his Four Hour Work Week book and sent in the Amazon receipts to Tim via email, later you’d get an advance, autographed copy of his new book, Becoming Superhuman.
The key idea here is that you, as an author, want to begin promoting your future book as much in advance as possible. And what better way to do that than to reward fans who purchase your current book with a free copy of your yet to be completed future book. You get royalties on your current book. And you promote your future book as well! Like many other things in Tim’s life, it is possible to have the cake and eat it too.
The Robert Greene Model: Bundle a concise version of your book with another one of your books.
Robert Greene has written many books, including The 48 Laws of Power and The Art of Seduction. He also has concise shorter versions of both these books. Now, when you buy either of these books, you get the concise edition of the other book bundled with your purchase. You’re happy since you’re getting a free gift. But the concise edition is really an inducement to go out and buy the full version.
This idea can work for you if you have at least two books to your credit and the audience for both the books is the same. With two nonfiction books, you can create concise versions of both the books and include the concise version with each book purchased. Packaged well (like all good souvenirs), you can even charge more for the bundle. For two fiction books, you can include the first three chapters of your other book with every purchase of your first book and vice versa.
The Tony Eldridge Model: Give away your book over time in serial format.
Tony Eldridge is the author of the thriller book, The Samson Effect, and a well known book marketing expert. There are actually two ideas from Tony that are worth studying – serialization and offering the full book free online. Tony initially started out by releasing one chapter a week of his book. It had many people hooked and they waited eagerly for the next chapter to come out. More recently, Tony has put up his entire book to be read online for free.
Does this hurt Tony’s book sales? No! The people who read the full book online tend to become ambassadors for his book telling other people about the book. And the people who buy the printed book get a much better reading experience (you cannot lie back on a hammock and read from a computer screen for 4 hours at a stretch … can you?) Of course, if you have a publishing contract, your publisher may not be too happy with you putting up your entire book online for free reading.
The Podiobooks Model: Get the audio version free, pay for the text version.
Podiobooks.com offers serialized audio books to listeners. If you’re an author, this is
another way for you to monetize and popularize your content at the same time, by giving away the audio version of your book for free. You make money if listeners make a donation to you (possible through the site.) Or it’s possible that your listeners will talk about your book to their friends who may go out and pick up your book.
This model can probably work well for nonfiction books since many nonfiction books contain portions which require you to have a visual reference. The downloading of an audio version of the book does not necessarily cannibalize sales of the text version of your book.
The problem with this model for fiction books is that once your audience finishes listening to your book, there is very little incentive to make a purchase of your book. And even though your listener may be willing to make a donation, it’s possible that she forgets to make the donation because of other activities that crowd out her schedule. In my own case, I actually listened to an excellent science fiction book by Bill DeSmedt. I even went back to the site in order to make a donation to the author. But my donation did not go through because of some technical glitch on that day and I gave up after a few tries and after informing the author about the technical issues.
The Anti-Podiobooks Model: Get the text version free, pay for the audio version.
The idea here is to allow authors to give away the online text versions of their books for free but charge for the audio version. An audio version is a huge convenience for many people who commute to work. And people are comfortable about paying for content served up on electronic devices other than the PC (think iPhone Apps, iTunes, Kindle etc.) I’m not aware of any site or service that does this. If you know of some service that does this, please let me know. Otherwise, we at BookBuzzr may start a service like this to help authors with their book marketing.
The Chris Anderson Model: Get the digital version free for a limited time.
When Chris Anderson launched his book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price, he surprised everyone by giving away both audio and online reading versions of his book for free. There were no strings attached. No need for registering, signing up for a mailing list or anything else. But it was a limited time offer. Not surprisingly, the book received a tremendous amount of coverage and interest and went on to become a New York Times bestseller.
There are three key takeaways here. The first is that Chris did not ask you to provide your email address or share the book with your Facebook friends or do anything else in order to receive a free copy of his book. You just went to his blog post and read it or downloaded the audio version.
The next key idea is that it was a limited time offer meant to stimulate interest in the book. People make decisions when they have a deadline or when you create a sense of urgency. Chris did this admirably well.
Finally, there was a real price associated with the product. I knew that if I needed to buy the physical copy of the book, I’d need to pay over $10. And so it was a no-brainer for most people to read the book online or to download the digital version.
Now, how is it that the book went on to become a best seller in spite of giving it away for free? Simple, the people who read it for free talked to their friends about the book. Some of these simply bought the book for convenience. Or it’s possible that the ones who downloaded the audio book went out and bought a physical copy for reference purposes.
The fReado.com Model: Play games to win free books.
My website, fReado.com, is offering authors a new way to market their books online by giving away their books as free gifts to readers who play online games on the fReado.com site. It works like this: A reader comes to the fReado.com site. The reader notices the option to win prizes such as Kindles, best-selling books, classic books and new books by playing online games. While playing these online games, the reader is continually exposed to book covers of participating authors inside the game playing experience. So authors get exposure both inside the game and in the prizes section where their books will be listed. Readers can exchange points that they win for any of the prizes listed in the prizes section.
About the Author
Vikram Narayan is the founder of BookBuzzr Book Marketing Technologies. Services include the BookBuzzr Widget, an online book excerpt widget featuring pages that turn like the pages of a real book. BookBuzzr is also the creator of Freado.com, the world's biggest book winning site with over 300 books to be won. The site’s patent-pending technology helps authors promote their books in a highly targeted way to genuine book lovers through online games.