Sell More Copies of Your Books by Giving More Copies Away

All things considered, word of mouth is still the most important means of marketing any book. Word of mouth is created by getting your book in the hands of people who will appreciate it and will talk to friends and associates about it. The best way to get people talking is to give your book to key individuals – talk-show hosts, columnists, celebrities, and chat-line addicts – who are going to mention it to many people, who will mention it to even more people.
With the right book, the more you give away, the more you end up selling. I have now spent approximately $40,000 giving away over 12,000 copies of my books. But let me not dwell on my own case because I have one that is much better. A few years ago, Marlo Morgan self-published a book called Mutant Message Down Under. Three years later, Morgan had sold 270,000 copies. This is a remarkable figure for any self-published book, but the most extraordinary fact was Morgan had given away over 90,000 copies of her book in three years. She donated the copies to prisons, women’s shelters, and other institutions.

Giving away almost one hundred copies each day for three years straight is not something even major publishers would consider, but it paid off for Morgan. Her impressive sales were a result of the word-of-mouth advertising generated from the copies she gave away. Better still, when the book finally came to the attention of HarperCollins, the publisher paid Morgan a $1.7 million advance to take over publication of Mutant Message Down Under (HarperPerennial, 1995).

Giving away your book for free may seem like a silly way to try to make a living. There is no better way to create word of mouth, however, as Marlo Morgan proved. Many people end up buying your book after hearing about it from someone. The key is to give your book to the influencers of this world. By influencers, I mean the “big mouths” of this world who know a lot of other influential people and will recommend your book to everyone they talk to.

In the same vein, you can get publicity about your book by giving free talks and consultations. You will establish yourself as an expert and publicize book at the same time. If you can create yourself as being controversial, you increase your chances of making appearances on talk shows, where you can rant and rave about your book. If you can’t get publicity after sustained effort, likely either your book or you is not distinctive enough. Do whatever it takes to make your book or yourself more distinctive.

Ernie Zelinski is the author of the recently released Real Success Without a Real Job, the bestseller How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free (over 50,000 copies sold), and the international bestseller The Joy of Not Working (over 200,000 copies sold). This article is adapted from Real Success Without a Real Job. To learn more about Ernie and his books visit and