Sometimes giving stuff away for free can be a good way of getting publicity for something. We see it all around us as a common promotional tool. In the field of publishing its a common ploy – some authors have done well building up a fan base in the past by giving away free content, and free previews of content are a key way for readers to decide if they like something before they buy from an online retailer.
With eBooks, a lot of self-publishers have used Amazon’s Kindle Select programme to promote their books. The strategy being that if you get lots of downloads you’re going to get some reviews and also more “Others also bought/viewed” type related sales after the free promotion has finished. There is evidence out there that this strategy can work, but it seems that it’s getting more difficult.
Amazon only allows you to give 5 days free content for your book over a 3 month period (during which you can’t distribute your eBook with anyone else). In the past you could get a good number of downloads without really having to do anything – I’ve done this in the past and as soon as the free promotion period starts the free downloads start tallying up. However, I tried this with Hell has its Demons recently and hardly anything happened until I started unleashing some pretty serious promotion of my own – blog posts, email campaigns etc. Having read a bit more about this now online it seems that as a bare minimum you have to start using promotional sites like Bookbub and others to get your book out there.
What’s going on? Are Amazon simply trying to hush up free content on their site in order to get people to buy things? Is there such a large micro-market of publicity services available that Amazon feels they don’t need to to it.
In contrast if you want to give away free eBooks you can still do this in fairly good numbers on other retailers and get some stats on how many – such as Barnes & Noble and Sony for instance. I use Smashwords to distribute to these retailers and they provide monthly stats usually. Unfortunately you don’t get starts from Apple’s iBookstore or from Kobo – but your book is still free there as long as you want it to be.
Seems like a lot of things in self-publishing are changing – it’s actually getting harder to promote and get your work out there – and potentially more costly if you need to pay for advertising so that anyone notices. You can’t even give it away unless you pay!
Is self-publishing still a nirvana for the aspiring writer, or a money-making opportunity for the middlemen?