Thursday, June 14, 2012

Not Free Giving

We often draw a distinction between a gift and a purchase. If we say that someone gave us something, we often mean that they didn’t charge us for it. If we paid for it, we say they sold it to us. This can lead to confusion when we talk about giving readers something. We’ve heard that if we want to sell books, we have to give our readers something. With the concept of a gift in mind, some writers begin giving away free books on their websites, hold contests for free items, and hand out bookmarks. I won’t say those things won’t help, but we need to look at “giving” differently.

What is it that a reader wants you to give them? For a non-fiction writer, what the reader may need a solution to a problem. For example, if the reader is a mother, she may want to know how she can better raise her children. So, she buys a book about raising children. The reader of a novelist’s work may be looking for a few hours of escape, so he buys a novel that he can get lost in for a while. But notice that I said “buy.” Just because you are selling something doesn’t mean you aren’t giving it to people. If you give readers what they want, they are more than willing to pay for it.

The free gifts, the low cost Kindle books, and all the rest are just gimmicks. They may create more brand recognition and thereby increase sales, but mostly they miss the point. People buy books when the book gives them what they need.