Are Book Sales Down Because Too Many Books are Given Away for Free?

Guest Post by Irene Watson

Today I’m going to get on my soap-box about a pet peeve I have!  As an author, I want to have my books read and hopefully purchased so at least I can break even on my expenses.  Unless you are a known name, it’s not easy to find potential buyers.  I get emails every day from authors asking for new ways to promote their books and encourage potential buyers to buy.   With near 400,000 titles published last year, what chance to we have?  But, there is more….and this is my pet peeve.

I just googled  “get book reviewed” and got 239,000,000 links. Wow, that’s quite a few.  As I ran through the pages of links I found many are bloggers.   When I started Reader Views shortly after I published my first book in 2005 it was difficult to get a review.  There were very few sites giving reviews, and certainly no bloggers.  

Bloggers who will “review” books are popping up everywhere – basically, they are a dime a dozen.  Furthermore, why should people buy books when they can set up a free blog, call themselves  reviewers, and get free books? 

As well, a  large publicity firm will list your book for $149 and send the list to 1000 reviewers.  The reviewers,  in turn,  will contact you directly for a book.  Several sites offer publishers or authors to list their book for free and made available to readers.  However, none of these places hold the reviewers/readers accountable to produce a review if they receive the book. One such site does have readers post reviews but the few people that have posted  have thrashed most of the books.  It seems it’s more of a place to exert power than to give an honest opinion.

A couple of days ago  I received an application form from a potential reviewer.  The bio was skimpy so I asked her if she has reviewed before.  Her comment was:  I have not written a book review before, but I am comfortable at writing.  I am always eager to read a new book, and figured it would be nice to read some new books without having to pay Barnes and Nobel.  I frequently get comments similar to this. For example, today I received another application form. The person listed all the sites she already reviews for, including her own blog. I asked her why she doesn’t get enough books from the other reviewers and she responded with I want more options of what free books are available for me to read. One time I even had a woman apply to be a reviewer and she was surprised she actually had to write a review.  She thought she just had to read the book.  As you can imagine, she doesn’t review for us.

So, I’m asking:  Why should people buy books when they are readily available for free?  As authors, do you fall into the panic mode and send out books to bloggers or some of these sites in hopes you get a review?  But then, are these people credible?  Is having a review done by “Book Reviews by Jane” and posted on a blog with 16 followers a viable venture for you, as an author?  And, by the way, who is Jane?  There is no “about us” page to tell us how credible this person is.  Besides, the review doesn’t even go on re-sellers sites like Amazon or B&N. (No, there is no “Book Reviews by Jane” but there are thousands like this example.) However, I guess on the postive side, one way we can look at it is it’s good for SEO. But,  it’s only good for SEO if the blogger participates. Is the expense of the book and shipping worth it? In the meantime, you have to sell 4 books to cover the expenses of sending out one free book. I’m doing the math and it’s not working out for me as a good plan.

Okay, I’m off my soap-box.  What do you think? Are you an author that sends out books to bloggers or lists where people just want your book for free and then you wonder why you aren’t selling your book?

Ouch. That one could hurt.

Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.


Posted on March 10, 2010, in Publicity & Writing, Writing & Publishing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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