On a Sunday morning, while nursing a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper, I turned to one of my favorite pages – the books page – and perused the list of that week's bestselling fiction authors. I sighed. No surprises. I saw only one author I had not read, and she's on my to-be-read list for this year.
"Listen," I said to my husband, who is definitely not a book reader. "I'm going to read you the names of the authors of the top ten bestselling books. Stop me if I mention someone you've never heard of." I read the names: James Patterson, John Grisham, Mitch Albom, Tom Clancy, and a few more, all big-time authors with huge followings. I came to Donna Tartt, author of The Goldfinch.
"Stop," he said. “I don't know that one."
Neither did I, until the book became a bestseller and is now on everyone's list.
I finished my recitation and he said," "I know all those names even though I've never read any of their books."Interesting, I thought, that someone who is not a lover of books can listen to this list and be familiar with 90 percent of the names. This is because the bestseller lists include the usual heavy hitters who are sure to strike gold with every book they write, many of them “celebrity” authors. I wonder if any of them had to give away their books to potential readers in order to gain recognition.
People ask me, "Why do you give your book away?" I've done a few free Kindle promotions for my debut novel, Blue Hydrangeas, you see, and given away thousands of books. It seems dumb and a sure fire way to complete failure, but there's a method to this madness.
The two major reasons for doing a giveaway are reviews and rank. Readers are more willing to take a chance on an unknown author if it doesn’t cost them anything, and if they love the book authors hope they'll take the time to write a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, their blog, or whatever website led them to the book. Perhaps they’ll tweet about it or post their thoughts on Facebook. Favorable reviews might help the next potential reader decide to purchase the book, and slowly the author develops a following.
As the number of sales climbs, so does the author’s rank in the bookseller’s most wanted list. The higher the rank, the more attention paid to the book (similar to how the bestseller lists work - everyone wants in on the winner), leading to more sales, more reviews, and even more royalties.
So, when I see an opportunity to get my books into the hands of readers - even if I have to give it to them for free - I don’t walk away if it seems like a winning proposition. That’s why my book is currently available free on Story Cartel through January 18th. All I ask is that you please give it a fair review on the venue of your choice.
For book lovers, Story Cartel is “a resource to discover great books and fresh authors; for authors, it's a platform to build deeper relationships with readers.” Books in twenty genres, including romance, mysteries and thrillers, literary fiction, and non-fiction, are available. Both traditional and self-published authors participate, including New York Times bestselling authors. Simply sign up for an account and each week you’ll receive an email with that week’s offerings. Choose the book (or books) you want, download them, and start reading on your Kindle, iPad, or other reading device.
According to their website, “Since October 2012, 16,400 people have downloaded 37,000 books, helping over 500 authors get reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and blogs.” It’s a win-win for all of us book people.
Promotions such as this allow authors to create an audience, to start a buzz, to get in the game.
Readers benefit, too. You may discover a book or a new writer that you love; expand your reading selection; investigate new genres; and grow beyond your own literary boundaries at no personal expense, other than the time it takes to read the book and put together a few lines (or more!) about what it meant to you and why you liked it.
What if you didn’t like it? Write about that, too, letting the author know why it didn’t appeal to you, or explain that something about it just doesn’t work. Negative reviews can be helpful (once the sting has passed) in showing the author where he or she went wrong, messed up, lost the plot, ruined the character, or screwed up the ending.
Of course, if you choose not to write a review, no hard feelings. You don’t have to, but it’s a nice way to say thanks for the free book.
Imagine this: by taking advantage of a free read and then writing your own few words about it, you could help develop a new name on the bestseller lists. Shouldn’t there be room for more names, some unrecognizable to the nonreader, the casual reader, even the well-read reader? This is how literature thrives. We can all be a part of it.