Promoting a novel through give-aways is a great idea, but I learned a lesson recently. I was heading to the Bloody Words Mystery Convention in Victoria, mostly to hang out with a bunch of fun-loving authors. But I knew there would be lots of mystery readers there too, so I decided to give away some e-copies of my anthology, Summer of Bridges, because it has an award-winning mystery short story, Railroaded, among the other Sioux Rock Falls stories.
So I went to Amazon and ordered fifty gift cards and took them with me along with a fistful of postcards featuring the anthology’s cover. I’m not pushy, so I only handed out the gift cards to people who said that they were very interested. I also made sure that they either owned a Kindle or were comfortable with downloading the Kindle app for their computers.
Then the real mystery began. The week after Bloody Words my novel, Vampire Road, began selling copies but Summer of Bridges showed no spike at all. What the heck? What were those mystery lovers doing buying a vampire novel with their gift cards?
Then a few of my short stories started selling, and I thought the mystery was solved. Perhaps they were using the gift cards to buy the short stories. All of those stories are contained in the antho plus three new stories, so I was surprised they were blowing the gift cards on one story when they could have had them all with one free download.
Today I checked the status of the gift cards with Amazon and discovered that not one single, solitary, gift card from Bloody Words has been redeemed. The sales for Vampire Road, White Metal, Railroaded and the others all came from book-lovers surfing Amazon. None of those sales came from my gift card promotion.
I still think that gift cards can be useful, but next time I’ll say, “Show me your Kindle and I’ll give you an e-book.” I’ve done that twice since Bloody Words with better results. Both fans had Kindles and both used their gift cards.
So the verdict: the Amazon gift cards are a great way to introduce people to a novel. Just don’t give them to people who may not be comfortable downloading the Kindle app or buying a Kindle.