Book Giveaways Reap Sales

Mary Keeley

Blogger: Mary Keeley

It seems counter-productive that giving your book away results in increased sales. I was unconvinced until I saw hard cold data. The trend continues for both traditionally and self-published books. The secret is to be strategic about how and to whom you give them.

Influencers are an obvious group to begin with. One of the best places to identify influencers is among reader friends and followers on your social media networks. Offer a free autographed book and a small gift card to anyone who will commit to book-giveawaysspreading the word about your book personally or to their own social media community. Of course you’ll have to get their email address and mailing address. Keep a record of these for future promotions, announcements and newsletters. Ask your influencers to write an honest review of your book on Amazon. If you have more than 25 or 30 reviews there, Amazon’s algorithms boost your book’s exposure on the site. Offer them an additional digital copy they can forward to a friend if they write a review.

Radio Stations, Bloggers, and Other Media. Along with your free autographed book, include a professional cover letter with a brief description of the book, a brief bio, and your photo. Express your appreciation for any ways they would be willing to promote your book if they like it.

If you are self-publishing, you might also want to contact an editorial assistant at relevant magazine publications as soon as advance reader copies (ARCs) are available. Find out if they accept free books for review directly from authors. If so, send it promptly with a cover letter, reminding the assistant of your email or phone conversation. You want to get your book into their hands as early as possible because these publications are usually monthly or quarterly. If they agree to write a review, respectfully ask if they could fit it into an issue closest to your book’s release. It’s worth a try because a review in a print or online publication can reach thousands of readers.

Online Book Reader Communities. Who hangs out on these sites but readers, the very people you want to reach. Goodreads is the most well known, but there are others you might also want to explore, such as LibraryThing, and Amazon’s Shelfari. As other social media platforms change and these communities continue to grow in numbers, the genre groups on these sites may contain the greatest number of potential readers of your book.

Here is a link to some tips for effective giveaways. It is directed specifically to Goodreads but is adaptable for most of the other communities as well.

Indicators are consistent that the expense you incur in mailing free books will be recouped in multiplied sales.

In what online reader communities are you active? Where else besides social media have you found readers and influencers?

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54 Comments

  • COLUMBA KNOX says:

    Howdy, Ma’aM,

    FLYING///Airfields throughout the world —
    readers, indeed………

    This Highlander has written a short story,
    titled, BARNSTORMING Them To Thee SAVIOUR;
    that is world famous………

    The time it takes place,
    (1920—1924—1929);
    Nobody At These Times Is Writing About That Time Period………
    The famous aeroplane at those times was
    JN4—D , “JENNIE”………

    It should be understood that having readers BEFORE a book is published is a much better strategy than trying to get readers AFTER the book has been published………

    There have been a number of writings in aviation journals at different countries about how FLYING has become boring; how technology in aeroplanes has zapped fun from FLYING;
    the worse being G.P.S. FLYING, or, in other words, nap—time for pilots. They arrived at the same conclusion, reminding their pilots///readers of the fun FLYING during the barnstorming times — the fun of pilotage FLYING………

    BORED PILOTS ARE BIG—TIME POTENTIAL READERS

    If they cannot live the barnstorming time period,
    Then why not read about the barnstorming time period………

    Sincerely, Indeed,
    COLUMBA KNOX

    • Wow. Talk about coincidence…see my comment below…

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      The barnstorming time period of flying does indeed sound interesting, Columba. Thanks for offering your good example. Pilot groups and plane restoring groups, as Andrew mentioned, are natural places to connect with potential readers of your story. Yours is a great example. It takes time to develop relationships with natural audiences for a book. The process of identifying them needs to begin at the concept stage of the book.

  • One place to look is in communities of people whose interests you share – not specifically as readers, but as practitioners of a specific avocation.

    As a case in point, there is a large and active group of people who fly and restore old airplanes, or build new ones from kits, or from scratch. This is a nearly ‘total-immersion’ hobby – more of a lifestyle.

    There’s also a dearth of good fiction that uses aviation as a background or plot element. The ‘classics’ – Richard Bach, Nevil Shute, Ernest Gann – are recycled because most modern efforts have been heavily influenced by the over-the-top idiocy of “The Right Stuff” and “Top Gun”.

    To sweeten the pot – the individuals who make up this potential reader pool are also good potential influencers. They are typically affluent (it’s not a cheap pastime), and quite well-connected. (Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford are names that come to mind.)

    Airplanes are not fueled by gasoline or JP-4; they run on imagination and romance, and nearly everyone who’s involved has at some point bee influenced and sustained by what they choose to read. I know I have.

