I'm wondering two things. First, do book giveaways spur sales, and, if so, to what extent?
Also, how about the buy-a-book, get-a-prize strategy? Through my national security reporting, I've accumulated a lot of spy gadgetry that I have no use for, pens that contain micro-video recorders, packofgumcams, water soluble paper, forged identity documents, etc. How might you use this stuff to induce readers to pony up for copies of your upcoming spy book?
I appreciate your thoughts.
In my experience, no. Not much really does sell books except word of mouth and having a solid publisher pushing you -- like co-op tables in B&N. Big reviews are nice.
I sold a few books by giving them away on websites. Getting reviews in the process. I got librarians and some bookstore owners interested by giving away 200 books at BEA, but no way in hell did I sell enough books to pay for the 200 I gave away.
One thing that did get me better known was writing to The Rap Sheet and asking Jeff Pierce to run a contest with my books. I think he might like your stuff as a give away. Try him at The Rap Sheet. Click on that link, top right, and make him a pitch.
Hey, Keith - your spy gadgets sound cool! However, I haven't been too impressed with giveaways for several reasons. If you run them yourself through, say, your newsletter, then basically, all you're doing is preaching to the choir. If you give something away when you guest blog for someone else, again, these are folks who are already reading your post and hearing about your book, so it's hard to see what the giveaway has contributed toward making folks aware of your book and encouraging sales.
There are a few sites here and there on the net where people post announcements of contests and giveaways, but my opinion of them is that these don't drive sales - they just drive people who are looking for something for nothing to your site.
I'm in the process of setting up a new feature on the International Thriller Writer's ezine, The Big Thrill (for those who don't know, I'm managing editor of the recently redesigned website: http://www.thebigthrill.org) where any ITW member will be able post an announcement of a giveaway any time they wish. My thinking is that each member who does this will naturally draw their own fans to the website, but once they're there, there might be some crossover when these folks see the other giveaways and contests that are listed, and some of us might find new fans. Should be ready in about a month - keep an eye on your members' bulletin for the announcement.
Aside from that, I think of giveaways as more of a reward for existing readers than a way to find new fans. As for tying a giveaway to a purchase, I'm pretty sure that's not legal . . . .
I find contests and giveaways completely useless for authors. They don't result in sales and a lot of readers seem to find them more annoying than enticing. I frequent a lot of author blogs and writing blogs and I can't tell you how many people are doing giveaways or contests for their upcoming books. I think a while back when it was unique it might have helped but now that everyone and their momma does it, I don't believe it makes an impact.
For my last book I held a contest sponsored by another writer's blog and it was successful. Over 100 people entered to win the free autographed copy of the book but do I think it did anything for sales? Nah. I got the word out overall in better ways.
So the author and reader in me don't feel they do anything for book sales. There is much more effective promotion.