Last week, we talked about sad assumptions and irrational expectations new authors usually have about book sales. We then discussed the dire need for an author to have his OWN website (not a URL controlled by someone else) and a periodical (ezine/blog) to market their book.
This week, we’ll look at how giving a little content as a tease can bring a lot (in book sales) back to you.
It goes without saying that giving away a free excerpt of your book online is far better than not offering one at all. Since readers aren’t standing in a bookstore, holding your book, and able to flip through it, you need to give them the chance to do that. While some well-known authors may disagree with me, I do not believe you should give away your entire book for free in the hopes that some of those people might buy the print version. This might work for celebrities but it’s not going to work for you and me. First, in many cases, your ebook earnings can exceed your print book earnings (higher percentage of royalties and no printing/shipping fees). Second, why give away an entire ebook for free that people might be willing to pay for after reading a free excerpt?
So, what should you offer? Most fiction authors offer a couple or a few chapters. At Booklocker.com, we’re experimenting with offering 75% of a book for free on just a few books. For an example of how we’re doing this, click HERE. I’ll let you know how that goes. In the meantime, I think three chapters is sufficient…enough to get the reader hooked. Whatever you do, make sure the last page has a terribly irresistible cliff-hanger at the end! You should also include an About the Author page that will give the reader more personal insight into YOU. Readers love to learn more about authors!
If you’re a non-fiction author, you probably know that some readers are interested in a couple or a few very specific tidbits of information in your book. In fact, some people, if they could get ahold of those specific pages in your book for free, will not buy the actual book. I would not recommend giving away the golden nuggets in your book for free. Just offer a bit of the gold dust as a teaser. Here’s an example. Our most popular book in the history of WritersWeekly.com is QUERY LETTERS THAT WORKED! Real Queries That Landed $2K+ Writing Assignments. I imagine some people might think, if they read even one of the query letters in that book, they would then know how to write a good query letter. They might think they would then have no reason to buy the book, despite the fact that there are a variety of query letters featured, from small, unknown publishers like Jugglezine.com (resulting in a $2,000 contract), to a query sent to Natural Remedies (landing a $11,300 contract), to a query that resulted in a contract to write for an IBM developer website (for $15,000). One query type does not fit all and, while I love my readers, I do have five children to feed. So, I don’t give away any free query letters in my excerpts. This is also why I don’t participate in Amazon’s Look-Inside-The-Book Program or Google’s similar program, which both allow readers limited access to books… but initial access to any specific information they are searching for.
You are in the business of selling books, right? Don’t get so generous that you wind up with low or no sales. For non-fiction books, I would offer your introduction and a couple of choice chapters…but not the golden nuggets that you know people really want from your book. You should also include an About the Author page that shows the reader what qualifies you to write that book You wouldn’t believe how many finance and stock market book manuscripts I’ve seen with no About the Author page included! Why would anybody buy a book on finance or investments from somebody with no qualifications? Show the reader why you are the perfect person to teach them about the topic your book covers.
YOUR FREE EXCERPT
Come up with a free excerpt and format it in three ways:
1. A pdf file with an attractive title page that also contains complete ordering information, a copyright page, the pages of the book you want to offer for free, your About the Author page, and a page at the end that repeats the ordering information. You can see an example of my free pdf excerpt here: http://booklocker.com/pdf/1409s.pdf
Notice I do not include the book’s cover art in the excerpt. I don’t put the cover art on my ebooks, either. The cover often makes the files too big and readers may complain about download times.
2. A text-only, email friendly document (formatted with short
lines and hard spaces, with blank lines between paragraphs) that
looks like an article, not an excerpt.
This type of formatting, which I’m using right here, is
good for distribution to ezines that are distributed by
email. If you supply a free excerpt to an ezine owner,
pre-formatted for email and to look like an article
(with a title, subtitle, author bio – the works), she/he
will love you for it.
You should include a title for your excerpt (like an article
title) and include a notice that it is an excerpt, like this:
FINDING EMPLOYERS THAT HIRE WRITERS…BUT NEVER RUN ADS FOR THEM
by Angela Hoy
Excerpted from QUERY LETTERS THAT WORKED! Real
Queries That Landed $2K+ Writing Assignments
3. A text-only document that is not formatted for email (no broken lines). You will need this type of excerpt for specific websites, like those explained in #4 of the next section.
WHERE SHOULD YOU POST/SEND YOUR EXCERPT?
1. Your own website
2. Your publisher’s website
3. Your colleagues’ websites. Email your friends/family/colleagues and ask them if they’ll post a link to your website/your excerpt on their website/in their ezine(s) or if they’ll publish your excerpt in its entirety on their own website. Offer to do something for them in return!
4a. Free Article Websites for NON-FICTION Authors
I know what you’re thinking. Why should I give away free content when I usually write for money? What we’re talking about here is not original content. Far from it. These sites offer directories of promotional content disguised as feature articles. Most of these sites readily acknowledge that the content they offer is promotional so you should never offer original content to them that you would normally get paid for!
There are hundreds of these free article sites online now. Basically, this is how it works. Somebody writes a promotional article (like your excerpt) and posts it online. Publishers can pull the articles from those websites and publish them for free, provided they include the entire article and your byline. Don’t write an original article when you can just post a free excerpt! I have used these types of sites and my postings did result in book sales. Below are some of the most popular sites. At the end are two sites that distribute free articles to these types of sites and also to publishers, ezines, and more. While I was fearful of spam threats, I did use one of these services and they did distribute one of my articles far and wide. It was a whole lot easier than manually posting to each and every free article website and I didn’t get any spam complaints at all.
FREE ARTICLE WEBSITES
ARTICLE DISTRIBUTION SERVICES
Article Marketer – a free article submission service
Also offers a fee-based service, so be sure to sign up for the free version!
isnare.com – fee-based article distribution service
If you know of another good service like the ones above, please let me know!
But… what about my fiction author friends? Where can you post your free chapter excerpts? Well, get those excerpts ready and stop on by next week. I’ll have a big, FREE treat for you!
Also next week, I’ll show you how to get your excerpt published by publications that are serving your book’s specific audience.
See ya then!
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com (a free publication that distributes paying markets, job listings, and more each Wednesday by email) and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (a Print on Demand and ebook publisher). She is also the author of 10 non-fiction books.
Regarding your article on “ONLINE BOOK MARKETING THAT WORKS PART II: Where to Distribute Free Book Excerpts”. I am glad that there are more than just myself thinking about this, although I kind of have a different take on it for my books. I was thinking of having the prologue, chapter 1, chapter 2, and chapter 3 in the spot where you go to buy the book and after each, have the opportunity for one to purchase the e-book, after chapter 3 and you click to go to next chapter. You should catch the rest buying it there. I would not give more than what you would normally use to get a major publisher to publish your book because if they dont buy it after reading chapter 3 they probably won’t at this time.