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Monday Midday Links: Promotional Copies Make Sense for Some Publishers

Motoko Rich has a piece on the advisability of free giveaways on Kindle. Random House, Harlequin, and smaller publishers are giving away copies of books at Amazon. Other publishers like Penguin and Hachette believe that giving away books devalues the book itself.

Similarly, a spokesman for Penguin Group USA said: "Penguin has not and does not give away books for free. We feel that the value of the book is too important to do that."

Of course, Penguin doesn’t even believe this as it gave away the first books in the J.D. Robb series in physical form a few years ago.

Interestingly, Chris Brashears of Samhain gave statistics of how promotions had positively impacted her authors. Lauren Dane, for example, sold over 6,000 copies of her books in the months of the free giveaways.

Mike Shatzkin argues that offering free books only cannabalizes the market by encouraging readers to simply read free books.


HarperCollins has officially launched inkspot, a writing site for teens. HarperCollins will have an editorial board to review the top five member selections and will be reviewing the site’s offerings for potentially publishable manuscripts. HarperCollins will also have a platform to promote its own publications for sale.


Ian McEwan, the Booker prize winner, has signed a deal with Rosetta to publish his ebooks which will enable him to double his backlist royalties. The digital books will be available exclusively through Amazon for a period of time.   Other authors are looking to strike similar deals.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

18 Comments

  1. Kassia Krozser
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 13:33:38

    Uh, based on my near-daily visits from UPS and FedEx, Penguin certainly does give away books. By the boatload. It must cost them a fortune, too. They still practice the one book per envelope thing.

    Seriously, publishers have been giving away books forever as a way to generate interest. And, as the article pointed out, smart use of free can turn into increased sales.

  2. Jade
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 14:21:29

    I have to say that I have started purchasing and reading new authors on my Kindle just because I’ve downloaded one of their books for free. I think there are probably more stories like mine, than there are people who read the free book and never purchase.

  3. Rebecca
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 14:33:09

    Like Jade, I’ve bought subsequent books from authors whose free books I liked.

    I’ve also bought hard copies of Kindle books that I got for free because I can’t “loan out” my Kindle books. And I’m a big book loaner.

  4. Jennifer Estep
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 14:50:17

    Interesting articles about book giveaways. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I’m doing several giveaways right now. I don’t think that giveaways hurt, and I love getting my books into the hands of readers who maybe haven’t read my stuff before. What I hate is when you get entries from folks who just surf the internet looking for free stuff.

    I just wish that I had some solid, concrete way to track the impact of things like giveaways, guest blogs, etc. It’s really tough to figure out what to spend your time/money on as far as promotions go.

  5. Linda Rader
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 16:29:51

    I buy anything I like, and free books are a way to get me to at least look at a new (to me)author. I think it’s a good way to get word of mouth going in a crowded publishing field. But bottom line you have to have a good book to start with. Otherwise you’ve just warned me away from buying that author.

  6. Ivy
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 17:09:12

    I have to be careful w/ my money these days. Free books expose me to authors I’ve never heard of or read. If I like them, I’ll spend my hard earned money to either catch up or keep up. I added several authors to my “auto buy” list recently due to free books I read. Not only do I buy them but recommend them to others also.

  7. Jessica G.
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 17:22:18

    I’m not going to complain about Hechetta or Penguin, they can do whatever they want. I do know that freebies work like a charm for me. Countless times I’ve enjoyed a freebie and bought the rest of the series or bought more books by that author. If a publisher doesn’t want to take advantage of that, fine by me :)

    On a side note, I finally just started Lauren Dane’s “Giving Chase,” which I got as a freebie for my iPhone. Depending on how it ends, I’ll probably pick up the next one for my Sony.

  8. ami
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 17:23:10

    Confused.. so they’re not giving out free ebooks because they rather give out money to give out hard copies? I mean I would think there would be some money to be made if you give away the first in a series(say J.D Robb XD), and people like it enough to buy the other author’s stuff.

    Or I don’t know.. give longer previews of the book? Say about half the book? I can imagine the uproar if the 2nd half sucked though.

