For those unfamiliar with World Book Night, it was a joint marketing effort to spread the love of reading by giving away thousands of books in a single day. Publishers donated copies and authors waived their royalties. Last year, in the United States alone, 500,000 books were given away. Unfortunately, the initiative doesn’t have the funding to continue in the U.S.
On July 14, Digital Book Day will operate on much the same premise as World Book Night, only digital copies will be given away to readers rather than physical copies.
C.J. was generous enough to take time to answer a few questions about the initiative.
Your idea picks up where World Book Night left off. Tell us about your experience with it. And why were you sorry to see this event fold?
While I was never lucky enough to be selected to participate in World Book Night, I simply adored the idea of writers putting books into the hands of readers who might not normally have the resources to buy them. After all, isn’t that what authors live for? Seeing our worlds embraced by new readers?
When I heard the news that World Book Night USA was over, it saddened me. And it came on the heels of so much upheaval and distress in the publishing industry that instead of addressing the issue with more rhetoric and empty words, I decided to take action.
After all, thanks to digital publishing, authors (traditionally published or self-published) have a less expensive and more efficient way to gift books to readers via e-books. I myself have given away over 50,000 print and e-books in the past five years—and it’s always, always, always led to new readers finding me, not to mention a ton of fun for me to do, kind of like Christmas all year round! So I thought, why not a self-funded Digital Book Day?
One day, hundreds of authors and free books, all to celebrate our readers!
You already have a super-long list of authors who are participating, and I’m sure many more are to come. How did you get the word out so quickly? What has community response been like?
The idea for Digital Book Day only came to me three days ago, so it’s been a whirlwind getting the site live and creating graphics, etc.
Yesterday, I finally had time to post a few notes to writers’ groups I’m a member of, such as the Alliance of Independent Authors and Sisters in Crime. I also reached out to a few individuals such as Joanna Penn of the Creative Penn and the guys from the Self Publishing Podcast. I told them what I’d dreamt up and asked them to help spread the word, and we already have over 80 books listed!
I’ve always known you as an author devoted to serving readers, and this effort is no exception. If I were working at a big publisher, I’d want to partner with you on this. Has any interest been expressed from inside the industry? (Maybe it’s too early for that?)
I would love to partner with anyone interested in helping readers fall in love with new authors! With the holiday weekend here in the States, there hasn’t been time for any traditional publishers or distribution venues to respond, but several small presses have, including Bob Mayer’s Cool Gus Publishing.
I decided to make Digital Book Day venue neutral. It’s open to any author as long as the link to download their free offering is live on Monday, July 14. It can be via their website, a digital free giveaway site, or one of the many e-book distribution venues that allow free books.
Is there any catch for readers who download the free books? Do they have to give their email address, fill out a form, or do anything special?
It depends on the author. A lot of folks are using links to Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, and Amazon for their free books, but several are hosting their giveaways on their sites in exchange for an email address or newsletter sign up.
The Digital Book Day site will act simply as a portal for readers. Just as with selecting any book, it will be up to the reader to decide if the book and/or venue where it’s hosted is right for them.
Will you be able to count how many books are given away? Either way, how do you expect to measure the impact?
I’ve set up analytics on the site that will tell us how many visitors we have and how many times a link is clicked. The links go to the download sites, so that should be a close approximation of how many books are actually given away.
As for impact—hundreds of free books are given away every day, so this isn’t an industry-changing event. But many of the authors participating in Digital Book Day don’t usually give away free books every day (the so-called permafree books) and some of these deals are exclusive, not found elsewhere—including a few books that are advance copies and not even released yet!
In other words, I think the authors participating in Digital Book Day are really enjoying the chance to reach new readers and delight them with their offerings as we celebrate our shared love of storytelling.
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.