I have always been a believer that authors should give their books away as much as possible. The goal is to get your books into as many readers’ hands as you can so that they tell their friends and talk about it online—which leads to more sales.
Now that ebooks are starting to dominate the market, it is easier than ever to distribute free or low-cost books. Seth Godin is currently doing this with his new book Poke the Box, which you can pre-order for Kindle for just $1.
Why would he do this when the hardcover edition costs $12.99? Because he’s building buzz—and based on his current sales rank on Amazon, it’s working. I learned about Godin’s campaign this morning on Twitter. Giving something away for just a buck feels like a bargain, so people are talking about it and it’s going viral online. And since not everyone has a Kindle, there is no doubt that the campaign is also generating sales of the hardcover edition. It also gives the book a great head start. It hasn’t even been released yet, but all these pre-sales will have readers dialed-in and ready to talk about the book immediately.
I’ve been experimenting with “Free Book Fridays” on my newly-launched Facebook page. For one of my recent book releases (Booked Up! How to Write, Publish, and Promote a Book to Grow Your Business) I offered up copies of the trade paperback edition to the first five people to respond, which generated a lot of activity on my page. In this case, I asked for something in exchange. If they liked the book, I asked that they post a review online. Reviews help sell books on Amazon and similar sites and asking for them this way was a great way to get the buzz started.
Recently I discovered a fantastic tool that allows you to give away a digital product in exchange for a tweet. The service is called Pay With a Tweet and it automates the process of providing a digital file to your “buyer” once they’ve sent out a tweet or Facebook post. If you would like to take it for a test drive, you can pay with a tweet and download a PDF version of my Booked Up book here.
One of my favorite ebook formatting and distribution services, Smashwords, allows you to generate coupons for your books. This gives you the opportunity to distribute coupons at 50% off or even 100% off—another intriguing way to generate interest from readers.
The bottom line is that no matter how you go about promoting your books, whether free or for a low-cost, hard copy or ebook edition, the key is to get them in as many hands as possible. Send them to influential bloggers, media outlets, and leaders of trade associations that reach your target audience. Announce your campaign to your social networks and mailing lists. Soon you will see what a difference it can make when you generate buzz online!