    Look up the Experimental Aircraft Association (www.eaa.org) and the Antique Airplane Association (www.antiqueairfield.org) if you’re interested in learning more.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      “One place to look is in communities of people whose interests you share – not specifically as readers, but as practitioners of a specific avocation.” Yes, that’s exactly right, Andrew. It’s so worth the time to investigate and find as many of these groups as you can, because as you also added, there also could be some valuable influencers in those groups.

      • One thing that is important in some of these groups – especially some parts of the aviation community – is that they operate under a motto of opera non verba.

        There’s an ‘acceptance curve’ in becoming part of the community, and that’s usually fulfilled by letting one’s work speak for itself. There’s no shortage of big talkers, and a reputation can easily be ruined by an approach that’s perceived as immodest.

    • Ummm…this involves welding, right? I need to call Barb and make sure you have permission.

  • I guess I”m soaking in more than contributing new venues for finding readers, and good places to give away books. :) I have friends who are avid, and fast, readers. Some of them aren’t very involved in online groups, so I could see giving some copies to them and asking them to read and review, similar to what you’ve mentioned above.

    And, as Andrew said, maybe finding those who share the interests of my characters might be a potential for discovering readers. I’m going to think on this some more, and read what others have to share. ;)

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Jeanne, word of mouth still is the most effective method to market books, whether it’s via social media or handing a free, autographed book to your avid reader friends. Ask them to tell others about your book. It creates a grassroots buzz.

  • At my former church in Vancouver, sitting in a pew in the centre section, is a 90 year old woman who only drove her ’67 Ford Fairlane to church on Sundays.
    She is also responsible for all of First Baptist knowing that I wrote a book. And if dear Phyllis Metcalfe has her way, even my parents will be marched to the nearest bookstore where she will make them BUY the book.
    Since both my grandmothers are long gone, and one never did speak more than 5 words of English*, Auntie Phyl has always been my grandmother. There is no mistaking the power of a proud family to spread the word on one’s work. But what if there is no “family”? Then that’s where one’s friends come on handy.

    *Grandma Julia’s 5 English words were, I kid you not, Dairy, Queen, Kentucky, Fried, and Chicken. And you bet if she said either 2 or 3 of those words? My dad loaded us up in the car and took Grandma to her happy places.

    • Jennifer, I’m so laughing at Dairy Queen and KFC. Those are staples in Texas! When my grandmother stopped cooking and anyone came to visit her, she wanted them to go get KFC. When we’d take her to Dairy Queen … get this … she always ordered … a grilled cheese sandwich. :)

      • Grilled cheese?? At DQ??? Hahaha!

        My grandma was from Gaza, and there wasn’t KFC or DQ anywhere! So when she came to visit she was all about the deep fried chicken and then off to get a cone she could barely hold. Oh, her face when she tasted the ice cream? Ahhh, sweet. She truly enjoyed every lick. Of course we’d sit outside with her, she loved to be with us in our leafy, green summer, and we’d grin and say “Grandma? Dairy Queen?”
        She’d grin right back and giggle “Ahh, Dairy Queen!” Then she’d call for my dad, in Arabic, and we’d see exactly when he clued in that we were a team. His eyebrow would shoot up and he’d try to glare at us, then she’d tell him off and we’d pack up the car and off we’d go. She’d be smushed in the back seat with us hold our hands and smile. “Ahhhh, Dairy Queen.”

      • Love it! Yes, while we were all loading up on Blizzards with “extra” candy (I’ll pay for it … give me extra, please!), she wanted a plain vanilla cone, with a spoon.

        In her little town, she’d inevitably run into people she knew … and then she’d tell us what was wrong with them … as we watched them eat their hamburgers and her eat her grilled cheese. Grin.

        I still get tickled that my grandfather said he read the paper’s obituary column every day to make sure his name wasn’t in it!

      • Oh, Jennifer … I have an article in WMU’s Missions Mosaic’s May issue … I just noticed the cover story is titled, “Accepting God’s Way: The Story of a Navajo Missionary.” It’s about a lady known as “Lady Moses” … lives on the Navajo reservation in Tinian, New Mexico … Christian … at 64 years old, finally had running water for the first time last year.

      • Oh! Can I find that online? FB me the details, thank you!

    • That lady is the kind of person who is invaluable for any author’s team! :) Lucky you, Jennifer to have such a gift and friend in her!

    • Angela Mills says:

      I just had to tell you, my grandpa passed away last year and something him and my grandma loved to do was drive to a KFC that was nearly an hour away because they had a buffet. They had one five minutes from their house, but always went to the hour-away one :)

  • For nonfiction, speaking to women’s groups is significant. I mentioned previously that the last time I spoke, I couldn’t sell my books at the hotel, but I gave five away as door prizes. My book sales soared on Amazon after that … encouraged and blessed my heart. And as much as public speaking scares me, I can hardly wait for my next opportunity. I am fairly new to the area I live in … and after speaking, I have ran into several of the women from the retreat I spoke at … and they are like my new best friends … I just have a feeling they are spreading the word.

