Why I Quit Doing Book Giveaways

UPDATE: Last June, shortly after my books were published on Kindle, I wrote the spot that begins mid page: How Many Stars on Goodreads and Amazon? Since then, I no longer do book giveaways. Why? I did not experience residual sales after promos ended, nor did I receive ANY reviews.  In contrast, when I do 99 cent sales along with inexpensive ads here and there, I sell as many books as when they were free: from a couple of hundred to over one thousand. Residual sales at full price also occur, though not at the same pace as when the books are 99 cents. Equally important: I get reviews!

Why don’t giveaways work? I don’t know. I suspect people don’t value free stuff.  They wonder why no one is willing to pay for it.  After I downloaded several free books, I understood why.  There may be some gems out there — I’m positive there are — but I haven’t found any.  Many of the ones I read had clearly not been edited, formatted, or even properly proofread. Again — before I get a bunch of outraged comments — I’m sure there are some great free books, and I’ve read the Amazon newsletters describing indie success using the giveaway strategy. It just didn’t work for me nor a couple of other traditionally published authors with whom I share war stories.

Here’s What I Wrote Last June:

How Many Stars on Goodreads and Amazon?

I offered free Kindle versions of both my novels in the past month, and about 2,000 customers downloaded them.  My novels only cost $3.99, so I don’t think price is why I had such a spike on free days; I think it’s the free advertising you get on sites that follow free book deals.

The dilemma for the author: why offer something for free when your object is to sell books?  The answer is, to get your name out there, make Amazon aware of you, make readers aware of you and, hopefully, get some good customer reviews.

So far on Amazon, I have received mostly five-star customer reviews. In case you were wondering, there is no way for the author to manipulate or add reviews.  Friends who bought your book can add reviews, but all my reviews, except one, are from strangers. I am honored that people gave me such raves.

On Goodreads, I don’t have many reviews, but they are all over the place.  To be honest, I consider PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, GONE WITH THE WIND, DAVID COPPERFIELD, THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, and other classics to be five-star books.  While I am happy to receive good ratings, I’m not stupid enough to think my books are on a par with Jane Austen’s or Edith Wharton’s.  THEY are 5-star writers.

So for those people who downloaded my books for free, the hope is that you will provide a review, and a nice one.  Please know, however, that no offense is taken if the ratings aren’t five stars.  I’m no Hemingway and I don’t expect to be treated as one.  I’m just grateful that people take the time to read my books.



7 thoughts on “Why I Quit Doing Book Giveaways

  1. Author Ralph L Angelo Jr

    I won’t do them anymore either. In fact in my experience I found those that got the free books were totally unappreciative of the fact and gave me the worst reviews they could, nit picking every little thing they could including what size the book was published on kindle. While those who have bought my novels generally give me reviews between 4 & 5 stars. Goodreads to me has become basically a place where arrogant self important jerks hang out to tear down someone else’s work. I’ve never had a giveaway draw me more sales. Advertising does.

  2. Author Ralph L Angelo Jr

    It’s not. I’ve really moved away from Goodreads completely at this point. Every book I reaed I write a review for. I post it on Amazon, B&N , Shelfari and also goodreads. But recently I actually forgot about goodreadsa couple of times. taht’s how infrequently I go there now. I have a feeling its filled with failed authors who never got beyond writing “Chapter 1” on their page heading.

  3. Isabella Delvino

    I’m in the same boat. Recently Ive found that some Book bloggers/reviewers/authors often rip apart the ARC’s I give them and nit pick like crazy while readers who purchase the books give me better reviews and enjoy the books. Needless to say, I will think twice about who I give an ARC to and about doing another free run. My question is, What is the best way to advertise, especially for a newbie like me?

  4. Jon

    I hear you, Nicole. Having had my book on Amazon for over two years I was making a steady, but relatively small number of sales, with all positive, genuine reviews. I decided to go for a two day free giveaway. I had over 5000 free books downloaded. In the free download charts I was number 1 on Amazon Australia, number 13 in Amazon UK and number 128 in Amazon US. I thought that was great!


    I only had one review left…..by a troll. I looked at her profile and she was carpet-bombing amazon.co.uk with caustic reviews. Lucky for me that after 1 hour her review vanished. I don’t know if she removed it or Amazon did.

    She left some people 1 star reviews, even though by her own admission she hadn’t even read their books! It only takes one disingenuous review like that to torpedo your sales.

    After my free promo I had a surge in sales in the morning, then it returned back to normal. That was disappointing.

    I’ve been keeping an eye on other books when they go onto free promo. I was looking at a NY Times best seller the other week. It had hundreds of gleaming reviews, then it went free and BAM! It was hit with troll reviews. Tens of 1 star reviews written in Kindergarten language.

    This experience has been a lesson for me. Don’t EVER give your main product away for free because it attracts all the wrong type of customers.

    I think the best use for a free giveaway is to use it for short promotional or teaser books.

    If I have gotten one good thing out of the free promo it is that so many people spread the word about my book that I got loads of websites linking in to my Amazon book page. My Amazon page is now ranking really well on Google. That’s actually quite valuable its self.

  5. nicolemcgehee Post author

    Thank you for your thorough response. Interesting experience. I also got a one-star from someone who thought my book, “seemed well-written,” but didn’t like the genre! So she brought down my 5 star average for a book she herself deemed “well-written.”

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