One of the marketing techniques I’ve been seeing more and more of lately are authors and publishing houses providing readers with free samples in multiple formats. Short stories, online spoilers and free books have been circulating through the web, conventions, and bookstores. Publishing giant Tor books offers both free downloads of books and free books that I’ve seen at conventions. If you sign up for Tor’s new site, Tor will give you access to free ebooks, too.
Individual authors have been following suit as well. Paul Kemp, a contributing author to the popular Forgotten Realm fantasy series, was able to post a preview of the upcoming book Shadowrealm. Other small press (and self-published) authors have done the same like David Talon, who handed out chapters of his book at OddCon. You may have noticed that I posted free samples of my fiction on this blog as well, to provide readers with a feel of my writing style. On the gaming front, there’s also been a slew of video game and tabletop publishers who have provided free mini-books of licensed fiction for collectors and people interested in setting.
Why Free Writing Samples Work
In my opinion, giving away free samples of your work is great marketing for a couple of reasons. One, it’s a great conversation starter. If you’re an unpublished author, it gives potential employers a feel for your professionalism and your style: two things readers can’t get from listening to you talk about how well you write. For established writers, it helps you circulate your work in front of your fan base and, in a sense, rewards their loyalty.
In addition to giving fans (and potential fans) something to read, the format you use can help generate interest by playing on an old marketing standby: the teaser. Ending on a cliffhanger, or providing readers with an intense mystery, action scene or thriller, will keep your readers coming back for more so they can find out what happens next. The caviat to this is: make sure you have the what happens next planned out. Truthfully, I didn’t do this for my ebook experiment because I had an unknown factor happen and I got slammed with deadlines. Please don’t follow my example here, it’s not good for you or your readers. (I can only hope mine will forgive me.)
Speaking of fan loyalty, what better way to reward your diehard fans with their ability to read some of your hard work before the publishing date? By giving them sneak previews or things to speculate about, you’ll build mystery and fandom faster than you can say “Hello Kitty!”
Remember, that writing for “free” isn’t the same thing as giving away free samples of your work. While related, these are really two, different concepts. When you write for free, you may or may not have a goal in mind. Writers who admittedly write for “free” sometimes get a bad reputation because they are labeled as inexperienced or worse–too idealistic to not want to “sell” their work. In this case, providing different webzines, blogs or conventions and bookstores with free samples may actually help you increase your book sales and might just get you a few new fans.
Happy marketing of your scribings! 😀