Saturday, September 14, 2013

Book Giveaways--Worth Any Price?

I receive a newsletter called THE BOOK MARKETING EXPERT NEWSLETTER by Author Marketing Experts, Inc. I read through most of them and try to sort through what advice I can apply to my own situation. As authors, marketing is often the one aspect of our business that stumps even the most experienced because of the constantly changing nature of the marketplace. Whatever anyone has found to work for them is worth a few moments of my time to peruse and consider. I don't always follow their recommendations, and this month's  Feature Article: The Power of the Goodreads Giveaways is one of those times.

Giveaways can often allow an author to find a new audience, that much is true. But Goodreads requires giveaways be paperback copies. Maybe some people get free copies from their publisher but most authors I know don't. Add the shipping from the publisher to you and then from you to your winner and now you're going to have to entice a large number of readers to purchase your book through Amazon or other outlets to make enough in royalties to pay for the one you gave away.  To quote from the article: 
"So how many books should you give away? I've done anywhere from ten to fifty. Keep in  mind that while the higher number is great, at some point you will have to fulfill this order and Goodreads only allows printed books, so you can't give an eBook version or PDF, they have to be print books and they are all mailed (or you can also ship them from Amazon if you want to). One more point on the giveaways. If you want to really max out your exposure on the site, I recommend letting the contest run worldwide. You'll get much better participation that way and in the big picture global shipping isn't really that expensive."
Seriously? Fifty copies to give away and you don't think global shipping is all that expensive? Did you know that Flat Rate global shipping from the US to anywhere other than Canada or Mexico is $15? Media Rate shipping through the US post office does not go overseas; it must be sent global --and trust me, flat rate is the cheapest way to send anything out of the country. I don't know what the author of this article's "big picture" is, but obviously they have far more disposable income than I.

Let's say your author cost for a book is $10. You purchase that book from your publisher, it costs $3 to ship to your house--then you're going to dish another $15 to send it to a winner in Adelaide or London or Tokyo. That's $28 you've dished out for one book you gave away that retails for about $14.  At 8% print royalty ( approximately $1.12 ) you will need to sell TWENTY-FIVE copies through the publisher to make up that $28--again, for ONE copy you gave away. [The emphasis on selling through the publisher is because that's what pays you royalties. And yes, that includes Amazon et al.]

If you purchase your copies, there is no royalty and you are losing money hand over fist in these giveaways. Can they promise you an increase in royalty-producing sales to cover your costs? Of course not. "Oh, but you get exposure, more reviews, and get to connect with readers." Uh-huh and that is worth how much when it comes to paying your bills?  

I'm simply advising you as an author to be aware of the real cost of book giveaways, especially on Goodreads where they must be print copies that you have to pay to ship. Odds are you will never recover your costs. There are other ways to market your work and offer giveaways without digging a hole in your bank account.



Susan Arscott said...

Good blog and so true. I often wonder how much money and time marketing people assume writers have to spend? Their helpful ideas most often seem incredibly impractical, to me at least.

Cary Caffrey said...

Great blog post.

And, wow, whoever is suggesting giving away ten or fifty copies of a paperback is a good idea is out to lunch. Even if you can afford to give away fifty, frankly giveaways suck at spreading word of mouth. Even if those fifty people like your book and tell a couple of friends (highly unlikely), it's a drop in the bucket in terms of expanding readership - at a huge expense to you.

As you point out, a giveaway like this can cost you upwards of a grand. Hell, you can hire a good publicist for a lot less!

When it comes to giveaways, I only giveaway hard-copies to people I meet face to face. This allows me to gauge whether or not they're actually interested, if they'll bother reading the book, and if they'll actually spread the word.

On the other hand, I'll give away eBooks to whoever I can, whenever I can. I've calculated as best I can, that for every ten eBooks I give away I probably sell one (this is based on the percentage my sales increase after giveaways on Amazon. Since the giveaways cost me nothing, that's not a bad deal.

To date, I've given away about 28k books (at no cost to me), netting me somewhere near an extra 2.5k in book sales. Not a bad return.

I do have one exception to hard-copy giveaways, and that's to friends. I never (ever!) sell my books to friends. Sure, they might be willing to buy your first, but if you turn out to be moderately prolific, eventually they'll roll their eyes at the suggestion of having to buy yet another of your tomes. Give your friends a break. Give 'em a copy (if you think they want to read it).

Allison Knight said...

Great blog. I give my purchased copies of my books to friends - only, so I agree with Cary. I also only do a very limited number of free giveaways. Word of mouth sells books and giving them away doesn't mean the reader is going to talk about the book. They might mention they got a free book, but did they read it? Will they talk about it? They might if they paid for it. Or at least that MHO.

Jude Johnson said...

Thanks for the great comments, folks. Cary, spot on. I also give paperbacks as a door prize when I speak to groups, as raffle prizes at festival events, and in gift baskets as hostess gifts.
Ebooks are so much easier to send overseas for contest prizes!