Distributing Free Copies
Often, the best way to promote your work is to give out free samples. The most common cases cases for indie authors are:
- Distributing free reader-review copies to bloggers and other influencers.
- Giving out free copies in exchange for reader email addresses. This is how most indie authors build their mailing lists.
- Giving out free copies of the first book in a series to attract new readers who will buy subsequent titles.
Most authors do not want to distribute unlimited free copies, or free copies that can be easily duplicated and passed around. They also want to make sure that readers who receive free copies in exchange for an email-list sign-up actually do provide an email address.
Prolific Works, formerly known as InstaFreebie, offers free and paid services to meet these needs. They make sure your free copies go only to the right people, and that only a specified number are delivered.
In addition, their paid services ensures that you can build a mailing list from recipients of your giveaway. You can integrate thier service with a sign-up form on your author blog to expand your mailing list throughout the year. Of course, giving away titles to build a mailing list only makes sense if you have more than one title to sell.
Prolific Works has been around for several years, and has been the free distributor of choice for BookishFirst.
Advance Reader Copies (ARCS)
Advance Reader Copies, or ARCs, are books you distribute to reviewers before your official publication date so you can have reviews available on the day you launch. You can send these to paid editorial review services, reader-review services like NetGalley or to bloggers who review titles in your genre.
Goodreads giveaways work for both print and Kindle books. For $119, you can create a raffle giving away up to 100 Kindle copies of your book. You may find that several hundred or several thousand readers enter the raffle, adding your book to their “want to read” shelf along the way. You may also pick up some followers in the process.
Goodreads manages the distribution of Kindle books to raffle winners, and they remind the winners to post reviews when they’re done. Not all will, but you’ll usually pick up a noticeable number of new reviews.
These giveaways can lead to follow-on sales when you give away the first book in a series, or when your free books includes links to other titles in the back matter.
You can give away print copies too, though the printing and mailing can get expensive. If you do a print giveaway, know that USPS media mail (also known as “book rate”) costs less than half of the Priority Mail rate, and typically takes just a day or two longer to arrive.
See the Goodreads Giveaway Setup Guide for details.
You may occasionally want to give away free copies of an e-book directly from online bookstores (Amazon, B&N, etc.) to attract new readers. This type of free promo works best when you’re giving away the first book in a series, or when you’re giving away a book that includes links to your other titles in the back matter.
A number of services exist to promote these giveaways through email lists, Facebook and Twitter. See the section on promo sites for more information.