The Secret of Giving Your Book Away For Free

In this article I will show you how you can give your book away for free and still get real value from the exercise. I will demonstrate that both competitions and free pricing have the benefit of gathering reviews and building your fan base.

Charles A Cornell is a typical self-published writer. He has a talent for writing, but never felt that the long and torturous route of traditional publishing was for him. Therefore he decided to self-publish his first novel Tiger Paw, which is a classic crime thriller and has a wide appeal.

Charles recently contacted BubbleCow to tell us about the success he had experienced giving away his book for free. This post is a summary of the key lessons he was able to draw from the process.

The Importance of Competitions

Charles’ first experiment with free was in the form of a Goodreads giveaway. He put up a single signed hardback copy of Tiger Paw, which readers could win by simply ‘signing up’.

This produced about 1000 sign ups from readers based across the globe. Once the competition was over Charles followed up with these people by email. The result of this was that 450 put Tiger Paw on their GoodReads reading list.

Charles considered the exercise a success and felt that he had ‘raised his profile’. However, despite the interest he had not seen a significant increase in either sales of the book or reviews.

The significant lesson that I draw from the competition was that Charles was as interested in reviews as he was in sales. The thinking here is that if you are able to get readers to your Amazon page, the deciding factor on whether they buy or not is often the book’s reviews. The more good reviews you can gather, the better the long-term sales.

The Advantages of Free

With the goal of gaining reviews in his mind, Charles decided to give his book away for free. He explained, ‘I wasn’t getting any purchases or any reviews to drive purchases. I was a bit frustrated, so I thought what the hell, I’ll make it free so that people would start reading it in bigger numbers!’

Using the Amazon Select system Charles set the book to be free for three days. In the days running up to the giveaway Charles went into promotion overdrive. Below is a list of just a few key activities:

  • He emailed his existing mailing list of potential (including the people who had signed up for the competition).
  • He utilised social media (Twitter and Facebook) to inform his followers of the giveaway.
  • He emailed people and asked them to promote the giveaway (I know, because I was on his list!).
  • So the results…

    In total 3300 copies of the book were given away. This resulted in good (some 5 star) reviews appearing on both Amazon and GoodReads almost immediately. The impact on sales was significant with Tiger Paw selling around 15 copies a day, lifting the book to #13 on the Free Kindle List for all Mysteries & Thrillers in the Kindle store and #2 in Police Procedurals.


    My takeaway from the experiment is the importance of reviews. Here we can clearly see a link between giving away free copies, gaining reviews and that translating into long-term sales.

    When I asked Charles what he felt he had learned this was his response:

    The biggest disadvantage I have is that the sequel is not ready and won’t be for about a year. However, that doesn’t bother me because I have some extremely devoted fans who can’t wait to get their hands on the sequel. I plan, next year, to take your advice and include the first two or three chapters of the new novel at the end of a revised edition of Tiger Paw and then make Tiger Paw free for an extended period of time at the launch of the new novel. So between new customers and the pent up demand, I have much more confidence that my marketing efforts will translate into sales.

    You can find out more about Charles and his books at:

    If you found this article interesting I would also suggest you read publisher Scott Pack’s experience of giving his own book away for free.

About the Author

By Gary Smailes - Co-founder at BubbleCow, helping writers to write, get published and sell more books. Google+ Twitter

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