Neon sign reads "don't just take, give." This illustrates the question of whether authors should give their books away for free.

Authors are a creative bunch. First, they come up with wonderful story ideas that delight readers. Then they find creative ways to get those stories into readers’ hands. Sometimes, they even give books away to spread their stories far and wide. But should they go to this extreme?

Obviously, choosing whether to give your book away is a personal matter. And while you may hesitate to do it, here’s why and how to do it right. (Note: This is not talking about book giveaways or explicit book marketing efforts. Those are other topics for other articles.)

Two Reasons to Give Your Book Away

Giving books away is a risk. Hand them out for free, and you may never make a penny on them. Then again, you might. Argyle Fox Publishing author Megan Nicolas did. She even hinted it about it in a discussion on how to sell 1,000 books online.

Hailing from Kansas City, Kansas, Megan gave 15 copies of her first book, My Dyslexia Superpowers, to a friend. That friend went to a dyslexia conference in Texas and gave the books away. The following week, Megan sold 200 books.

Granted, there’s no way to know that those sales came from the conference, but the sudden bump in sales seems connected. According to Megan, “That’s concrete evidence, in my opinion, that giving books away works.”

Selling more books is just one reason to hand your book out for free. Many authors pass out their books just to know that more people have their books. If you feel your book is helpful (like Megan did), you may give your book out to encourage your target audience. Any bump in sales is just icing on the cake.

How to Get Your Book to Readers at No Cost (to Them)

There are a million ways to give your book away. Basically, find your readers and put your book in their hands. Where can you do this?

  • Conferences. Just like Megan, you can have a friend take your book to events where your target audience is gathered. Feeling particularly brave? Go yourself.
  • Little free library. No matter where you are, there’s probably a little free library nearby. Drop your book in, and you may find readers who would otherwise never hear of your book.
  • Public libraries and school libraries. Take your book to your local library and offer it to them for free. Then do the same at local schools. Just make sure your book is age appropriate.
  • Waiting rooms. Going to the doctor or dentist often requires waiting. Ask your health provider if you can leave a copy or two of your book in the waiting room. Patients looking for something to do may get interested in your book and wind up buying a copy to finish the story.
  • Wherever you are. If you see your target audience at the park or parking lot, offer them a free copy. It may be awkward, but you may find a new fan. And if that new fan digs your book, they’ll recommend it to others.

One Reason You Shouldn’t Give Your Book Away

Giving your book away can help you meet your book’s goals. However, there’s one reason you shouldn’t give it away for free. Don’t give your book away if you expect the recipient to return the favor.

Don’t ask recipients to leave a book review, buy a copy online also, or encourage other people to buy the book. If you’re giving your book away, give it with no strings attached. Otherwise, you’ll be stressed until the recipient follows through on their end of the bargain. Or you’ll be upset when they don’t do what you told them.

If you can’t just give it to readers and hope they enjoy it, don’t give it away for free.

Need a Book to Pass Around?

Don’t have a book to give away yet? Argyle Fox Publishing can help remedy that problem. Submit your manuscript today to get started.