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Giving Away Free Books

These days the internet is full of promotional advice for Authors. I’ve lost count of the sites that claim to help books become national bestsellers. 

As a legitimate 4x New York Times bestselling Author, I can tell you most of that advice is bad and will steer you wrong.  

Today I’m going to address one of the most misleading suggestions I’ve seen: hosting book giveaways.

When people talk about book giveaways, they are usually thinking of the same general concept.  Authors offer free copies of their book to readers on social media, Amazon, or Goodreads. People sign up for a chance to win, and in return, the Author gets their contact information and exposure. 

Here’s the thing: those kinds of giveaways aren’t effective for most nonfiction Authors. 

That’s because they have the wrong goal in mind, and they usually target the wrong audience.  

The ultimate goal of a typical free book giveaway is to increase book sales. But for most nonfiction Authors, sales numbers are the wrong way to measure a book’s success.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to sell copies. 

But when you write a nonfiction book, especially as a business owner or entrepreneur, your ROI won’t come from selling copies. It will come from all the other ways a book can make money, which are actually more lucrative. 

Authors can use their books to get paid speaking gigs, consulting work, and investors. These can bring six-or seven-figures in additional revenue. Selling copies alone will never do that. 

If you’re trying to leverage your book into a money-maker, a book giveaway won’t help you find good leads

The average person who signs up for a giveaway only wants something for free. 

Plus, sweepstakes like those cast a wide net into a broad audience. It’s unlikely that the contestants will be in your target market. That makes them less likely to be serious buyers for your professional services. 

And while a book giveaway can get you more attention, it’s usually not the attention you want. You’re much better off focusing your efforts on a niche market of readers who will take action.   

What do you really want? 

An email list full of random people who wanted free stuff? 

Or a list of people who are sincerely interested in your (far more lucrative) services or business?

It’s a no-brainer.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give away copies of your book. It just means you should give them away wisely. 

Here are 6 ways you can give away your nonfiction book and get much better professional returns.  

6 Real Ways to Make Money by Giving Away Your Book

1. Give It to Potential Clients

Giving your book to potential clients is easily the number one way to make money with book giveaways. 

Writing a book is a powerful way to establish authority and credibility in your field. A book shows potential clients two things:

  1. Your ability to commit to a large project and finish it
  2. The extent of your expertise and knowledge

More than a degree, title, or credential, publishing a book can show clients how dedicated, skilled, and knowledgeable you are.  

It also gives potential clients an inside peek into your methods and personality. If it’s well written, they will get the gist of your message, including who you are and what you can do for them.

Even if they don’t read the whole book, they’re likely to be impressed. 

Most of the books you’ll give away will be to potential clients that you’ve met face-to-face or through word of mouth. But a book can also be incredibly powerful in wider professional circles when it’s paired with digital marketing tools. 

That still doesn’t mean you should hand out your book to every Tom, Jane, and Harry who finds your website. You are looking for people who will follow through. 

If you want to use online marketing campaigns to attract new clients, only offer someone the book once they reach a certain level of interest. 

In other words, if they’ve dug past your homepage, it’s a safer bet that they’re a solid lead. 

2. Build an Email List of *Real* Sales Leads

I’ve already explained why it’s not useful to offer a free book to 5 or 10 random contest winners. Using random contest submissions to build an email list isn’t beneficial or effective. 

That doesn’t mean an email list giveaway can’t be a useful tool. 

Just remember, your goal isn’t to sell as many copies of your book as possible. The point of giving books away is to profit from selling your brand and your ideas.  

One way to make sure you’re reaching the right audience is to offer a free download of your book to people who sign up for your business email list. 

Consider offering your book to email subscribers once they scroll down a certain percentage of your web page. If they’ve gotten more than halfway through, they’re more than casually interested. 

Or, you could offer the sign-up/book combo to potential readers right before they leave your site. They’ll get their free book, and you’ll get the email address of a person who’s actually interested in your services. 

The people who purposefully sign up for your business email list are solid leads. If just one of them buys your services, you will make far more money than digital book sales ever would have. 

Still don’t believe it? Look at the numbers in black and white. 

Let’s say your book sells for $3.99. 

Maybe you feel like it’s a bad idea to give away 100 books. That’s $399 in lost sales, right? 

