How Do You Make Money with a Book If You Give It Away?

By May 17, 2012 February 22nd, 2017 8 Comments

I’ve been having a great conversation with one of my Facebook friends, Lisa Jeanette. She came to me with questions about the book publishing process, and I’ve answered them without hesitation. Because I’ve been open in sharing about the process with her (as I am with everyone), she came to me with a very valid question. How do I make money if I give away this information, such as the information I reveal in my book 21 Ways to Write & Publish Your Non-Fiction Book for free? I published that book to be used as a “business card” and I do give away a lot of copies, so this is a great question. And perhaps you have this question as well regarding books you give away for free.

There are several ways to make money while giving away information for free – whether that information is given in a consultation, Facebook conversation or in the form of your book. Here are some ways I make money with my books, and with other information I give away for free:

  1. I believe in “give and it shall be given unto you.” I truly believe when I give, it builds a trust relationship and becomes valuable to both the person I’m giving to and to myself. Sometimes it’s given back to me in the form of a stronger relationship. Sometimes a JV partnership. Sometimes a new client. Sometimes a new friend I know I can count on. The most important thing to remember is, when you give, it can come back in many forms – not all of them will be financial. And it’s always worth it.
  2. My book advertises my other offers. In the back of my book, I advertise other books in the 21 Ways series, as well as other programs and services I offer. This generates income through additional book sales, builds my list when readers opt into my free offer, and increases awareness about my publishing programs. The income generated may not be instant, but it is constant. What’s interesting is I consistently sell more of the title I give away for free than any of my other titles. In fact I sell twice as many of the one I give away! This phenomenon is not unusual. I also have a client who gives away tons of her first title, and though her other book sells, the one she gives away out-sells it every month. There seems to be a direct relationship between how much you give and how many people purchase it as a result of the gift.
  3. My “bread and butter” is done-for-you Indie publishing services. Because of this, I can give away information all day long and people will still hire me to do the work for them. I know my target audience doesn’t want to mess with the time to learn the publishing industry all on their own. They want to understand the process, but they want someone else to handle all the nitty gritty details for them. If you offer done-for-you services, a book is an excellent way to advertise them! In fact, as a direct result of publishing 21 Ways to Write & Publish Your Non-Fiction Book, my business’ bottom line increased over $18,000 in less than 30 days!
  4. A published book gives you credibility. This credibility gives you the opportunity to charge more for your coaching services, get paid to speak or keynote for events, show that you are the go-to expert in your niche, and that’s just the beginning. All of my clients have received these results shortly after their books were published. Some have grown their businesses so much that they haven’t had time to write additional books they initially planned! If your book is tied to your business in any way, you can expect your credibility to skyrocket upon its release. And you will see a direct result in your bottom line, even when you give copies away.
  5. Sponsorship opportunities have opened up for me. This means I don’t pay for the books I give away anymore – they’re sponsored. I have an arrangement with my sponsor to give them a commission for anyone who signs up for a program through my sales funnel where I use these free books. This creates a win-win-win: I no longer have to pay for the books I give away, more potential clients have access to the information in my book for free, and my sponsor gets a nice commission check when I sign on a new client, thus increasing sponsorship for a longer term! Sponsorship takes time and effort, but the results are worth it.

These are only some of the ways to make money by giving away your book. Please let me know what results you’ve seen by giving away your books in the comments below!

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Kristen Joy

Kristen Joy

Kristen Joy Laidig is the founder of The Book Ninja. She has authored over 40 books, started over 50 publishing companies, trained over 10,000 authors worldwide, has her black belt in karate, and eats way too much chocolate. She currently changes lives through her students… one published message at a time, manages her two retail stores Toy Box Gifts & Wonder® and Nerdvana Outpost in the heart of her newfound hometown, Chambersburg, PA, is in the start-up phase of at least three new businesses at any given time, and generally causes anyone reading this bio to be out of breath. On her “off” time (what’s that?) she brainstorms business ideas with her awesome husband, the great Public Domain Expert himself, Tony Laidig, and hangs out with her two ragdoll kitties. She’s even been known to sleep... occasionally.


  • Heather says:

    I have a question.  You wrote ”
    What’s interesting is I consistently sell more of the title I give away for free than any of my other titles. In fact I sell twice as many of the one I give away! ”   Do you sell the same book that you give away?  

  • Karen says:

    Find your niche, write for them, and give it to them for Free.
    We mail my book “The Essential Handbook for Selling a Home” to any For-Sale-by-Owners we find so that, when they’re ready to list with an agent or sell to an investor, they call us!
    Believe me, that “free” give away book makes us a lot of money!

    • Karen says:

       Oh, and we give away my book “The Essential Handbook for Buying a Home” to renters so they call us when they’re ready to buy!

  • Phil Simon says:

    Giveaways are table stakes but, of course, there are limits. Sign up one big client and that free book pays for itself one-hundred-fold.

    • Phil – I agree. When you’re allowing people to “pick your brain” for free you actually undermine the amount of time, money and energy you put into learning those things you’re now giving away. It’s fine to give away a “taste,” but you can give away too much. Finding that balance is key to a successful, profitable business.

  • Lisa says:

    Great article Kristen and thanks for all the FREE tips and advice. So generous of you. 

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