Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Power of Freebies

I don't know about you, but I read a lot, and I tend to download novels I'm interested in when they are offered for free. But how does that affect the author? Is it a good thing, or not? I asked Becky Lyles about her experience in offering her novel for free. (After reading her thoughts, be sure to share your own.)

"It's become common practice to market a book by giving away books of either the current release or a previous book. What had been experience in this area? Has it led to higher sales after the giveaway?" - Sandy

Becky: I recently read, again, that the best way to sell books is to hand out free copies. Over the years, I’ve donated dozens of books to libraries, blog contest winners, raffle winners at speaking engagements, fundraisers, friends who couldn’t afford the purchase price, and even a man we met at a campground. Most of those books were paper copies, but I’ve also gifted eBooks.

What did those freebies gain me? Almost always, I’m treated to a delighted smile. Sometimes I get a hug. One time, I was kissed on the cheek. As with any gift-giving, I’m blessed as much as the receiver. In addition, I might gain a new fan, or the reader could recommend the book to a friend. Once in a while, a recipient takes the time to write an Amazon review. But none of the above is measurable.

My publisher likes to do freebie eBook promotions on Amazon, where giveaways can be tracked. He says the higher an eBook goes on the Kindle Top Free eBook lists, the more readers an author will gain and the greater the potential is for the book to get a boost in sales when it comes off the promo. “Running a group of sales tends to help keep the rank up there longer. That’s why we run a second promo a month later.”

The eBook version of Winds of Wyoming, my first novel, was offered for free during three days in January and two days in February. Sales had been good up to that point, with Winds hanging in the top 50 Westerns/Christian for several weeks. Here are sample numbers showing how the freebie “sales” went:

  • January 24: #75 Free in Kindle Store; #1 in Westerns/Christian; #6 in Romance/Christian 

  • January 25: #25 Free in Kindle Store; #1 in Westerns/Christian; #4 in Romance/Christian; #4 in Religious Fiction/Romance 

  • January 26: #22 Free in Kindle Store; #1 in Westerns/Christian; #5 in Religious Fiction/Christian; #5 in Religion & Spirituality/Christian

  • February 22: #884 Free in Kindle Store; #1 in Westerns/Christian; #32 in Religious Fiction/Romance; #32 in Romance/Christian 

  • February 23: #183 Free in Kindle Store; #1 in Westerns/Christian; #7 in Romance/Christian

As expected, the numbers jumped around during that time and continue to do so. Immediately following the freebie pushes, however, Winds of Wyoming rankings remained strong. Here are January 27 numbers: #2,896 Paid in Kindle Store; #6 in Westerns/Christian; #43 in Religious Fiction/Romance; #47 in Romance/Christian.

Rankings (eBook) hung at 20 to 50 in Westerns/Christian and 20,000 to 60,000 in the Kindle store for weeks. During that time, Winds was featured on a variety of blogs, I spoke at a local library, and our regional newspaper printed a rave review (God bless that sweet reviewer!), all of which helped sales. In the last couple weeks, I haven’t done much marketing due to a death in the family and working through the final edits for the sequel, Winds of Freedom. Yet, the first book continues to rank in the top 100 Westerns/Christian eBooks. I’m told the release of the second book, along with accompanying promotions, will positively influence first-book sales.

As I write this, my hubby, Steve, is reading a YA novel about mermaids, of all things, a book he would never have pulled off a shelf to read. He’s reading the book because we heard the author speak (she even brought along a live mermaid!), and when she finished her talk, she gave free copies of her books to her audience.

Steve is enjoying the story. Send me an email if you’d like to know the name of the novel, so you can order it for yourself. There you go—the power of freebies!


Fresh out of a Pennsylvania penitentiary armed with a marketing degree, Kate Neilson heads to Wyoming
anticipating an anonymous new beginning as a guest-ranch employee. A typical twenty-five-year-old woman might be looking to lasso a cowboy, but her only desire is to get on with life on the outside—despite her growing interest in the ranch owner. When she discovers a violent ex-lover followed her west, she fears the past she hoped to hide will imprison her once again.


Though debut novelist Rebecca Carey Lyles grew up in Wyoming, she and her husband, Steve, currently live in the neighboring state of Idaho. She enjoys the creativity and beauty that abound throughout her adopted state as well as opportunities to hike, camp, snowshoe and cross-country ski in the midst of God’s grandeur. While hiking in the Wyoming mountains one summer, she came nose-to-nose with—well, several feet from—a beautiful white wolf. Currently, she’s working through the final edits for a Winds of Wyoming sequel titled Winds of Freedom.;

What about you? Do you have experience in this area? Has it been good or not-so-good? Are you a reader who takes advantage of these offers? As a reader,  what are your thoughts?