Over the last few months, I’ve observed a lot of chatter regarding the use of giveaways, especially for indie author book marketing and promotion. A summary of the most recent conversation can be found over at Porter Anderson’s post, ‘Who Decided Our Worth?’ Do Free Books Give Away Authors’ Value?
So, do free books hurt authors (or publishers, for that matter)? The short answer is no. For the long answer, keep reading.
What’s Your Funnel?
This is the key question that every strategic author needs to ask. The funnel is the path that readers take from becoming aware of you to becoming a fan.
Giveaways (or freebies) are popular for good reason; they’re a classic, frictionless way to make people aware of your work. Just about every industry has some way of using “free” to their advantage, particularly game, software, and app developers. If you can get a sufficient number of people in the door, and they like your stuff, you can sell them other things once you have some kind of trust or relationship in place.
If you’ve seen the famous Alec Baldwin speech in Glengarry Glen Ross—it’s a favorite of mine—it’s the same idea being expressed. A-I-D-A. First, get people’s attention—whether through an ad, a freebie, traditional media coverage, whatever. That creates interest. And if all goes well, you have desire and action to make a purchase later.
I don’t find it useful to discuss (or demonize) giveaways in the abstract, because unless we can tie it to a particular strategy for a particular author at a particular time, it’s impossible to evaluate it properly. If the giveaway leads to paying fans down the road, it’s smart. If the giveaway leads to no further action, then it should be reconsidered.