I want to make sure that every author puts in their marketing plan budget free books. I would say you should target 50 - 100 books. These are books you are going to have to pay for out of your own pocket (unless your publisher provides them to you - our publisher has been really good in that they let me send out free books for promotion)
WHAT DO I USE THEM FOR
- Contest Entries
I need to do an entire post on reviews (how to get someone to review your book, where to find reviewers etc but in a nutshell:
- Pre-release sources (Booklist, Foreword Magazine, Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly) - these sources need copies 3 - 5 months before publication date - in most cases they are looking for a galley proof (more on this in the future)
- At release sources - some reviewers don't want to have a copy until after the book is available - these are generally website based as anything in print wants that 3 - 5 lead time I'll have to dig up my list and post them
- Amazon top reviewers - I think it is worth contacting Top Amazon reviewers and sending them copies - for instance Harriet Klausner has been the top reviewer for years and is easy to get a book to (email@example.com)
- Blogs - the blog community is great and growing there are many looking for books to review and they tend to talk amongst them selves and are active in social networking sites - they are great for spreading news about a book they really enjoy
Winning an award, or even getting an honorable mention can do a lot to legitimize a new author. I submitted Michael's first book to Foreword Magazine's Book of the Year and he received a "finalist" designation that I use in a lot of my marketing materials. Now, if you know anything about this award it's really not all that great - in that they give out a lot of them. But most people don't know this and see "2007 Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Finalist" and get really impressed. Again I'll post more about various contests in the future.
Can be a great marketing tool. If you are at a book fair, or sci-fi/fantasy convention put out a fish bowl for people to add their email addresses then pull one at random and send it to them. This gets you email addresses for your direct marketing efforts
Also use social networking site. Goodreads has a "free giveaway" section and I had over 600 people sign up to win one of 5 copies. After the contest I contact the people who did not win and gave them a special discount offer - I got a HUGE number of books sold this way and the people really appreciated the discount.
One thing not to do....Don't put a free giveaway on YOUR website. This doesn't help because anyone coming to your site already knows about your book - so you are just throwing away money advertising something they already know about. An exception to this rule is if you are using it as a way to "drive" people to your site - so if you put a free giveaway on your site then are out pounding the pavements sending people to your site to sign up that is fine - but don't do one without the other.
Lastly, use those bloggers again. Many "genre" blogs (For instance Fantasy Book Critic) has thousands of readers and they offer giveaways as a way to keep their readers coming. Contact the blogger and offer the giveaway - you'll get a bunch of free advertising.
WRAPPING IT ALL UP
Behind your websites and bookmarks this is the biggest bang for your marketing buck - make sure that you minimize your costs by getting the cheapest "per book" price. If you are POD self publishing I recommend you do a short run printing of 100 - 200 books because you will reduce your cost by book by 40 - 60%.