    We have moved several times … and the church librarians at several locations (big churches) have placed the book in the library and have made a window display of it. So precious.

    Jennifer, I wish my grandmother were still alive to know about my book. When I was writing it, her mind was too bad to understand. But her sons, my dad and my uncle, have been my biggest supporters … tell everyone at their church. My uncle had me sign his copy (that I gave freely to him), and he keeps it locked in his safe … but takes it out with his Bible each day and has read it repeatedly. That has floored me. His pastor asked him if he’d like to donate his copy to the church library, but he said no! So the pastor is donating his copy! Grin.

  • I have used a couple of Goodreads giveaways and had wonderful responses from them. This weekend is my first library talk/book signing and I am looking forward to it … even if it doesn’t result in sales, it will be wonderful to meet with readers and possibly offer some free copies. I hope to have the talk videotaped and to post it on my blog, on Goodreads, Amazon, etc.

    I like your other suggestions too, Mary, and plan to give them a try!

  • Jim Lupis says:

    Thank you for a very timely post, Mary. As a self-published author I certainly need to make better use of Goodreads. I recently donated 15 copies of my book to a Foundation building a school and medical clinic in Haiti, and the feedback has been great. I just did it as a blessing, little did I suspect it would boost my sales.

  • I love Goodreads. I use it not only for my promotion, but to promote clients’ books. I used to use Shelfari, but don’t spend a lot of time there.

    I’ve always said that if money were no object, I would donate a copy of my book to every Christian church in our area. Sigh. Cheryl wishes she could prove to God that being rich wouldn’t spoil her. :)

  • Kristen Joy Wilks says:

    I know that I have won books and then sent them on to friends and family and written reviews if I loved them. If a book is good, people just want to pass it on.

  • Last year I spoke to a local book club about my pre-published novel and the publishing process in general. When I gathered their personal information on a sign in sheet, I realized that a few of them didn’t have email. These precious, avid readers will receive snail mail from me. I think meeting in person establishes a unique rapport that’s harder to grow in online only interactions.

    Since I write historical novels set in real life locations, the relationships I begin with local bookstores and museums will be imperative for future book sales. The owner of the bookstore I used to work in in my hometown has offered to have me for a book signing when my novel is published. Won’t that be thrilling and humbling all at once? :-)

    Pinterest is a great way to connect with readers of the genre I write in, but I have to be more intentional about seeking them out by commenting on their boards.

    • I know I’ve commented like this before, Jenni, but I love your idea of contacting museums. As a reader, I would definitely zero in on a novel set in that location if I browsed the gift shop.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Jenni, I agree the personal interaction with readers is so beneficial because the personal attention seems to create a loyalty in readers. How nice you already have a confirmed book signing.

      The good point you made in reference to Pinterest applies to other social media as well.

    • Angela Mills says:

      A book signing sounds so exciting, Jenni! Congrats!

  • Mary, you make me itchy to promote, especially if it involves giving away books. I appreciate your suggestion of giving a small gift card, I assume as an extra thank-you. I would think that would make it easier to ask a reader to take the time to read and review. Thank you for the suggestions.

  • Jenny Leo says:

    Just looking forward to the day I have a book of my own to give away. *sigh*

  • I don’t know, I gave away two copies of my last novel on Goodreads. Had 320 people sign up for it, 118 added it to their to-be-read shelf, and no sales during the month of the giveaway or in the next month.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      David, Goodreads has quite a few genre groups. Perhaps after you are actively involved in the right group of readers interested in your kind of book, you could try another giveaway. Maybe four or five copies next time. And don’t be shy about asking them to write a review of your book.

  • Roger H Panton says:

    Many thanks for a very timely comment. I will now read all that you recommended as my next book is about two months away from being published.
    Very much appreciated.

  • Roger H Panton says:

    Am new. How do I amend? I want to remove the reference to my book title as I think that might not be appropriate.

  • Michael Hyatt recently put up a post suggesting that limiting one’s availability is necessary for success. While I can see the point for someone of his stature, my gut feeling is that being accessible to readers is both a good business idea – and something of a moral obligation for a Christian mid-list author.

    Thoughts, anyone?

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Michael was speaking in regard to the more successful leaders become, the more people will make demands on their time. These leaders need to become less available to others as their responsibilities increase because to lead well, the responsibilities become the higher priority in their schedule.

      The high priority for debut and mid-list authors, on other hand, is to be as available as their real lives allow in order to grow relationships with their readers.

  • Angela Mills says:

    I can’t wait to have books to give away someday. I’m not very active on Goodreads at all, so I need to get more involved in that. I like the idea of doing it in person as well as online, that’s something I hadn’t thought much about.

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