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My partner asked the other night in shock. “You’re giving your book away again?”
Yep. And that’s not so crazy as it sounds.
I’ve long held the belief that an author’s greatest enemy isn’t people ripping off his work. It’s anonymity.
In other words, if you’re an artist, you should be more scared of people not knowing who you are or what you do than you should be worried about how much money you can make off your work.
The strategy of free, from a marketing perspective, works. Here’s why.
1. Free is a great way to get people’s attention.
The other day I was at the mall returning a pair of shoes that didn’t fit. While I was there, I passed through the food court and was greeted by eager fast food vendors hawking free samples. And guess what? I stopped to try some delicious bit-sized pizzas.
It’s hard to get people to care about you when you’re just one more voice in a crowded food court. But unexpected generosity is one of the best ways for people to discover your work, your art, your product.
2. Once people are paying attention to you, some of them will want to pay you.
I learned that lesson first from my blog. After a year of writing every day, giving away nearly three-decade’s worth of writing experience, people starting asking me via email if they could buy something from me.
And so I let them.
Here’s the lesson. When you attract a large enough audience, some — but definitely not all — will pull out their checkbooks and want to reciprocate your generosity.
This isn’t the reason you create, but it’s a beautiful byproduct of the process that allows an artist to make a living.
3. The hardest part of marketing is getting people to talk.
The reason why any of us buy anything is because most likely we heard someone we trust recommend something we want.
When I launched my first trade book, I pushed to give away a copy of the book to nearly everyone I could think of. That ended up being at least 300-400 books, maybe more. Most books don’t sell that much in the first few months, if ever. And here I was wanting to give them away.
That book has done great in the first six months of its publication. Turns out if you write something that hits a nerve, that connects with people, and you get it into people’s hands, they will help it spread.
So why am I giving my book away?
- Because I want this book to reach as many people as possible without price being an impediment. I don’t write books to make money. I write books to spread ideas.
- Because if the idea spreads, it’ll all even out in the end.
- Because I hope it gets people talking.
All that to say: free can work, if you do it right.
What do you think about the strategy of free from a book marketing perspective?
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