Christian book and Bible publisher, Crossway, announced last week that they are giving bloggers the opportunity to review an upcoming book (John Owen's Communion with the Triune God) through a free download. The announcement came via Justin Taylor's personal blog. Justin is an associate editor for Crossway.
The fact that Crossway is using bloggers this way is a great step for them and one that more publishers will likely pursue in the future. Crossway isn't trying to force bloggers to do anything (which indicates an understanding of blog culture) but is simply providing them with an opportunity to get something early in exchange for a review. Crossway can also look forward to the positive Google search results that will ensue. I commend Crossway for taking advantage of Justin's blog readers. It's a great (and informal) way to promote the new book to the very people who are most willing to talk about it. Justin's readers fall right in line with the types of books Crossway produces so they've got a marketing advantage that many publishers can only dream of.
As good as this idea was I think there are two things that would make Crossway's free download promotion even stronger:
- Seek to identify and target bloggers with larger numbers of readers. It's great to get bloggers talking about your book. It's even better to get bloggers with a lot of readers to talk about your book. If Crossway identified ten bloggers with significant numbers of readers, it will have a more immediate impact on book awareness and will lead to even more blog posts from the readers of those select blogs but don't forget there's a right way and a wrong way to pitch the idea to the bloggers too.
- Don't quit sending out the PDFs after October 1. I expect there's concern within Crossway that they will hurt sales by sending too many digital files of the book. Though that's an understandable concern, I don't believe it should hinder more free reviews of the book. In fact, I would recommend they give the book away as a PDF regardless of whether someone is going to review it or not. I heard Seth Godin say once that he gave a book away as a free PDF and it was downloaded over two million times. It went to #5 on the Amazon.com Best Seller list and he said he made more money on this book than his previous book that was marketed more conventionally. The hard back version was what people wanted after they read a few pages of the free download and decided it was worth the $40 price. Though it's counterintuitive to give it away, what's really being given away with a free download is the initial impression of the book not the book itself. If the reader likes the impression the book makes they'll be sure to get the real thing.