Athens is very hot today. We have reached temperatures in the upper thirties (100 F) while the weather service is promising new highs for tomorrow – summer in the Mediterranean can do that! People are seriously considering spending the day and probably the night on the beach. I, on the other hand, think that sitting indoors is much smarter, and writing blog posts is even better. So, here I am!

As the new working season starts soon, I am trying to organize a promotion and marketing schedule for my books. A question that keeps popping up is whether I should be giving any of my books for free. Since the universe is always working to provide me with answers to my questions (thank you, Coelho), I read an interesting blog post on Publishers Weekly which discussed that same issue.

The general consensus is that there are so many free ebooks available around, that the notion of free is losing its interest. You could probably spend a whole year reading a book a day and still have to pay nothing for your reading. If you asked me a few years ago, I would have said that this is wonderful and that the Internet has really freed us and given us the opportunity to enjoy art –generally speaking- for free.

Now that I am an author and plan to making some sort of living through my books, I will say that writing a book is hard work, and creators of any intellectual work should eventually get something in return for their efforts. Therefore, giving away your hard work is something that you should consider carefully, and only as part of an overall marketing strategy. For example, giving for free the first book of a series or a novella is a good step for people to getting to know you and get a grasp of your writing style.

Another good idea is to include a gentle request at the end of your free ebook for readers to get in touch with you for any ideas they might have, leave a review or simple point out any flaws they have found. In a sense, it’s a way to kindly ask them for something in return for getting the book for free.

Free can be an invaluable tool for first-time authors. When it’s your first book, you need people to get to know you. Still, make it part of a strategy. When I started, I used my free days on Amazon rather erratically and without a clear goal. I was so eager for people to read my book that, had a marketer suggested that I should actually pay my readers to pick my book, I would have done it! Now, I am more careful. I feel it’s a bit like when a shop does a huge sale: you look forward to it because they do it only so often.

Which leads me to my final thought: in order for people to be looking forward to your book sale, it means that they know you already and are eagerly waiting for your book to be free. Which implies that they have already checked you, which inevitably guides me to the well-known conundrum of the chicken and the egg, i.e. how can you make people expect your book with anticipation when they haven’t ever tried your writing? And how can you attract people to read your first book, if you don’t give it away for free?

I believe that the answer is to start your social platform well before you actually publish your book and create a brand of yourself. Create a buzz before you even launch; that way, when the time comes, your platform will be ready to complement your free days to generate the necessary buzz. My friends Nat Russo, Danica Cornell and MMJaye offer some great examples of this approach.

Clearly, this is something I didn’t do and which I learnt progressively as I was trying to promote my book. Heck, I only started this blog in March, and I sent my first tweet weeks after publishing my first two books! However, it is now picking up and I enjoy tremendously the whole author-reader relationship and the networking with the rest of the author community. I just wish I had thought of it 2 years ago, as it would have saved me a lot of hard work and sleepless nights!

meli (5)When you read these lines, I’ll (hopefully) be on a beach, catching some sunshine. So, please forgive me if I take longer than usual to answer any comments! If I do answer you before the 25th, please remind me that I’m on vacation and shame me into shutting off that darn laptop! 🙂