You’ve poured your countless hours of time into your manuscript, so giving away your book for free may seem like a bad business decision. After all, you want to be compensated fairly for all of your hard work. However, offering your book to readers for free can pay off in the long run, leading to increased sales and readership. Here’s an overview of the benefits of offering your book for free and tips to help you make the most of this marketing strategy.
Benefits of Giving Your Book Away for Free
Increased Sales and Revenue
You may be worried that giving your book away will devalue your writing and condition readers to expect freebies from you. However, this is rarely the case. Giving gifts to readers usually causes them to view you in a more positive light and makes them feel indebted to you. Because readers who download your freebie feel like they owe you, they may be more likely to buy your other books at full price.
This psychological phenomenon is known as the reciprocity principle and is frequently leveraged by marketers. In an effort to increase sales and brand loyalty, many businesses host giveaways, hand out branded swag, and offer free samples and trials of their products.
Research by BookBub, a website that curates the best book deals, showed that this popular marketing strategy works well for authors. Over 60% of readers who downloaded a free book they found on BookBub went on to purchase another title by the same author. So giving one of your books away will likely result in increased sales down the line.
Enables You to Reach New Audiences
Giving away your book can also help new audiences discover your work. When readers spend their hard-earned money on a book, they tend to stick with authors and genres they know they enjoy. Readers are more willing to take a chance on a free book because they’ll only lose their time if they don’t like it. So if you’re hoping to broaden your reach beyond your usual target audience, consider offering one of your books as a free sample to gain new fans.
Helps You Get More Book Reviews and Referrals
Reviews are one of the top five factors that readers take into account when deciding whether or not to purchase a book. If your book doesn’t have many ratings, readers may pass over it in favor of titles with more social proof. That’s why many new authors who don’t have an established fan base give away their book to gain reviews and word-of-mouth referrals.
A recent survey by BookBub found that over 70% of readers who downloaded a free book featured on the site ended up recommending it to a friend. The majority of authors whose books have been featured on BookBub also reported an increase in reviews, Facebook likes, and email list subscribers, which shows that free book promotions are effective.
How to Give Away Your Book for Free
If you want your freebie to reach as many readers as possible, you’ll need to promote it and choose the right distribution method. Here’s an overview of how to give your book away for free to guide you through the process.
Make Sure Your Freebie Delivers Value to Readers
Even if you aren’t charging money for your book, it still needs to be well-written and deliver value to readers. The purpose of giving away your book is to expand your reader base, increase sales, and position yourself as an expert in your field. Distributing a poorly researched book riddled with spelling errors could undermine your reputation as an author. So don’t try to rush the process and cobble together a freebie hastily.
Although it’s possible to create a high-quality nonfiction book on your own, most authors benefit from the support of a structured program. The Book Professor’s mastermind groups and one-on-one book coaching services will guide you through the book planning, writing, and editing process step-by-step. With Nancy’s expert help, your finished manuscript will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best nonfiction books on the market.
Use Your Book as a Lead Magnet
A lead magnet is a free resource like a guide or webinar that you can offer to readers in exchange for their email address. Using your book as a lead magnet on your website will enable you to start building an email list, which is a valuable advertising tool. Email marketing provides the highest return on investment of any advertising method and yields about $36 for every dollar spent.
However, offering your book as a lead magnet won’t increase your revenue unless you have a plan for nurturing the prospects you gain. If you gather emails from readers but never contact them again, it’s unlikely that they’ll turn into dedicated fans. Sending out a monthly newsletter is a great way to introduce new readers to your author brand. Consider sharing updates on your current projects, bonus content that didn’t make it into your book, and important industry news. You can also give subscribers exclusive discounts to encourage them to buy your books and any other products or services you offer.
In order to distribute a monthly newsletter to subscribers, you’ll need to sign up for an email marketing service like MailChimp or Convertkit. These tools allow you to create embedded forms on your website so readers can download your lead magnet. They can also help you schedule your newsletter and marketing emails so you don’t have to send them manually. MailChimp and Convertkit both offer free versions, but they limit the number of newsletter subscribers you can have. So depending on how large your audience is, you may need to upgrade to the paid service, which is worth it considering the average ROI of email marketing.
Finally, don’t forget to make a plan for driving traffic to your website so you can get your lead magnet into more people’s hands. Creating a blog and writing content that appeals to your target audience can help draw in new readers. Try incorporating keywords into your writing to make your blog posts more visible on Google.
List Your Freebie on Book Marketplaces
As mentioned above, you can offer your book as a lead magnet on your website via an embedded form. But your freebie may get more reviews and exposure on book marketplaces where thousands of consumers are looking for new reading material. Platforms like Nook and Kobo feature free books in a special section. This means that your e-book won’t have to compete with paid titles, which may give it a better chance of standing out and rising up the rankings.
You can also get creative about where you list your book and use alternative platforms like Gumroad. It’s an ecommerce website where authorpreneurs can sell digital products like books and courses. But there’s also a pay-what-you-want feature that allows readers to download your e-book for free or give you a donation if they enjoy your work. You can even amass a following on Gumroad and send your subscribers updates, so the platform functions like an email list.
Another option is to publish your freebie online in serial format. Websites like Substack and Wattpad allow you to share your book one chapter at a time and interact with readers to build a loyal following.
Offer Your Book as a Limited-Time Freebie
If you aren’t sold on the idea of giving your book away for free, you can get the best of both worlds by taking a hybrid approach. Many authors offer their e-book as a freebie for a limited amount of time to gain reviews and email newsletter sign-ups. After the free promotional period, they begin selling their book at retail price. This is a great strategy for authors who want to reap the benefits of the reciprocity principle without losing out on revenue from book sales entirely.
Offering your book as a freebie right after it launches can help build early buzz. Alternatively, you can wait to give your book away until sales die down a few months or years after the initial launch. Making an older book free can create renewed interest in the title and help increase sales once the promotion ends.
Nook and Kobo both allow you to set up a limited-time promotion and offer your book for free for a few days or weeks. However, authors who want to run free promotions on Amazon will need to enroll in a program called KDP Select. It gives you access to marketing tools like free promotions and countdown deals, but requires you to sell your e-book exclusively on Amazon during the 90-day enrollment period.
After 90 days, you can remove your book from the program, but you’ll lose the ability to run free promotions. Authors who aren’t enrolled in KDP Select can only lower the price of their e-book to $0.99. However, there is a potential workaround. If you list your book for free on other platforms, you can contact Amazon and ask them to match the price. Doing this will usually make your book free, but it may take time for the price to update.
Spread the Word About Your Free Book
It’s also important to create a promotion plan for your free e-book. Although people love freebies, you won’t get any downloads if readers don’t know that your book exists. Make sure you tell your network about your book and market it on your blog and social media pages. Facebook also has groups where authors can promote free books, so consider posting there to help spread the word.
If you have a marketing budget, consider using a paid book promotion service. Websites like BookBub and Bookdealio feature free and discounted book deals and will promote your freebie to their large user base for a fee. Keep in mind that they may reject books that don’t meet their quality standards, so it’s important for your writing to be polished and error-free.
For a free alternative, consider submitting your book to Freebooksy. If your submission is chosen by the editorial staff, you’ll get a free book feature in Freebooksy’s popular email newsletter. However, if you want a guaranteed spot in the newsletter, you’ll have to pay for a shout-out.
Write a Better Book
Whether you plan to give your book away or sell it at full retail price, it’s important to invest in your book to make it the best that it can be. The Book Professor’s coaching programs can help you write a high-impact nonfiction book that will establish you as an expert in your field in just one year. Contact us today if you’re ready to share your message with the world.