Book Back CoverAs my sales lagged this month I went back to my surefire method of the past: free books. But I found that downloads of the free book during this time diminished by half, or more. I wondered why. I took a look and thought I’d share my conclusions.

There are several variables to be considered.

First and foremost, how and where did my give-away take place? There are three major venues available to me: Amazon, Smashword, and GoodReads. I have given away books at Amazon and Smashwords. I have yet to try GoodReads.

How did I advertise the give-away?

On Amazon, one can only list free books while in the KDP Select program. When not in the program, but still selling through Amazon, it is their option to go with the price change at other retailers – or not. In my experience, Amazon used to scout the other retailers and match their prices. No longer, because they wish to keep the incentive to enlist in KDP Select strong. But when in KDP Select and utilizing my five free days, the advertising was handled by Amazon, and by extension many other sellers (sites that list free books, etc.).

But through Smashword, I must do the advertising myself, and so I use Social Media. My reach here is limited. My best hope is that each retailer will list the free books separately, that sites listing free books will list mine, and that word will get around.There is a lot of work involved in this method, mainly posting reminders as frequently as possible through Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest.

There are other variables, such as how high the price was before the give-away, the timing of the offer (Christmas? Vacation times?), and how long the give-away will last, etc.

But to my mind the central question is this: does giving books away work as well to promote sales as in the past?

I think not. Whether it is the growing number of authors publishing on-line and hence the cornucopia of free books to choose from, or whether it’s simply that everybody’s tablet is full to bursting by now, I don’t know.

But the fact is, where I gave away thousands of books just six months ago, it has been only hundreds this time. But I believe giving freebies is still the best sales tactic available to self-published authors.