What if I told you that the number of books you give away isn't enough? And I mean actual paperbacks, not ebooks. What if I told you that if you're cringing about the idea of parting with hundreds of your books for free, "You know nothing, John Snow?" What if I said 1,000 might be the number to come close to yield what you desire—albeit only the beginnings of it—which is, the road out of obscurity?
Yeah, I know. I had my hair move on my head too after I recently dove into marrying my art (book writing) and my business (book selling) and started researching book marketing tactics that would get me on the New York Times Best Sellers list, because that's my goal and my dream, and I'll do a naked dance for you if that happens. For real. Until then...
Here is a case study from Goodreads on how All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood made it where I want to be. It's highly educational. And it finally unblocked from being afraid to give away large numbers of my books. Paperbacks. When I can afford it. Because it costs me. Paper ain't free. But the value of the giveaways overrides the costs and has already started bringing me more sales. Yes, it's expensive. I mean, come on, I slaved over every word and now I'm supposed to give my babies away for free?? WTF??!?! YES, YES, YES. I'll tell you why. Ready?
A FREE BOOK IS AN OFFER NO READER CAN REFUSE.
Tattoo this on your forehead, dear writer. In your battle for readership you will have to lose limbs, and you'll have to be smart about it. It's not free, getting readers. You have to somehow entice them to even try reading you. How do you do it? Give them your book for free. A real book. A book they can hold in their hands. A book you signed (and maybe even kissed, like I do). This book is your ticket out of obscurity. Here is how it works:
- You give your free book to a reader—either in person (rarely possible) or by mail (99% of the time). Since you'll mostly be sending it by mail, the rest of the points are about that option. (If you give the book in person, ask for permission to follow up via email, to ask, "How did you like my book?")
- So. You just sent your book by mail. Next you email your reader the details ("Your book has shipped! It's flying on my personal postal bear with wings! His name is Mishka and he will knock down your house when he delivers it! Here is your tracking number! And binoculars to watch for Mishka so you know when to RUN!!!") and at the end of the email say you'll follow up to make sure the book safely got there.
- You start some CRM software thingy (I use BatchBook) and put in your reader's information (name, email, address—just like you would for a customer of any small business) and create a to-do for yourself to follow up in a week (or however long it takes for the book to get there).
- In one week you send another email, asking, "Hey, you alive? Hope Mishka didn't crush you. Did you get the book? I hope you did. I forgot to say, Mishka likes lapping fresh milk spiked with vodka, so if you set out a dish right by your door..." You get the idea. You will make your reader very happy by this follow up. Why? BECAUSE IT'S GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE.
- After this little conversation you promise to follow up in 2-3 weeks to ask how the reader liked the book. You create another to-do for yourself and you follow up like a clock. And guess what you do next.
- You ask how the reader liked the book! And when they respond, you ask to simply copy/paste their feedback into a book review, and provide all the links to make it easy for them to click on.
- Next you send a Thank You card in the mail—as a Thank You for the review, and here you can either ask if they'd like to read another book of yours (hopefully you have a few), and which one would that be, and so on. And when you run out of books...
- ...you offer your reader to sign up for your newsletter in which you will let your reader know when your next book comes out, and perhaps you even offer your reader to send them the new book AS SOON AS YOU HAVE IT, like a perk, for a book review.
- And after this you stay in touch with your reader via your newsletter, and voila! You have gained a loyal fan by now. There is a number floating out there, in all kinds of talks and studies that all you need is 1,000 loyal fans—people who will buy anything you write. Well then, do the math. Still doubting you have to give away 1,000+ books?
- REPEAT FROM POINT 1.
Now you owe me coffee, A BIG OBNOXIOUS BAG. You know that, right? I just gave you trade secrets (like I know any—but let's pretend I do). Share yours, if you've got any. I love stealing secrets. And send coffee here. I'll go camp out by my PO Box, waiting...