I've recently begun to wonder about the author practice of offering a free copy of their book to a person leaving a comment on an interview or a guest blog post. It probably is a good way to introduce your writing to someone unfamiliar with it, but are there people who leave comments in hopes of winning free books, yet never post a review, tell others about the writer's work, or help the author in any way afterward?
In writing, we learn to look at ROI--return on investment. Is there ROI for giving away our books? I realize you can dine on free samples from Sam's sometimes, but do dry cleaners give away samples? Grocers? Dentists?
I queried several of my colleagues about this. All of them are established writers, some traditionally published while others had gone the "indie" or "hybrid" route. Here's the question I asked: “Do you really think giving away a copy of your latest novel helps sales?”
The response of one author echoes one of the concerns writers have: "Only if a review is actually posted online." Unfortunately, as you'll see below, there are those around who enter every "contest" but never follow through with the review we ask them to post--it doesn't have to be good, just an honest opinion.
Another author is probably a bit less cynical, and answered yes, saying that many people had become loyal readers "after reading a gift, contest, or giveaway copy." Okay, that definitely represents ROI.
Another writer voiced a concern a bit different from the one already detailed. "I fear that most free books go to (people who are already) fans. (They) tell me how delighted they are when they get a free copy from the publisher or a site like NetGalley. If our fans are no longer buying our books because they have learned to get them for free for the promise of an honest review, who will buy them? I think the 'culture of free' is harming Christian fiction a great deal.” Well, at least it's harming the pitiful monetary return most of us have. I've heard that becoming a writer is essentially "taking a vow of poverty."
A well-known author has a different take on the subject. "If you mean doing a blog post interview, which includes giving away one copy—I don’t know. The interview gives some publicity. I don’t know that giving away a copy gives any more. But it might be a requisite for doing the interview." And this is correct--some bloggers and reviewers expect the author to offer one (sometimes more than one) copy of their book at the time they are given blog space.
A number of blogs encourag interviews or guest posts be accompanied by a free book to a randomly selected commenter. To this, yet another author says, "Why should we pay people to read our work?" I don't have an answer to that, at least not when it's phrased that way. Do you?
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