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How to Use Free as a Strategic Marketing Tool

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July 24,2014


By Penny C. Sansevieri, Adjunct Instructor NYU & CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.



It may seem counterintuitive, but when it comes to marketing, offering freebies is a smart strategy. What you don’t make in actual sales during the free promotion pays off in terms of exposure, which will produce new fans and lead to future sales. Sure, you’ll get some people just looking to get something for nothing, but you’ll also be able to use the freebies to lure in prospects that you can turn into long-term, faithful fans.

Let’s look at the benefits of free, and how to use free to get more fans and sales:

1. Stand out from the pack: Being discovered by readers is a real challenge for authors these days; there are an estimated 350,000 books published each year. Readers have many choices, and you want to make it easy for them to choose your book over another author’s book. One way to achieve this is by offering freebies and pricing your book strategically.

2. Understand the power of free: Offering something for free is a marketing tactic. For instance, take advantage of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program. Enroll in KDP Select and offer your book for free. You will have to sell your book on Amazon exclusively during this period but it can be one of the most effective ways to get your book seen by a large number of readers at once. The key is to ensure that you also promote your free days – to your email list, on social media, in your newsletter, etc. You want to spread the word far and wide. There are other free giveaway opportunities available. Sites like Library Thing and Goodreads allow members to give away copies of their books (Library Thing holds both digital and print giveaways). But again, for these freebies to work you do need to promote your giveaway, both on the site you use and to your own network.

3. Use strategic pricing: If you want to build a fanbase, you’ve got to price your book in the sweet spot for your genre or niche. Readers decide pricing by choosing which books to buy (or not to buy). To determine the right price, look at books in your market and find the average price. Amazon is a good place to do this research, although you will see a lot of ebooks listed for free as part of a promotion or the Kindle Lending Library. If the average ebook price in your genre is $3.99, you don’t want to price your ebook at $9.99.

4. Cultivate your fans with more: The concept of free extends beyond your books. Think of all of the additional products you can (and should) offer your fans such as tips, videos, webinars, and content. Use all of that material to get people to visit your website, read your blog, and buy your other products. The exposure you get from free builds your credibility, expands your following, and leads to sales. The key is to know how to take advantage of free.

For instance, one author I worked with held a freebie that lead to 37,000 downloads of her ebook. The following day when the promotion was over, she sold 1,300 ebooks. While 37,000 seems like a lot of lost sales, it’s actually a conversion number. You can’t get all of the 37,000 downloaders to become fans, but within that group are your fans and readers, perhaps around 1,000 or so. They are the ones who take the time to read the book, and who may even write a review. You’ll gain enough of a following to start building a fanbase, and you’ll continue to market to these people in order to keep the connection strong.

5. Keep fans in your funnel: As you grow your fanbase, reach out to them on a regular basis. Start by using the last page of your book to thank them for their purchase (let a free download fall under this category), encourage them to send you feedback, and ask them for a review. Let your fans know that you are interested in them and that you appreciate them.

You continue to build upon this relationship by sharing ideas, posting great content, and making connections on social media. The more you reach out, the more effective you’ll be at building and growing your fan base.

6. Take fans into your world: Be informative and entertaining – use your blog, social media, videos, etc. - to create additional fun, free content. This works for fiction or nonfiction. Fiction authors can share tidbits about their characters, blog in character, ask fans to help them select music for the characters, or post fun quizzes – such as which actors should portray the characters for a movie version of the book, or help name the next book (or characters). Nonfiction authors can use their expertise to create tip sheets, informational videos, and mini ebooks. Identify how you can connect with fans in different ways, and be sure to offer variety.

Remember that there’s no one marketing strategy that will bring you fans. Instead, it’s a series of actions and consistent engagement over time that gets them into your marketing funnel and keeps them there.

Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. Follow on Twitter @Bookgal.



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