Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things

How to Feed Your Book Addiction (for Free!)

As bookworms, we have a nearly uncontrollable urge to devour stories. Without a book in our hands or our bags, we feel alone, lost. If you hit the bookstore often (which I highly recommend), the habit can get a bit expensive. And if you’re like me (supporting a husband through graduate school), you don’t always have the extra cash to splurge on books. Well, luckily for all of us, there are lots of great ways to read new books for free.

Here are just a few:

The Kansas City, MO Public Library
The Kansas City Public Library

Your local library

Yes, these still exist. I’ve been using mine ever since we moved to New Haven, and I forgot just how freeing it can be.

Email book blasts

There are tons of email lists you can sign up for that will send you a daily/weekly list of free (or discounted) books customized to your tastes. (Authors: these are also a great way to advertise.) The biggest is BookBub, but there is also FreeBooksy, The Fussy Librarian, and several more.

Online retailers

It may take a long time to search through the sites and find an interesting title, but it can be done. Many independent authors offer a free book (especially the first in the series) to introduce you to their body of work.

Offer book reviews

Books live and die by reader reviews, and often, authors will provide free copies to readers in exchange for a review. While it’s not polite to just go around asking authors for free books, they’ll usually advertise when they would like to give them out on their website, social media, or email newsletters. And, if you review books regularly on Goodreads or a blog, the authors may even come to you!

Another great way to get free books to review is NetGalley. This is also one of your only opportunities to get free traditionally published books. It’s totally free to sign up as a reviewer, and you can download anything that looks exciting to you.

Contests

Speaking of Goodreads, it allows authors to host paperback giveaways. Also, Amazon has recently introduced ebook giveaways (find them by searching #AmazonGiveaway on Twitter), and independent authors often give books away in conjunction with blog tours or new releases. There are plenty of others to be found in various corners of the internet, too.

readingAuthor email newsletters

If you enjoy an author’s work (or think you will), find out whether or not they have an author newsletter or reader list. If so, there’s a decent chance that they offer a free book for signing up or the opportunity to receive an advance review copy of unpublished works.

Participate in a book exchange

Find a group of friends or other readers who are willing to do a book trade. This way, you can make room on your bookshelves and introduce your favorite books to someone new.

How NOT to get free books? Illegal downloads or other forms of copyright infringement. Sure, big publishers and established authors may not “feel” the effects of pirating, but we up-and-coming authors need every sale we can get (for things like sales rank and exposure, not just money to write more books). Your $0.99, $2.99, or even $14.95 goes a LONG way.

How to “pay” an author for a free book

If you enjoy one of your free books, there are a few ways you can “pay” the author that are incredibly valuable.

  • Leave them a glowing review on Goodreads and/or online retailers.
  • Share their work through social media or old-fashioned word-of-mouth.
  • Send them an email or shout out on social media.
  • Sign up for their newsletter or follow them on social media.
  • And, of course, keep them in mind next time you have room in your book budget!

I hope this helps you keep your inner bookworm and your wallet satisfied. Happy reading!

Author Business & Publishing, Writing & Publishing Articles

The Fussy Librarian vs. Bargain Booksy

I’ve recently taken my first crack at the world of paid advertisements for The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1). And in the indie publishing spirit of transparency and helpfulness, I thought I’d share my results in case any fellow authors were interested in the same or had their own experiences to add.

In short, both The Fussy Librarian and Bargain Booksy are email newsletters that provide subscribers (readers) with a daily list of discounted books, curated based on their reading preferences. The best-known (and apparently best, period) of these services is BookBub, but they’re not interested in tiny fish like me. Therefore, I thought I’d test the waters with what I’ve been told are the next two best options.

As you’ll see below, I tried to keep all factors within my control the same. Obviously, there are dozens (read: thousands) of factors outside my control (whether all the subscribers check their inboxes, the other books featured in my genre that day, perceptions of my cover/description, etc.).

The Fussy Librarian

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A screenshot of my Fussy Librarian promotion

Date Promotion Ran: Tuesday, February 16 (between 9 am EST and noon)

Genre and Subscriber Count: Science Fiction, roughly 103,000

Price to advertise (based on genre): $16 USD (via PayPal)

Price of my book: $2.99 USD

Description: A shortened version of my standard sales description.

Retailer Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, Goodreads

Limitations: I had to include that my novel contained adult language and sexual content.

Return on Investment: $4.69 (sold 7 copies on Amazon, 1 on iBooks, 1 paperback)

Other factors: The other Science Fiction book promoted that day was free, which may have taken sales away from my book.

What I liked: Low price, customizable advertising, wide range of retailers included, showed my Amazon ratings

What I didn’t like: Free books included in the newsletter (tougher competition)

Notable perks: When you place your advertisement, there is an option to send yourself a reminder after a specified date range (21 to 90 days). If you do this, they give you a discount on your next promotion. Likewise, when listing in two genres (at any time), the second genre is half price.

You can see full details on how to run your own Fussy Librarian promotion HERE.

Bargain Booksy

2016-03-21 (1)
A screenshot of my Bargain Booksy promotion

Date Promotion Ran: Tuesday, March 15 (between 9 am EST and noon)

Genre and Subscriber Count: Science Fiction, 68,500

Price to advertise (based on genre): $35 USD (via PayPal)

Price of my book: $2.99 USD

Description: They pull your book description straight from Amazon, without your HTML formatting.

Retailer Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks

Limitations: None

Return on Investment: None, loss of $22.44 (sold 6 copies on Amazon)

Other factors: My book also received a feature on the Bargain Booksy website, which did allow me to customize my book description. However, because Bargain Booksy allows several books in each genre to be listed each day (as opposed to the Fussy Librarian, which limits it to two books per genre), there was a lot of competition, some of which was on sale for $0.99.

What I liked: Website feature, no free books advertised

What I didn’t like: Higher price, crowded newsletter, less customization

You can see full details on how to run your own Bargain Booksy promotion HERE.

UPDATE: For what it’s worth, I took the post-promotion survey Bargain Booksy offered and reported my results and criticisms. After reviewing my case and confirming that I did receive below-average results, they issued me a full refund (without my asking).

A screenshot of my Bargain Booksy website promotion
A screenshot of my Bargain Booksy website promotion

Would I advertise with these email newsletters again?

Because of the Fussy Librarian’s low cost and proven ability to create a positive return on investment, I have scheduled a second promotion for April, during the Brain to Books Cyber Convention. While I won’t be able to test the newsletter’s effectiveness perfectly (as I will be doing other promotions and have my book on sale), I believe it is a worthwhile investment due to the discounted rate and my larger promotional plans.

As for Bargain Booksy, I wouldn’t try it again at this point in my career. With only one book available (and let’s be honest — a book that I’m still trying to figure out the best way to market), I don’t think it is worth the risk. Perhaps when I have more in the series, a book that is not cross-genre, or a free book (for which I would have to use the partner site, Free Booksy), I will try it again.


Have you used either the Fussy Librarian or Bargain Booksy? I’d love to hear if they worked for you. Also, if you have any questions that I didn’t answer, feel free to ask them in the comments!