Have you ever wondered how to launch your book without a launch team?
One way is to try a different type of book launch: The free book model.
Launch teams are great and they can be highly effective, making the whole launch process fun for the author while promoting their new book far and wide. But a launch team isn’t the right promotional strategy for every book or every author.
You might not have enough people in your network who can devote the time or energy to be on your launch team. You might not want to ask for favors. You might not have the resources to manage the team.Would you believe you CAN launch your book without a #booklaunch team? It's possible, and sometimes preferable. Click To Tweet
Or, maybe, you aren’t a big fan of social media, and you know your readers aren’t either.
Whatever the reason, it’s possible to successfully launch your book without a launch team if you understand the various book launch models, and plan your marketing strategy around the one that fits you, your book and your audience best.
If you are looking for alternative strategies for your book launch, so you can get those coveted online reviews and expose your book to a wider audience, there IS another way.
Launch Your Book with a Free Offer
Offering your book for free can create massive buzz and get copies into the hands of thousands of readers who might not otherwise take a chance on picking it up.
Depending on how you execute your free offer, you can also use this model to build your following and cultivate relationships with key influencers.
This method IS NOT for everyone, but it pays to make an informed decision when planning your book launch. So let’s dive in and discuss WHO can benefit from the free book model, WHAT options exist, and HOW it works.
Traditionally vs. Independently Published Authors
Before we move too deeply into the topic of using free books to create buzz about your book, we need to address the differences between independent authors and those who work with traditional publishers.
When published traditionally, you don’t have autonomy when it comes to the distribution of your book. That is your publisher’s area of responsibility. This means that your publisher can control how you distribute your book and the price at which you distribute it. Everything shared here in this article needs to be reviewed with your publisher to make sure it aligns with your contractual agreement.
If you’re an independent, or self-published, author, you have complete autonomy over the distribution of your books. You can determine retail outlets, pricing and even whether you only want to offer ebooks or if you want to have audio and print versions as well. You also have full responsibility for all other aspects of marketing your book.
Getting your book into the hands of readers is all on you.
Free book promotions can benefit traditional and independent authors, but it’s unlikely a publisher will consent to offering a book for free during its initial release. Still, some publishers are willing to offer buy-one-get-one deals (Buy a copy and show proof of purchase to get a second copy for free), or to deeply discount the book for a brief period of time. It never hurts to ask.
What is the ‘Free Book’ Launch Model?
The free book launch model is a campaign that provides your book for FREE to the public in order to generate interest and exposure.
Offering your book for free might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s a strategy that can work with thoughtful execution.
This strategy isn’t specific to the new release of your book. You can use it any time you want to create a publicity event around your book. As an author, it’s hard to generate more excitement than when you make your book — which can cost anywhere from $5 to $25 — for free.
You may have heard the concept of a free book funnel. That’s what we’re talking about here, but to have a “funnel,” your book has to be part of a longer journey readers take with you.
Not all authors have comprehensive journeys for their customers — a path from free content to paid content and services at various pricing tiers. For some authors, the only offer or product is the book they’ve published.
So we’re looking at leveraging a free book offer as part of your book launch, whether you have a funnel or not. In this case, you have two common options:
- You can offer a free print copy of your book, charging readers the cost of shipping.
- You can offer a free digital copy of your book.
Each has its merits, depending on how your book fits in with your overall business strategy.
Free with Shipping Launch Model
Like the name implies, Free with Shipping means you offer your book for free, but pass along shipping costs to the reader.
Flat-rate shipping is the easiest to implement. Offers like this can carry shipping charges between $5 and $20. Usually, though, shipping is $5 to $10 for U.S. residents (if the author is in the U.S.) and $20 for Canada. Rarely is this model applied globally because international shipping rates vary so widely, and not all countries have reliable delivery systems.
Authors who use this type of strategy include Russell Brunson (Traffic Secrets) and Ruth Soukup (How to Blog for Profit). These are not affiliate links. I’m sharing them so you can see how each author chooses to execute the “free with shipping” model for their books. Shipping for Brunson’s book is $10, while Soukup’s is $7. You’ll find a variety of differences between the two as you move through their offer process.
Since the offer is “free with shipping,” you have to provide a print copy of your book. Books take up space. For this model to make sense, you have to be able to buy and store inventory of your books. It can work if you have a relationship with an on-demand printer who will print any number of books per run but to save on printing costs, bulk orders are favored.
Even with a free book, you still have to find a way to attract readers. Readers can’t take advantage of your offer if they don’t know about it.
Because shipping print copies of your book carries hard costs (purchase of the book and shipment of the book), this model is best applied when combined with other money-making offers. When you have bigger offers for your readers, you can afford to pay for people to discover your book and also to delivery that book to them.
In addition to fulfillment costs (printing and delivery), you might also have marketing costs in the form of social media ads, giveaway programs or priority placement with online retailers.
