Free and Review - Giving Away Copies to Promote A Book

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Free and review copies have long been a mainstay of traditional book marketing and publicity plans. Strategically providing pre-publication galleys or ARCs, or free and review copies in order to get "reads" from booksellers, the media, or "big mouths" helps to create a buzz for the book and drive interest in a book or author for the launch.

Free and review copies can be an especially important consideration for an indie author because the book has not been vetted by a traditional publisher for sale-ability or quality, the book has to speak for itself.

PR expert Laura Rossi tells self-published authors to factor in the cost of free and review copies in their promotional expenses, because it's a critical element of getting the media interested.

Note that sending out a review copy in no way guarantees that the recipient will read or even look at it — but putting it into the right hands could get the book some attention.

Here are some of the key players to whom advance editions or review copies are distributed, and the strategic rationale for each.

Booksellers

Booksellers are given advance copies by their publishers' sales reps, they might get a galley in a publisher's promotional mailing or pick one up at BEA or one of the regional independent bookseller association trade shows. Sometimes, rather than a hard copy, booksellers are given a code for an electronic version of the review copy, which are accessed through services like Netgalley or Edelweiss.

A favorable pre-publication read might result in a better initial order quantity for the bookstore, or it might convince a bookseller that the work is worthy of cooperative advertising expenditure or other promotional efforts. For indie authors, providing a finished copy to their local bookseller (or booksellers) is critical in helping him or her decide whether to carry the book.

Reads from other store staff help more intimately familiarize them with the book, enabling them to "hand sell" the book to customers who come into the store and ask for recommendations.

The Media

Free and review copies used to be sent along with the press kids to book reviewers, periodical editors and producers at magazines, newspapers to generate book reviews and "off the book page" features. However, now that press kits are most often sent electronically, they include an offer to send the book separately. The timing of review copy mailings to the media varies with the publication.

In general, glossy monthly magazines and TV news magazines are "long lead" —ARCs or galleys need to be sent to them 4 months — or more — in advance of book publication in order to ensure a potential review is ideally timed for around book launch date. Weeklies and dailies and TV can be more immediate; bloggers and other online venues can be even more so.

(Note that the recipients of these free copies often don't want them, and many turn up in used bookstores, like the Strand in New York City.)

"Big Mouths"

Galleys or finished books are sometimes sent to people outside the book industry who have a strong influence on the market for the book — or people who have a strong influence in general.

These big mouth mailings are done in the hopes that the recipients will help spread the word about the book. For example, a book on leadership might be sent to a number of CEOs of companies.

Readers

Lately, publishers are appealing directly to consumers in outreach efforts and at consumer book events like BookCon publishers do some book giveaways. Publishers and authors also host giveaways in venues such as Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and author blogs

However, they prefer to get readers exposed to and interested enough to new books to actually pay for them, so they frequently offer free excerpts.

 For example, Publishers Lunch Book Buzz, which serves industry professionals, also makes their robust seasonal collections of book excerpts available to consumers through GooglePlay, iBookstore, Kindle, Kobo and Nook.

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