We all know that reader magnets (giving away a book to people who sign up for your newsletter) is a fantastic incentive. We also know that giving away the first book in a series (of three or more books) is a great way to introduce new readers to your work. But what about other sorts of giveaways?

As authors, we make little enough money on our books as it is, and then we’re expected to give away stuff too? Really?

Well, sadly, yes. It’s one way to entice someone to read your newsletter or interact with you on Facebook or some other form of social media (but mainly Facebook).

One-time events

I recently participated in a Facebook Virtual Book Fair. It was a great way to put my name out there, to build my brand, and, perhaps, get a few new readers. I know that I need to do a lot more such things in order to grow my sales.

But one vital part of participating in such an event is not just putting up posts about your book(s), but giving away stuff to entice readers to comment, to interact. A number of authors gave away a free copy of their book to one lucky winner. Some gave away Amazon and other gift cards. I’ve even seen some authors give away whole gift baskets at such events—talk about expensive! You not only have the cost of the contents of the basket but mailing the thing too is not cheap.

Multiple Opportunities

There are some authors who do regular giveaways either in the newsletter or on Facebook (usually in a private page for their street team). The way I’ve heard authors talk about such giveaways is that it’s part of the cost of having a newsletter or running a street team. If you think about it that way, then, perhaps the cost is worth it.

But the question is, are you attracting readers who are truly interested in your books when you do this or just people who are trying to get something for free?

Sadly, most of the time, the answer is the latter—you’re mostly getting people who like getting free stuff. It’s why, while I do a giveaway a free story in my monthly newsletter, it’s always a story that relates back to my books. The story costs me nothing but a couple of hours of my time and in itself a form of advertising encouraging my newsletter readers to buy the book that story is associated with. I’m hoping that if they read the story, they’ll want to read more about those characters.

Only people who enjoy my writing and my stories will appreciate the free stories I give away in my newsletter. Only people who are interested in my work will subscribe to and read my newsletter. If I gave away a gift card or something tangible each month, I wouldn’t know if those readers were there because they like my work or because they want something.

Is it worth it?

But is doing these sorts of giveaways worth it? Do you really earn back in sales what you’re spending on the giveaway?

The easy answer is that it’s really hard to tell.

It’s not common (unless it’s a really big event) to see a huge jump in sales. On the other hand, if you consider participating in these things as brand building, then over time (which, again, is nearly impossible to measure) they probably do pay off.

I have probably given away hundreds of dollars’ worth of gift cards over my career. I don’t regret the expense. I don’t mind that I’ve done this. I feel like I’ve earned a lot of goodwill and probably a number of readers this way. But I always prefer to give away something that will bring the receiver of the giveaway back to me. In the Virtual Book Fair I recently participated in I gave away the opportunity to be a character in one of my books—it cost me nothing, helped me out by providing me with more throw-away characters which I always need, and tickled enough people into commenting on my posts in the hopes that they would win. I now know that there will be at least three people who will buy those books just to see their names in them. Lol!

One more giveaway

It’s not just authors who give away stuff to readers. As a book coach, I give away a free analysis of the first 25 pages of an author’s work. Editors will do the same, editing the first chapter of a book so that authors can get a sense of how they work and whether they’re a good fit.

And, of course, don’t forget blogs. This blog, and that of many other writers and authors’ service providers, provide free information that can teach authors how this whole crazy writing and publishing business works. Enjoy!

(Of course, if you’d like to support this blog you can do so in two ways: 1) spread the word! Or 2) click on the link to the left and “buy me a cup of coffee”. Thanks!!)