Wrong. 

There’s no guarantee that those 100 people would have bought the book, even for $3.99. 

If you’re lucky, 5-10% would actually have bought it (and that’s a pretty high conversion rate.) That means that you would have made somewhere along the lines of $20-$40 in digital sales. 

Amazon would get 30% of that money, and you would keep 70%. Your profits just dropped to somewhere between $14 and $28. Congratulations. 

On the other hand, if you give away 100 copies, you won’t make that $14-28, but you will reach 90 more people. 

In almost all cases, you’re far better off with 90 potential clients than a handful of Kindle sales. 

3. Let Your Friends and Contacts Give It Away

What are you more likely to read? A random book you stumbled across on the internet  OR a book your colleague hands you, saying, “Hey, you should read this!”?

I thought so.

Word of mouth is the best way to sell your services.

People trust people in their network

People are much more likely to trust people in their network than random advertisements or strangers online. They’re also more likely to trust someone that isn’t the Author.

Before your book launches, let your close contacts know that you’re willing to provide free copies. They may be more inclined to share your book if they know it won’t cost them a dime. 

Have plenty of books (either print or digital) ready for the people you trust. Let them spread the word. 

When I say “people you trust,” I don’t mean your mom or workout partner. I mean people in your extended business network who might reach out and say, “I’d love to send one to so-and-so over at XYZ Company.” 

When you hear those words, hand a free copy over immediately. 

4. Offer a Free Copy with Every Sale

No matter what professional field they’re in, nonfiction Authors are always trying to sell something other than their book. 

Maybe you have a video course you want to sell. Or a set of nutritional supplements. Or a piece of software. Or a paid group workshop. 

That’s where your real money is made. 

But you can put your book to work to help amplify your sales. Offering a free copy with every purchase is a great way to entice buyers. After all, who doesn’t like a freebie?  

For example, you might say, “If you buy my online marketing course, you’ll get a FREE copy of my new book.” 

Or, “Every new student who signs up for my yoga class will get my guide to health and wellness.” 

Or, “With every order of $25 or more, you’ll get a digital copy of our bestselling book on blockchain.”  

Not only does the free book incentivize purchases, but it also paves the way for a continued business relationship. If customers read your book and enjoy it, they’re more likely to become loyal to your brand.  

5. Send Copies to Bloggers/Podcasters/Written Media

Many Authors use their book as a launching pad for PR opportunities.

You might want to send a free copy of your book to relevant bloggers, podcasters, or written media outlets. 

That “might” is important. I’ll come back to it in a second. 

Going after media appearances only makes sense in 2 instances:

  1.  You’ve identified that a large segment of your target audience follows these outlets
  2. There’s a specific angle that makes you an appealing guest 

Do extensive research on media that makes sense for you. Look for outlets in niche categories. Make sure they have good download numbers (or a solid reader base) and that they reach your target audience. 

Once you’ve done your research, you can prepare your pitch. Unless the outlet has specific submission guidelines, your pitch should consist of a brief email (under 200 words) that answers these 3 questions:  

  1. What do you want to talk about? 
  2. What are the most interesting and compelling points? 
  3. What information do you have that the audience can use to change their lives?  

Here’s the #1 rule for all book marketing: No one cares about your book. They only care about what your book gets them. That means, 

you are not pitching your book. You are pitching a story.  

The guest post, article, or podcast might involve your book, but it’s not about your book

That’s why I said “might” above. 

You can offer the podcaster writer a free copy of your book. If they’re interested in your pitch, they might accept it. 

Do not send the book with your initial email. Keep the focus of your pitch on what information you can offer their audience, not on the book itself. 

6. Send Copies to Reviewers

Book reviews can help Authors gain exposure within their target market. As with other media, only look for reviews in publications that cater to a large segment of your target market. 

For example, if you wrote a book about how credit unions can market themselves better, your ideal audience will be the people at credit unions who might hire you. 

It wouldn’t make any sense to send a review copy of your book to the New York Times Review of Books.

It would make sense, though, to send the book to credit union association newsletters, magazines, or trade papers. 

Niche media converts much better, and you won’t waste time and money sending out free books that people will never read.  

Always follow the submission guidelines of the specific publication. Keep your pitch or press release short, and only send the book if a reviewer or editor requests it.