June 05, 2008

Does Giving Away A Draft Copy Of A Book Help You Sell More Books?

You can't throw a rock in the book blogosphere without hitting a pundit telling you to give away your book prior to releasing it, in an effort to build momentum for the release of the book. Heck, Suzy Orman and Oprah gave away versions of Ms. Orman's already-published book, and it worked! So the strategy HAS to work!

Recall that I attempted this strategy with Hillstrom's Multichannel Secrets. I freely gave away a copy of the draft version of the book to anybody who asked for a copy.

I am here to tell you that the strategy created buzz. It created anticipation. It got folks talking about the book. I gave away a boatload of free draft copies of the book.

One month into the release of the book, I have metrics that tell me whether the strategy worked.

To date, I gave away nearly three times as many books as I sold.

Imagine if I had done this with the money a publisher invests in a new book? Self-publishing allows you to trade-off popular strategies with financial rewards.

The internet is filled with success stories, filled with interesting hypotheses. It isn't always filled with acknowledgement of failure. In my case, the strategy of giving away draft versions of a book to help sell the book failed miserably. The next book will have a very different marketing plan!

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.


  1. Some thoughts (from someone who enjoyed his free copy)

    * One month in is too soon. Give it a year.
    * Would your paid sales 30 days be higher had you not given books away? Eg are your reviewers your target audience, and comping them cannibalized sales, or they a different set?
    * Is your real goal book sales, or buzz and thought leadership leading to consulting gigs? Maybe the better success metric at year's end isn't book revenue with giveaway vs. book revenue w/o give-away (if such an experiment could be done, it can't, but stay with me), but rather, Hillstrom total annual revenue with book giveawy, vs. Hillstrom total annual revenue without.
    Still a proponent of using free solid info to sell idea, consulting, services, meet potential clients, etc.
    Cheers --



  2. More:

    Free marketing advice (worth what you paid for it): heck, randomize the Catalog 100 into two groups. Half get nothging. The other half, mail the CMO your book free with a nice handwritten cover note. That's the experiment I'd like to see! I'd bet you a nice dinner you'd be highly ROI positive on the investment of mailing 50 copies.

  3. Ultimately, the goal is to use various micro-channels to get consulting projects in the long-term (i.e. next one to three years). So, this book is a micro-channel that long-term will combine with blog articles and conference speaking engagements and word of mouth and good works to yield future projects.

    And it is entirely possible that I would have sold half as many books as I did, had I not given any way. I won't discount that possibility.

    Too often, our industry is quick to share success stories. I want to share the failures as well, being honest and transparent.

    Your randomized Catalog 100 is a very good idea. We'll test it!

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