In the two months since I’ve published Virginia’s Ghost, I’ve been racking my brains as to how I can best promote it. It’s easy to garner interest in the book from friends and casual neighbourhood acquaintances, and I confess I haven’t found it a stretch to sell hard copies in person to folks I barely know. But online sales are a whole different matter. I mentioned to someone recently that as a first-time self-published author, I’m as invisible on the World Wide Web as a minnow would be in a vast ocean. So how can I become a bigger fish?
Other writers I know have suggested book giveaways. I balked at this initially–would I irreparably cheapen my book by giving it away for nothing? A big voice told me that I would, but feeling desperate for some sort of attention, I overcame my reservations and took the giveaway plunge. I’ve now done a total of three giveaways, with mixed results. Let’s take a closer look at these.
For my Facebook giveaway, I told my fans that in order to enter, they had to comment on my giveaway post. Each time they wrote a comment, their name would be entered into the draw, What I liked about this approach was that it engendered lively discussion on my Facebook author page, which is of course something I wish to encourage. People asked questions about me and my book. And a Facebook giveaway is a lovely way to thank your fans for their support. I gave away one copy, which happened to go to a real-life acquaintance of mine who was very appreciative. I don’t think I sold any books as a result of the giveaway, but I didn’t really expect to. For my efforts, I did receive some psychic pay–a nice glow from all the enthusiasm people expressed. And it only cost me about $15 to do (my cost for the book and the postage).
Every author wants a high profile on Goodreads, as next to Amazon, it’s the go-to site for reader reviews. So it makes sense to participate in Goodreads discussion groups to make your presence known and to do a giveaway to get the word out that you’ve written a book. I opted for a giveaway that ran for about six weeks, and at the end of that period, I gave away three paperback copies of my book. It was a tremendously exhilarating process; by the end of the giveaway, 1,265 people had signed up for the chance to win a free signed copy. The number was higher than I expected and made me feel almost ridiculously popular (more psychic pay). But the apparent enthusiasm for the book also contributed to my expectation that I was probably going to sell lots of copies, which didn’t happen. You see, lots of Goodreads members are pretty indiscriminate about which giveaways they sign up for–they simply “collect” giveaways. Once the giveaway is over with, they’ve probably forgotten all about your book or that they even wanted a copy of it in the first place. As for the three people who received the book, I’m hopeful that I may still receive a review or two in return for the freebie. My cost? About $45 (for three books and postage).
Story Cartel is a site that specifically encourages reviews from readers who receive a free download of your book. For the cost of $30 USD, the book appears on the Story Cartel site, where it can be downloaded gratis for twenty-one days. (After the download period ends, Story Cartel then displays your book on their site for another week.) Spend an additional $125 USD and your book will appear in a newsletter that circulates to subscribers. I decided on the newsletter exposure, and a total of sixty-seven people downloaded my book. After participating in Story Cartel, I have received a total of seven reviews on Amazon from people who downloaded it from the site, and some of these reviewers also posted to Goodreads. I expect I may receive additional reviews from people who are still reading the book . If you want to quickly populate your Amazon listing with reviews, then Story Cartel is a good option for you. Total cost: $155 USD.
My advice for authors who decide to go the giveaway route is to keep your expectations extremely modest or you will end up disappointed. Yes, giveaways do generate some interest in your book, but that interest is very fleeting and doesn’t necessary translate into sales or reviews. You should view giveaways as only a small portion of your overall book marketing plan.