I’ve been writing my tail off over the past couple of months. The result—a 70k-word novel, ready to release in July!

That’s the good news.

The less good news is that it’s been (gulp) about a year and a half since I launched my last fiction book. Pretty much any excitement generated by that one has long since dissipated, and I’m pretty much starting from scratch as far as finding readers.

Over the coming month leading up to its release, I’ll be sharing what I do to promote my new book. I think both fiction and nonfiction writers will be able to learn something.

But the single most important thing I’ve done so far is create a fiction-oriented mailing list. I’m pleased to say that I went from 0 to 1100 subscribers in just 4 weeks using Instafreebie, a platform designed to host free books and make giving them away (and growing your list in the process) very easy.

I added 1100 new subscribers to my author list in 4 weeks using Instafreebie. That big spike in the middle (280 subscribers) represents a Mother’s Day promo I joined (May 14). The second, smaller spike (103 subscribers) toward the end of May came from a Memorial Day promotion I took part in.


Why do you need a mailing list?

If you want to sell books, you need an audience that you can reach and communicate with. Social media is good as far as it goes, but you don’t ultimately control it, and no matter how many books you sell on Amazon, you will never get a record of who those customers are or how to contact them about subsequent books (or courses, programs, etc.).

Having your own list is the most reliable way to reach your readers, and one of the best ways to do this is to offer something free that people have to sign up for.

Here’s where Instafreebie comes in.

How does Instafreebie work?

You, the author, create your giveaway product, upload it, along with its cover, to Instafreebie, and get a link which you can share with your audience. Readers sign up, choose what format they’d like (.pdf, .mobi or .epub), and get an email from Instafreebie with your book attached. Easy peasy. You don’t need to fuss with sending files to readers yourself.

If you have a Mailchimp or Mailerlite account, names and email address will be automatically added to your mailing list. If you use a different service, you can download a .csv file from Instafreebie and upload it to your account.

When you set up your giveaway, you get a menu of options.You can either ask people to sign up to your mailing list (recommended for building your email list) or simply distribute them (recommended for ARCs or beta reading copies). You can set limits on the number of free books to give away, set beginning and end dates, and make other tweaks to your campaign.

What can you give away?

You can upload an entire book, excerpt, or short story/novella. I’m offering a short (17.5k words) novelette that works as a lead-in to the series I’m working on. Readers (and promotion hosts) are looking for actual books/stories; this isn’t the place for one-page checklists or worksheets, even though those might be great lead magnets in other contexts.

Remember, if your book is in the Kindle Select program on Amazon, you’re not allowed to distribute it anywhere else, and that includes Instafreebie. You can offer the first 10% (which is what they’d see on Amazon’s Look Inside feature), but no more than that.

How much does it cost?

You can get a Basic plan for free, but you won’t be able to use it to collect email address—only to give away your book. The Plus plan allows you to collect addresses and costs $20/month. However, you can get a free trial for 30 days, which is plenty of time for you to try it and see if you like it.

There’s also the Pro plan for $50, which lets you use up to five pen names and being able to brand your giveaway page.

Promoting your giveaway

You still need to get out there and hustle your book. Instafreebie may decide to feature your book on its blog or show it to readers who’ve downloaded similar books, but they’re more likely to do that if they see it’s getting some traction.

So how do you promote your book if you don’t already have a list? Well, social media, of course—just be sure to follow promo rules if you’re posting in Facebook groups. But also be on the lookout for joint promotions with other authors; these are really the most powerful way to make the most of your giveaway.

Where do you find group promos?

The first place to check out is Instafreebie’s own Forum (accessible to members), where giveaways are sorted by genre. There is also an Instafreebie Promos group on Facebook.

Some promos have minimum list requirements; many do not. All ask that authors promote the giveaway via social media and their existing lists. A few charge an “entry fee” to join (I’ve seen anywhere from $5 to $35) and is usually intended to cover advertising costs. I haven’t joined any paid promos yet, and probably won’t unless I’m already familiar with the hosts.

Be selective about the promos you join! Remember, in exchange for joining the promo, you have to promote it, and you don’t want to wear out your audience by sending them links to random free promos every few days. Join only promos that are truly a good fit for your book, and choose quality over quantity.

And you can, of course, start your own. Look for a group of authors in a similar niche/genre, set a date, build a web page with all the links, and begin promoting. Get a solid group of authors together and LET INSTAFREEBIE KNOW that you’re doing a promo. There’s a good chance that they’ll promote your promo on their homepage and to their own mailing list.

List Quality

I’ve heard from some authors that their Instafreebie lists tend to be populated with readers who want free books and don’t tend to end up buying any. Other authors have found their Instafreebie lists to be very engaged and ultimately profitable.

For me, it’s a little early to say whether the people who have signed up for my free book will end up buying my paid ones (I have two other novels available on Amazon). About three weeks after I started using Instafreebie, I began to see an uptick in sales/page reads of my two published novels—not a lot, but definitely an improvement. My unsubscribe rate is about 8%, the open rate on my emails is hovering around 55%, and the click rate is 37%. Your mileage will almost certainly vary.

Fiction vs. Nonfiction

Most of the buzz that I’ve heard about Instafreebie is from fiction authors. Instafreebie DOES host nonfiction, though, and word on the street is that nonfiction promos are more likely to get highlighted on Instafreebie’s homepage and email simply because there’s less competition.

I asked the host of a recent 4-day nonfiction giveaway about her results, and this was her response:

For my part, I can speak to some 400 new subscribers as a result of the giveaway. I received word from a couple additional nonfiction subscribers that their lists were in the 300-plus zone by Sunday/Monday [of a promo that started the previous Thursday], so I think that’s positive! 

Either way, I think it’s well worth doing the 30-day free trial to see how it goes. If you like it, you can sign up for the Plus plan. If it’s not for you, you can move on and try other methods.

What about you?

Have you tried Instafreebie? Did you like it? Share your experiences in the comments!