Monday, February 15, 2010

E-Books As Contest Prizes

A lot of discussion takes place these days with regard to e-book piracy. It seems that e-published authors run themselves ragged just trying to keep up with it. It also seems that there are laws in place that protect our rights as authors. However, there is no enforcement.

Authors and publishers post warnings to pirate sites. The sites sometimes remove the book or simply close down shop and open up somewhere else. And then there are those sites that just say "up yours" and carry on. It's a vicious, never ending cycle.

So what can we do to help protect ourselves?

I've listened to the constant debate and given this issue some real thought. Posting warnings on our blogs and websites is a place we can start. Educating the readers out there as to how sharing our books affects our wallets is most important. Publishers can help with the cause by coding books so they can later be tracked to the source of the illegal sharing once they've been discovered on a pirate site. So open up a dialogue with your publisher and find out what you can do together to combat the problem of e-book piracy.

As an author, I've decided not to give away any more copies of e-books as contest prizes. I have a couple of books that have already been pirated, and it seems fruitless to worry about that at this point. But for any new release of mine, I'll be giving away gift certificates to my publisher's website or gift cards instead.

Why? Every where I go I see a free download of an author's e-book offered as a prize. I've done the same thing. But giving away our work generates the mindset that the book is somehow not important and devalues the book. Devalues e-books in general. I realize that it's relatively easy and doesn't cost the author anything to send out a copy of an e-book as a prize. Let's face it, not everyone can afford to give away prizes. But in the long run, giving away your book is costing you.

When we give away e-book after e-book as if it has no value to us, we're doing the same thing the pirates are. Not everyone will agree with my stand on this issue. And that's fine. But I'd like to ask all the authors out there to think about this and look for other ways to entice readers to your books or give away publisher gift certificates instead.

Tonight I'll be at Night Owl Romance for a live chat. I'll be talking about my new release, Latin Rhythm from Pink Petal Books. I hope you'll stop by and join the chatter. I'll be giving away a $5.00 gift certificate to Pink Petal Books.

Latin Rhythm Small


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Lara Z said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lara Z said...

Giving away the occasional e-book builds readership. I have already seen it result in more sales of other stories I have available. It's part of an overall marketing plan, which is, I think, where a lot of authors "fall down" on the job. They don't actually have a comprehensive marketing plan and don't see the many ways they can reach out to new readers.

I also offer accessibility to drafts in a members-only area of my email group. Again, this is about building reader-author relationship and "brand" loyalty.

Tess MacKall said...

What about offering free reads as opposed to giving away published works, Lara?

I've decided to go the free reads route. Actually working on one now.

mymargee said...

I enjoy the thrill of winning a book whether it be a print or electronic version. I think the idea of agift certificate for the book is a good way to combat piracy, but don't you run the risk of the winner using it to purchase another authors book? I know a few sites will let you purchase a specific title and send it as a gift.

This was a thought provoking post, Tess. You really got me thinking on this one. As always, I wish you the best of luck.

Also, for those of you who have yet to purchase Latin Rhythm, I highly recommend it. It is smoking hawt and a fine example of extremely tight writing!


Lara Z said...

I have a couple of truly unpublished free reads too. It's part of a mixed approach to my marketing.

Jackie Uhrmacher said...

I couldn't disagree more. (Imagine that, LOL) Giving away e-books as prizes is no different than giving away print books: it directs more traffic to you, as an author, and your work. I don't think it in any way increases the amount of pirated books. Those jackasses are going to pirate no matter what. I'm not sure why you think it decreases it's value. None of the books I've won in contests, either in print or e-book format, seem "less" to me because I won them, quite the opposite.

Tess MacKall said...

Hi Margie,

Thanks for stopping by, Margie. Yes, I run the risk of the winner not purchasing my book. However, I drove the reader to the site. And now that they are familiar with titles there, it's more than likely they will be back. Giving me another opportunity to sell my book if they didn't purchase it the first time around.

And I honestly believe that there is a good chance they will purchase my book initially with the gift certificate. At least a 50/50 chance.

Not only have I kept my book out of "the freebie" market and upped its value, but I've introduced a reader to my publisher's website, and maybe even to another author there.

If other authors did the same it would be a win-win for all of us.

Tess MacKall said...

That's good, Lara. The freebies are definitely a plus right now. I'm just going with the idea of keeping my work separate.

Most publishers now will offer free reads from their authors with the ability to download them directly from the publisher's site and at places such as ARe.

Tess MacKall said...

Jackie, I think it's got to do with how e-books are perceived in general.

Pirates, and readers who aren't aware of what they are doing when they share, don't see the harm. Why? Because it's so easy to do.

By "guarding" my books, placing a bigger value on them by making them less accessible in contests creates a whole new way of thinking about e-books.

Hopefully, it will bring about a new awareness of the piracy problem and at the same time help readers develop a mindset that says, "hey, these books are 'real' too".

The reason you place a high value on the books, Jackie, is because you have a deeper understanding of the issue than most.

Personally, I've never been able to track one single book giveaway to the purchase of another book of mine. And I don't see how anyone could unless a reader told them directly they had purchased a book, and even then the author would have to check with the publisher and determine sales for the day the book was supposedly purchased.

I believe in contests. I plan on giving away a gift certificate tonight at the Night Owl Romance Live Chat.

flchen1 said...

Hi, Tess,

Thought provoking post! As a reader, I've loved winning books from authors, whether as print or e-book. I haven't pirated, but can see how it might be a temptation for those who might be on the fence :( I think your proposed solution (giving away a certificate where the winner can buy the book) is a generous and fair one; it'll certainly increase purchases, period.

And just another boo on pirates--people will always try to find ways to steal things for free.

Tess MacKall said...

You are so right, Flchen, there is always someone out for something the easy way. They never give a thought to the consequences.

I'm so glad that as a reader you don't mind the gift certificates. And authors who don't want to go the gift certificate route can certainly do other things.

I know a couple of authors who do goodie bags and even handmade items.

The purpose of contests is to build a relationship with readers and sales, of course. I just got word that one of the gift certificates I gave away over the weekend did indeed purchase my book and another author's book.

I was very satisfied by that. So was my publisher. lol