    Reviewers that review one book of the author are offered a different author(similar or same author) for free?

    And the argument about people not buying books because they’re just reading free books means that they wouldn’t have bought any books in the first place imo.

  9. Mrs.MJ
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 17:38:46

    @ami: That’s a great point; although I’m sure there are those who troll for free stuff no matter if they want it or not, I’m not going to read crap just becuase it’s free. And I’m sure most other readers won’t either. Offering free books seems like a great marketing tool, for all the reasons already listed in previous comments.

  10. Leslie Kelly
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 18:34:04

    Being part of the Harlequin 60th anniversary giveaway was a fantastic experience for me. My ebook sales on all my other books went way up, and Harlequin then digitized every book in my backlist, all of which are selling again.

    Count me as a big fan of giving away books!

  11. Mo
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 19:40:48

    I am just going to repeat what others here have said. I have read a number of free books on my Kindle and in most cases I have bought more books by those authors. For me it is a great way to discover wonderful authors new to me.

  12. A
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 21:07:26

    I haven’t read lots of freebies. I did read one free short story by an author and promptly bought several other ebooks by the author.

    Sadly, however, none of the purchased books have matched the freebie (IMHO.) I’m not sure if I was more forgiving of quality in the free book, or if the freebie was simply a better book.

    Weird.

    I do think free stories are a good idea and I’m surprised more publishers and authors do not utilize this method of promotion.

    Or I don't know.. give longer previews of the book? Say about half the book? I can imagine the uproar if the 2nd half sucked though.

    I’m not sure I agree with this. I’m all for excerpts and maybe a few chapters to “sample” the author’s style and evaluate if it’s to one’s taste. I don’t believe lengthier samples should be expected.

    Even a motion picture lasting anywhere from 90 minutes to 2+ hours don’t show you half the movie to see if you might be willing to pay to see the last half.

    If a reader can’t evaluate a reasonable sample — say, maybe a one page excerpt and one full scene from a short story, maybe 1-3 chapters from a novella or a short novel, 4-5 chapters at most for a long novel…If you can’t make up your mind with that much sampling, you might as well pass on the book.

    No amount of sampling guarantees you a “perfect book.” The purpose of “sample reading” should be to evaluate if the writer’s tone appeals to you and if the story catches your interest.

  13. Amy
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 22:36:25

    Ever since I bought my SONY and discovered the availability of free ebooks, I’ve also discovered many new authors. Each time I finish an enjoyable story, I immediately go online to search for more books by the author, preferably in ebook form (just because I’m trying to reduce clutter in my house). Sometimes based on the strength of the one free book I’d buy (all at once) 2-4 of the same author’s back list or new books. So at least for me, free ebooks definitely work to generate additional and new sales.

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  15. ~B
    Jan 26, 2010 @ 12:59:51

    Of course free books work. Baen proved that long, long ago with their Free Library, started in 2000. Give away the first book or two in a series or an early work by an author to hook ‘em and folks will buy the rest if they like the author/series. And it’s nice that they make it the authors choice as to whether they participate or not too.

  16. Tae
    Jan 27, 2010 @ 02:21:08

    *raises hand* another person who buys books based on giveaways. I read ebooks, but if I really love a book I also like to have a paper copy since it’s easier to skim and re-read my favorite parts.

  17. Helen
    Jan 27, 2010 @ 12:58:00

    Free equals sales…if free=good

    When I get a free book if it is an interesting concept, I’ll read it. (I have a somewhat large collection of free e-books I haven’t even read because the concept did not interest me after i got it…but hey…it was free!) If I like the author, I’ll go out and buy EVERY SINGLE BACK LIST title they have. Now maybe I’m a freak that way but if I read an author I like, I want to read all their books. Of course free can work against an author too. If it is there first book that’s free, or one of their klunkers, I’ll read it and then never read a book by them again. I have found many great authors this way. I would say the free book thing definitely works as an advertising gimmick and as a way to get an author’s name out there which in most cases probably results in increased sales for the author.

  18. Rukiatu
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 15:26:22

    I think the free books actually works because it makes u the buyer know exactly what the authors are made of, and it makes u wanna buy more.

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