Generally, authors who offer books free with shipping will use paid ads to drive traffic to the book offer. Therefore, it’s ideal to have other products readers can buy to offset your marketing costs. This is where you start hearing folks use the term “funnel” in relation to this strategy.
Here’s what a “free with shipping” funnel could look like:
- Ads drive traffic to a page with the book offer
- Reader buys book, entering payment information
- On the purchase confirmation screen is another offer, such as “Your book is on its way but if you want to start reading it today, get the ebook for just $10.”
- Every additional purchase takes the reader to another slightly higher offer, until they finalize their purchase.
- Additional offers might be made via email after the purchases closes.
I recently worked my through a funnel like this until reaching an ending offer of $997. Even before that, though, the “free” book ended up costing me $200 after agreeing to some of the complementary smaller offers.
So, if you have the ability to invest in paid marketing strategies and you have other products you could sell at incrementally higher prices, the “free book with shipping” model could work for you.
Free with Kindle Launch Model
As the name implies, this model is focused on distributing ebooks instead of print copies. Kindle isn’t the only way to distribute ebooks for free if you want to adopt this model, but it’s one option.
If you want to use Amazon to distribute your free book offer, you’ll need to be enrolled in KDP Select. This allows you to offer your ebook for free for up to five days out of each 90-day KDP Select enrollment period. You can offer the book for free in all Kindle marketplaces, but your title might not be available in all countries.
You can also offer your ebook for free through other channels, such as BookFunnel or Smashwords. The drawback is that these books might not be available in Amazon’s marketplaces and there are some restrictions on what content you can publish.
So here, we’ll focus on setting up your free promotion through KDP Select.
Authors who use this model include Angela Sue Garvey (Tiny Homes and Tummy Tucks), Lisa Bloom (The Story Advantage), and Danny Iny (Online Courses). These books aren’t currently free on Kindle, but linking to their Amazon pages lets you see their reviews and rankings.
This model works really well if you have a network of people who have sizeable networks of their own. Even with a free book offer, you have to find a way to make sure people know your book is available AND it’s worth taking the steps to get it from Amazon.
If you know 10 people who each have a network of 100 people, that gives you a potential audience of 1,000 people.
This type of offer lends itself well to collaborative relationships because most people who have audiences love to share great offers with them. Speaking for myself, I will share just about any free book offer I encounter with my audience. Though I don’t know which specific genres my audience favors, I know they love to read and appreciate hearing about new books.
At the most basic level, this offer is as good as creating a free book promotion during a specific window of time on Amazon. But if you do that, drive traffic directly to Amazon, you”ll succeed in getting book downloads but you won’t know who is downloading your book.
A better option is to drive traffic to a landing page with the free book offer that collects email addresses before sending folks to Amazon for the book.
It’s an extra step for readers, but it’s the only way you can ensure you have a way to know and reach those who have taken advantage of the offer. By collecting email addresses from those interested in the book, you can stay in touch with them and even ask them to post reviews on your behalf.
There are some drawbacks to this model, however.
As mentioned before, Amazon might not make your book available for free in all countries. Also, it’s easy for folks to accidentally sign up for Kindle Unlimited (a paid subscription service) when they are trying to get your free book. In both situations, readers might feel like the offer wasn’t an honest one, especially if they don’t know you well.
One way around this is to educate your potential readers, so they know exactly which button to click on Amazon and how to follow the process. You can offer an instructional video or screenshots to help.
Another potential challenge is that not everyone has a Kindle device. This isn’t a problem, though, because the free Amazon Cloud Reader can be downloaded to any computer or mobile device. The Cloud Reader app allows anyone to read Kindle books, even if they don’t have Kindle devices.
How Free Book Offers Affect Reviews
Generally, the more people who have your book, the more reviews you get. But everyone knows Amazon prioritizes verified reviews over unverified reviews. If you’re offering your book for free through KDP Select, reviews from those who download the free book will be considered verified.
However, if books are bought directly from you and shipped to the consumer, Amazon has no way to verify the purchase or the review. This is the same if readers buy books from brick-and-mortar retailers or other online stores and go to Amazon to post a review.
So, as much as verified reviews are important, every review counts. I wouldn’t let fears over unverified reviews stop you from considering a free book offer to support your launch. And keep in mind that if you want to get your book reviewed, you’re going to have to ask for it. That’s why it’s so important to do what you can to get email addresses for those who take advantage of your promotion.
Which Model is Right for You?
Offering your book for free to drive interest and get a higher number of people with your book in hand, so they can review it and recommend it to friends is an option for you to consider. As mentioned before, it’s not right for everyone.
But if you’re someone without much of a network to staff a book launch, leveraging the people you do know to help you promote a free offer related to your book could yield better results than a straight book launch.
The choice is yours.