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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Giveaways

Hello and welcome to Self-Publishing Central.

If you stopped in last week you probably saw that I was offering to give away Kindle copies of my very best-selling book, THE 19TH ELEMENT. All you had to do was check this blog last Friday and email me your request for the book, providing the email address to which I should send the book.

Pretty simple, right? No need to Follow my Blog, comment, buy anything, advertise for me, kiss my sister, etc.

So . . . how did the giveaway go?

I gave away NINE copies. I had offered FIFTY. I would consider it to have been a BUST!!! But then, that's just me. In any case, the results of the giveaway have raised new questions that every Self- or Indie-Publisher needs to answer, to wit: (They teach us to write "to-wit" in law school. I think it sounds dumb. But there you go.)

First of all, why did I do this giveaway?

I had a couple reasons.

First of all, everybody seems to be doing giveaways these days. Maybe they know something I don't. Why not check it out and see?

Second, I hoped to boost the Amazon Sales Ranking for the book for one day. Sure, I'm buying the books. But after my royalty, it only cost me a buck a book. Pretty cheap advertising if those folks actually read the book.

And third, I wanted to see if my social media Followers overlapped with my target audience for the book.

I guess I answered my questions with a new one, to wit: 

Why did so few people want FREE genuine Amazon Kindle copies of my book?

Email Privacy. I'm hypothecating here (not apothecating; that would be pharmaceutical), but one reason may be that they didn't want to give me their email address. Okay. That's valid. You don't know me personally. Just because I SAID I wouldn't spam you doesn't mean that's true. Maybe a free ebook isn't enough to tempt readers out of their email privacy.

Failure to get the word out. Maybe there weren't many readers of thrillers who heard about the giveaway. If true, that's a platform problem (for a guy selling thrillers, at least). I tweeted the heck out of this giveaway to my 5000+ Twitter Followers, and placed an announcement on my FaceBook page several times, for at least four days before the giveaway. I also announced it here at Self-Publishing Central. If my target audience didn't see that the book was available for free, I need to work on building a new social media platform.

Maybe it's just a bad book and nobody wants it. I suppose this is possible, but I doubt it for several reasons. First, how good does a book have to be to warrant the selling price of ZERO. Second, the book has won awards which are referenced on Amazon and on my author pages. Third, the book has had 23 reviews with an average of something like 4.7 Stars. It's not WAR AND PEACE. But it's not awful either. And four, in the two days after the giveaway, I sold four copies of the exact same Amazon Kindle book -- through Amazon -- for $6.99 each.

Fellow authors may have felt obligated to give me a quid pro quo. I know that I like to support authors, and taking their books for free doesn't seem like much support to me. Maybe some authors felt guilty taking the free book without offering me one of their own? This isn't a great explanation, since it applies only to authors and I don't know why they should feel guilty accepting my book on the terms it is offered. But I suppose it needs to be considered.

People were suspicious of my motives? I don't know. Maybe the saying that "if it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is" got in the way of this giveaway. If so, that's unfortunate, because there were no strings attached.


Other than the explanations above, I'm at a loss to explain the failure of the giveaway. I'm hoping some of you wise folks will make comments and provide answers. This blog is all about learning. Usually, I share what I have learned. Today, I'll let you educate me.

That's it for today. Thanks for stopping by.




  1. It may be where you posted notice of your giveaway. The best place I've ever done a giveaway was and when I do it on twitter or during a virtual blog tour I always give away my quota.

    Thanks for sharing your giveaway results, but just like all other marketing it has to hit the right audience.

    Some other places you can do an ebook giveaway:

  2. I'm surprised John. But I didn't get it, and here's why. I bought the Kindle version, and didn't want a paper book. My wife and I have a house full of full of books, and rarely buy print copies anymore. I suspect this is true for lots of folks.

  3. LM and Ben,

    Thanks for your comments.

    LM - I've done Goodreads giveaways. They like paper for their giveaways, I think. I'll check the other sites you mentioned. You're probably right that I didn't advertise correctly to my audience. Which means I need to revamp my social media voice.

    Ben - The giveaway was for the Kindle version. But I'm sure there are probably readers that wouldn't want that version because they like paper books or another ereader format.

    Much appreciated.



  4. I was going to ask for one, John, but I thought it selfish of me since I'm a fellow writer and not really your target audience. And therein lies the problem. On twitter we are essentially writers talking to other writers, not writers talking to readers. Ditto on facebook. If you find a place where your audience is eReaders let me know. I haven't found it yet. That's who we need to see our attempts at selling.

  5. Larry,

    Thanks for that comment. I was just re-evaluating my Twitter tags today to address this very issue. I know that's not enough. Getting our product information to the readers is, indeed, the goal. (Something you do very well, BTW.)

    Comment appreciated!



  6. John - I was trying the same thing at about the same time with about the same results.

    A bust? Maybe. I hope to get a few more reviews out of the books I gave away, maybe a few more fans.

    I think the main problem is finding the audience, the reader. If we can get enough sales, Amazon will help us do that, but until then it's getting reviews, Goodreads (even there is tough), blogs, it's a long walk, but we just need to keep walking.

    Good luck and thanks for sharing. And when you figure out the magic bullet to find and connect with the right readers, let us know.


  7. Doug,

    I agree with you completely. Blogs. Reviews. Contests. Local press. Awards competitions. Book signings. Every chance is one step forward.

    So far the best magic bullet I have found is PATIENCE.

    I'll let you know when that one runs out. Lol.



  8. John - Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I found your post to be very interesting.

    I agree that patience is key. It's tough out there. Whew!

    - john

  9. Hi, John

    I think there are 3 possible reasons for the low take-up

    1. Not noticing it. That was the case with me: I haven had some sort of flu for a couple of week and so have not been reading my Google Reader feeds. So annoying, as I would have enetered.

    2. I have noticed the existence of something called the 1% rule, which is that only around of 1% of a group actually do anything, on average. So if you recokon on 50 people actually following up your tweet (ie 1%), and that you could expect 1% of those people to bother to email you, then a response of 9 out of 5,000 is actually 18%, which is phenomenally good. I've writte about the 1% rule and other rules here:

    3. I have read that, in the UK at least, entry rates for any competition tend to be very low, because people think they probabpy won't win so why bother. Perhaps that applies in other countries too.

    Hope that is useful. Keep up the good work!


  10. Hi, I'd like to invite you to post your giveaways on our giveaway directory: Giveaway Scout ( Please submit your blog here: Once you receive our confirmation email you can post your giveaways on our site. Thanks.

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