The Internet abounds with advice. Some of it is good and some of it is not.
When it comes to advice for independently published authors, often what you find on the Internet is contradictory. Some authors assert one thing, while others assert the opposite.
One area where advice given for independently published authors on the Internet contradicts itself is in the area of giving books away. Some advice givers say you should, others say you shouldn’t.
Advice is cheap. Anyone can give advice. The advice taker must discern whether or not the person has the knowledge or experience to give good advice.
Whether you, as an independent author, should or shouldn’t give books away for free is not the question to ask. Rather, you should ask: What is the industry standard?
1. Giving books for free in exchange for reviews is standard in the book publishing industry.
Providing a free book in exchange for a review is a publishing industry practice. In fact, it is such an integral part of the book industry, that when Amazon recently stopped allowing the giving of free products in exchange for reviews on their websites, they exempted books from this policy. Amazon even stated in their policy revision, “The above changes will apply to product categories other than books. We will continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books.”
2. Giving away books as part of a book promotional campaign is industry standard.
If you have ever attending an industry convention—think BookExpo (BEA) or CBA Unite—then you would be aware that giving away free copies of books to decision-makers (retail buyers and influencers) is standard practice. Most publishers include a certain number of books to be given away for promotional purposes as part of a book’s advertising budget.
At the recent NRB Proclaim 17 convention, one Member author of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) told me that while he was giving away books for free, he wondered if he was just throwing his books away. I encourage him to consider the investment he was making in giving away free books as part of his advertising campaign. After all, the attendees at NRB are influencers. If they read his book and write a review or recommend the book to someone else, he has not wasted his money.
Henry Ford said, “At least half of my advertising budget works…I just don’t know which half.”
The same is true for giving books away as part of your advertising budget. Some of the books you give away will help with your promotional efforts, others won’t.
So, if you need an answer to the question of whether you should give away books or not, the answer is: You should. After all, it is industry standard and as an independently published author, you are now part of the book publishing industry.
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Photo courtesy of Dev Benjamin