Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Takeaways of Giveaways

As a debut author, I've always heard and assumed that giving away lots of stuff generates buzz. You know, bookmarks, mugs, trinkets, and... books. Conventional wisdom says that a new author should do everything they can to get their name out there. And what better way to force people to look at you than to give them free stuff.

Lately, however, I've been bumping into some un-conventional wisdom.

For instance, Kiersten White, author of the NY Bestseller Paranormalcy, gives this advice in her post Recommendations for Debut Authors:

I got so many requests to send free things to people that I'm really glad I never got anything made. The amount of time and effort it would have taken for me to mail things out, not to mention the cost of creating and mailing the materials, would have been ridiculous. In the end I figured no one was going to buy my book because they won a free bookmark. Having an "I don't send anything out for any contests, ever" policy was one of the best choices I made. (emphasis mine)

Hey, I've entered my share of contests. Even won a couple. I've also staged a few on this site and elsewhere. (And, for the record, will continue to do so.) However, some of the advice I've received lately has forced me to rethink... The Biggest Book Giveaway in Web History.

From the consumer's angle, knowing that an author (or publisher, as the case may be) is kind (or smart) enough to give stuff away, scores brownie points. But what is the ultimate takeaway... other than the product being raffled?

Of course, that may be the point. Giveaways get your product into people's hands. And if some of those winners turn into "influencers" or "buyers," then the freebie has done its job. However, that metamorphosis must occur. Giveaways work when they turn a "contest winner" into an actual "consumer." But in the long run, there's really only one thing that will do that.

A good book.

As Kiersten concludes,

In the end, it's word of mouth that sells books. So you want to get as many mouths talking about your book as you can. And really, the best thing you can do for your career? Be working on your next book.

Funny, but my agent said the same thing.

So do contests and book giveaways really generate buzz for an author? Or is there more giveaway than takeaway?

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