Tuesday, August 2, 2011

If Everyone Is Offering Free eBook Contests, Are They Still Novel?

Every thirty seconds is another Tweet of "free ebook" and it's a drawing for people who leave comments on an author's blog. I don't click these links anymore. 

First, I see a fundamental problem with most of these sites: they aren't FOR readers. They are the personal blog of the author and most of the posts are about writing, marketing, being an independent author, etc. Occasionally, there are features for a reader, such as book reviews, background information about a character, etc. I have authors I love. As a reader, I don't care about their daily goals, word counts, or their marketing plans. 

As a reader, I care about their personality, what they're into, what's the latest project they are working on (just that, not daily updates about it), other authors they can recommend, sales on their books, and maybe where I can discuss their book with them. Most of that is not addressed on an author's blog.

My next dilemma is what is the point of a "free ebook" contest?

Get more comments/followers on a blog? Are they really good comments? Do you need to give away a book for an extra ten or twenty comments on your blog, or would it be better to just write content that encourages comments? What do the extra comments get you if the blog is not even geared towards readers?

Increase exposure for the book, maybe the people who don't win will buy it! This is probably not likely. First, readers who follow an author's blog probably already BOUGHT the book. Second, anyone entering the contest is probably just willing to get a free ebook, not waiting with bated breath to WIN your specific book. Especially books priced at $.99. I mean, it's not a commodity people save up for. Like a car. Or an ereader....

But wait, every day one comment gets my ebook free and then at the end of the month/week there will be a drawing from every daily winner/everyone who entered for a $25/$50/$100 gift certificate/ereader of their choice.... ::slaps forehead:: Let's do the math shall we? Assuming a $.99 ebook and the cheapest $25 gift certificate grand prize, and even just a week long contest. Overall, the author gives away 7 ebooks, for a loss of $2.38 ($.34 commission on each book) and $25 in a gift certificate. Grand total author cost = $27.38

To break even on this promotion, for a $.99 novel, the author would need to sell 81 books as the result of this promotion alone. If your contest see a sales spike that large, I'm impressed, but the ones I've seen have maybe 10-20 people leave a comment to get a free ebook. For a $2.99 novel, it's 20 sales. Not 20 comments/entries, but 20 sales. And if you don't make up the difference? Well take how much money you are out and divide it by the number of entries you received. That's how much you paid per comment. Ask yourself, if someone spammed you on Twitter and said "Free comments on your blog, just $1 a piece!" would you buy it?

Lesson? Give away your book for free, don't add a grand prize. And if you aren't getting traffic/sales to make up for the free ebook giveaway? Find a better way to market. 

Oh and contests with like 6 things a reader must do to "enter?" Like comment here, add link on their blog, like you on Facebook... and so on. Give them the book for free.

I think these contests were very effective originally when the idea of winning a free book from the author was exciting and new. Today, with nearly every indie author/reader blog throwing a free ebook contest, it's just a spam thing. If you're doing an interview somewhere, give a free ebook to everyone in the audience (the people who leave comments). Oprah did it, and look what happened to her ratings? LOL. 

Put yourself in the reader's shoes. What makes YOU want to buy a book? This is probably the answer: an interesting cover, great hook, and a decent price. If a book doesn't have an interesting cover, you aren't going to read the hook. If the hook is exciting to you, you won't even look at the price. And if the price is too high, you're not going to buy. This is why digital advertisements work on reader blogs to spike sales. Readers know the book will fit into their price range (whether it's $.99 or a under $3 blog etc.), the print ad with the cover grabs their attention and then it comes down to the hook. 

Advertising and marketing that plays to these strengths -- a visual image of the novel, a great hook, and decent price -- those are the marketing campaigns worth the money. Intent is just as important with advertising as it is in writing. Intent can be increased sales, exposure, or both, but make sure the effort and money is worth the results. 

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.

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