Tuesday, July 5, 2011

TUESDAY TIP: Free Sampling to Sell Books

I have several Tuesday Tips for you today, the first one being more of a Monday Marketing tip than a "how to write" or "how to edit" tip. I want to talk about Scribd after reading Jason Matthews's blog on the subject last week.

First off, what is Scribd? It's changed a bit since it first launched in 2007. Back then, it was just a place where suddenly, all kinds of books were being given away -- at no cost! Every genre, every stage of completion--from unfinished manuscripts to best seller list novels, books and documents were just "appearing" on this new web site. I first heard about it through my web development community because the developers of the site were being discussed, as opposed to the content. Being a writer, of course, with various novels registered in the U.S. Copyright Office, I was immediately piqued with curiosity.

There was a huge uproar in 2007 because several of the books initially on the Scribd web site were not actually in the public domain and the copyrighted material was, essentially, pirated. Recall, this was also the time when the DRM issues surrounding the music pirating had the RIAA in the news every other week. And the Big Five or Big Six or Big HoweverManyYouCount publishers of books in NYC were trying to DRM their eBooks to death to prevent pirating by sites like Scribd. Then it was all made moot when authors and music artists and other artists started giving our stuff away ourselves. I think the SFWA's lawsuit against them was just starting at that point.

I stopped following the news when it became obvious there were going to be a lot of ups and downs and that Scribd, the site, was not going away. Plus I've never been adverse to the idea of giving away samples--just not entire works, indefinitely, or certainly not without getting the authorship credits. In the early days of Scribd, they were not, in fact, giving correct authorship credits to authors of documents. In fact, worse, they weren't even checking any of the documents being uploaded nor did they have any comments on the site about being the copyright holder. They were just a repository and pirated materials were flying in and out.

Now, half a decade later, things have certainly changed. They've changed. Scribd in 2011 is still famous for being a place where people can go to dredge up libraries full of free stuff--some good, some not, some completed, some not. Scribd still doesn't actually make any promises about the quality or content of the materials on its site. It does, however, have a bit more structure and does, in fact, state you should be the copyright holder prior to uploading content. Scribd does not, however, do any in-depth check to ensure that you are said copyright holder. Okay, that's enough on that. Authors, proceed at your own risk or at least, with your eyes wide open.

Readers: Despite the controversy, Scribd is a great place to soak up content free of charge, legally, and without having to give away any personal or identifying information first.

Authors: You currently sample your books all over the place. Major eBook sellers (Amazon's Kindle, my distributor, Smashwords, B&N Nookstore and others) all offer authors an option when uploading a book for sale to give away a free sample. Why not upload that free sample to Scribd and then, as Jason suggests, just put a link to where the completed work can be purchased?

I suggest you link to your book for sale elsewhere, as I don't trust Scribd's shopping cart system yet and at actual eBookstores, you already get sales reports and other seller support. And consider this, Scribd is not the only place where you can give away free samples. Many of the self-published eBook authors I know are people I "met" on the Harper Collins run site called Authonomy.

Personally, I really like the Issuu online magazine stand but novelists don't tend to know about it or use it. I have a truncated file giving away the first 6 chapters of Dicky's Story on Issuu. View the file just to see how I handled the redirect to a purchase site at the end of the free sample file.

Issuu has a free option and super-easy tools for uploading and distributing your book--or portions thereof. I absolutely love the way the tool integrates into my Facebook stream! There's also an Issuu app for the Android market but Apple gave them some hassles so the iPhone/iPad/iTouch apps are still pending. The web site is superb. The cross-marketing and suggestive selling Issuu does for you is excellent, too.

Wherever you sample, always give readers a free sample of your work. If you aren't willing to let them try before they buy, how can you expect them to pay you money in the first place? Let your writing speak for itself!



Sean Thomas Fisher said...

Thanks for the intel! To Jason as well. I just uploaded a sample of my e-novel, Cold Faith and Zombies, and am excited to see what happens next. I also followed some interesting people (I guess that's what we do these days - follow everyone). But the site is awesome and seems like an advanced version of Buzzle.com. Thanks again!

WebbieGrrl Writer said...

You're welcome, Sean. Amusingly, I don't actually have anything on Scribd myself (yet). I really do prefer Issuu and Smashwords. They both tell me what's going on with my files--as in how many downloads, page views, etc. --but Scribd has no restrictions which makes it much, much easier to set up an account and just go for it.