Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Giving it away

As I remarked once before -- actually in the introduction to the book version of the Grumpy Old Bookman -- bloggers are part of the gift economy. For the most part, bloggers do what they do for the fun of it. And it is also, in some quarters, customary for writers who have produced an actual printed book to give away free PDF copies of it, on the grounds that the resultant buzz -- if the book is buzzworthy -- will more than compensate for any supposed 'loss'.

Furthermore, it is standard practice, of course, for publishers, whether big-time or self-, to send out review copies to established mainstream media. What is much less common is for substantial numbers of free copies of the actual physical book to be handed out to bloggers.

However, Paul Dorrell is doing it. (Thanks to Liam Daly, who designed the book's web site, for the tip.)

Paul is a novelist and gallery owner, and this time out he has produced Living the Artist's Life, a non-fiction book which does pretty much what it says in the publicity, namely, provide a guide to 'growing, persevering, and succeeding in the art world.'

Paul and his publisher, Hillstead Publishing, have decided to give away 250 copies of Living the Artist's Life to any blogger who wants one. No strings attached, apparently, but you must have been blogging for three months and you must have a US mailing address. The last requirement is not surprising, given the hideous cost of airmailing a book anywhere.

Well, it will be interesting to see how cost-effective this exercise is. Full details of the offer are on Paul's blog. You can also read more about the book on its dedicated web site. This is not a new book, by the way: it was published nearly two years ago, so this marketing exercise is also unusual in that respect.

Paul Dorrell's book sounds reminiscent of Julia Cameron's book from the early 1990s, The Artist's Way. Described on the cover as 'A course in discovering and recovering your creative self', this has reportedly sold over two million copies and has proved inspiring to 'creative' people in a number of media. I have a copy, and until I looked at it just now I was sure I'd read it. But since there are no pencil marks whatever on it, I am no longer so sure. Maybe I'm confusing it with something else. In any case it all looks a bit too heavily concerned with 'self-expression' for my taste. But hey -- don't let me put you off.


Anonymous said...

Give it away? Not if I can help it! Free? I hate that word!

I wrote a Soapbox column for Publishers Weekly about this very subject last August. The article was called "Slaves to the Galley." In the article I told readers that I had met with success by emailing reviewers with a eye-catching subject line, an image of the book jacket, a sample chapter, a very brief author blurb and ONE PARAGRAPH of strong, strong promo verbiage, rather than send the book. The response? Truly interested reviewers contacted me for the book or I got a thank you for not wasting their time by sending a book in which the reviewer had no interest or I heard dead silence.

The email was a mini-spam (150?) to a Bacon's list of reviewers in the area of women/health. Many of these purchased or subscribed to lists consist of email addresses to "reviewers@xxxx.com," which sounds like a big waste of a book and money to me, and were that money for books and shipping coming out of my pocket, I would not do it. But traditional publishing houses use a lot of prayer-based marketing. I'm not denigrating the impact of bloggers and the folks who write reviews in the smaller venues, because they/you/we have an impact, but to get a six-page spread and a cover image of the authors in a top pregnancy mag makes my day...and provides a little job security!

Give it away if you must, but know to whom you are giving it.

Good Morning from New York City.

Anonymous said...

The last requirement is not surprising, given the hideous cost of airmailing a book anywhere.

Yes, it's perfectly reasonable, of course, but did you see what sort of trouble Brenda Coulter got into for restricting her giveaway to the US? See here too. I'm with Brenda on this one, mind.

Anonymous said...


In this case the books are not being sent free and unsolicited for review, instead they are being sent free to people who contact the publishing company for the book i.e. they are interested. There are many excerpts of the book on its website, and the book has been out for a long enough time, so it is reasonable to assume that those who go to the trouble of asking for it actually want it.

Also as Michael pointed out it is almost two years since the book was published. This major giveaway to bloggers is not about getting reviews. The book has long been reviewed in various publications around the US (a list of links exists on the book's website), and readers' reviews are as usual viewable on Amazon.

Note that the book is being given to bloggers, not book bloggers, or art bloggers, but any bloggers. If you blog on digital cameras, you still qualify for a free book, and nobody expects a review of the book in between reviews of cameras.

This exercise/promotion is in keeping with Hugh MacLeod's concept of Market Disruption where benefits are indirect. By giving away books like this, the publishing company now has a story it can talk about, and bloggers committed enough to blog are likely to be part of that conversation in whatever form it takes (including verbal rather than online).

And of course because the people asking for books have blogs, the publishing company knows exactly who they are giving their books to.