Does anyone remember the line Wimpy from the Popeye the Sailor Man cartoons was famous for? “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”
I feel when an author gives their books away for free, they’re basically turning that phrase around to say something like, “I will gladly give you my book today if you will have a friend come back and buy it tomorrow.”
Book Giveaways are not good advertising because that isn’t going to happen. In most cases, the person receiving the free book isn’t going to take the time to acknowledge they’ve received it or come back and post a review. Heck, who can say if they even read it? You have just given someone your hard work and everything you have invested in it, including any moneys spent on editing, graphics, and designers, for nothing. Yet, you really haven’t done that now have you? You’re looking to get something out of this deal too.
You don’t expect your friends in the real world to give you a review of their feelings about how much thought and caring they think you put into buying them the sweater you gave them for their birthday, or to tell all of their friends to run out and buy the same diaper bag with green ducks all over it you gave them at their baby shower. Yet, you expect a group of complete strangers to do just that when you give them a copy of your book, and then you’re shocked when it doesn’t work that way? Welcome to the world of gimme, gimme, gimme.
No, you have not entered into an alternate universe. Gimme World has been here all along, as long as time itself. I bet if you think about it you’ll remember at least one instance when you were given something, let’s say a sample of shampoo through the mail, and were asked for your opinion in return. I wonder how many of the people who got that same shampoo sample sat down and wrote anything to the company, despite the money the shampoo company shelled out just to get that little, single use packet into so many hands. How many times have you passed by someone in the grocery store giving away free samples knowing it’s part of their job to lay a big sales push on you, only to grab one as you zoom right by without stopping?
It’s the same way with free book giveaways. Sure, if your book is say on Amazon and you’re just looking for a quick boost in the ratings list giving it away might work out great for you. But if you’re hoping to gain a large number of new readers, I really would suggest staying away from this kind of free promotion. Even if you give away hundreds of books, there are no guarantees. What happens when you don’t get the reviews or likes or any other recognition you expected? How are you going to feel when you look back at the number of books given away when you check the following month’s sales only to see one or two new ones? I see it as a lose-lose situation for an author, especially an Indie Author.