Enjoy lifehacks? Enjoy making your life easier? Read on, because I just spent a number of hours over the past few weeks putting this all together.
Like any other author, I want to make introducing myself as easy as possible. Free book giveaways are a risk-free way for new readers to get to know you and your work.
How do you do that without killing yourself responding to emails all day? There are systems out there that do this for authors with budget. However, what about writers like us?
With that in mind, I put this free e-book delivery tool together for myself. Because I like to share, I’m giving it to you so that you’ll have more time to write, too.
This is involved, so read it through and understand all the concepts first. Then grab a cup of coffee and settle in. You’re going to spend three or four hours setting this all up. Rest assured, once you’re done, you’ll have a kickbutt automated system for giving away free stuff to your readers and it didn’t cost you a dime.
Ready? Let’s go!
Build Your Own Free E-Book Delivery Tool
To set the stage, let’s review how a free e-book delivery tool is supposed to work. All we’re doing is taking advantage of free tools like IFTTT and Gmail to set up a system that automatically delivers free stuff to your readers.
Take a look at the flowchart. In summary, a user visits your free book page and picks out something they’d like to try. That kicks off a process where they’re sending an email and your delivery tool automatically responds with the free e-book.
The system uses two free systems (Gmail and IFTTT) which, when configured correctly, do all of the work of book delivery for you. When a reader sends the email, the system does the rest. Let’s talk about what you need to do first:
Step One: Choose Some Free E-Books to Give Away
As an author, you may have some free or cheap short stories that you’re willing to give away as free samples. Choose them – you can see my list here – and get them formatted for your readers. I use PDF and ePUB, because these are the two most-universal formats for readers.
“Should I give my stuff away for free?” – There are schools of thought about how comfortable you should be about sharing files (hackers, piracy, etc) but at the end of the day, you’ll have to decide what to do.
Assuming you’ve decided to give away free samples, upload them to a convenient web space and note the URLs. You’ll need those later.
Step Two: Sign Up for IFTTT / Gmail
Sign up for a free Gmail account and a free IFTTT account. You’ll need them both for this to work since IFTTT has automatic integration with Gmail. (Note, I didn’t try other mailing systems. If IFTTT supports others, feel free to use this how-to on them. YMMV).
To simplify this process, you should create your Gmail account first and then register your IFTTT account with it. This will save you some authentication steps later.
Step Three: Configure Your Website Into a Free E-Book Shopping Cart
Now back to your website. Create a page for your free e-books and make it snazzy. You can see how I put it together by starting at Free Stuff, and then looking at each individual story (Here’s one example).
What you want to pay attention to are the back-end HTML links you’ll embed in the buttons. In each case, they contain an HMTL button with ‘MAILTO’ functionality. That will automatically set up a mail from the sender to you requesting a free e-book and kicking off the process. The HMTL looks a little gummy, but it breaks down like this:
All they have to do is click Send and their request is on the way!
Still with me? Great! Now it’s time to set up the automation:
Step Four: Configure IFTTT
Now it’s time to configure IFTTT. Let’s do this step-by-step:
- Log into IFTTT and go to “My Applets” in the top menu
- Click “New Applet“
- In the “If this then that” screen that appears, select the blue ‘This.’ Then select ‘Gmail’ as your service
- Once you select ‘Gmail,’ the next screen is labeled ‘Choose trigger.’ Select ‘New email in inbox from search’
- Once you select that trigger, the next screen that appears is called ‘Complete trigger fields’ – Here is where you’ll put the subject line you entered in your website email link in step 3 (For example, I said “Email me PDF: OVERLY-ATTACHED AI.”
- The next screen is your ‘if Gmail then that’ screen, so click ‘that.’ The next screen should be ‘Choose action service – Step 3 of 6’. Once again, select Gmail.
- In the next screen – (Choose action – Step 4 of 6) – You’ll select “Send an email.”
- The next screen (Complete action fields – Step 5 of 6) will now prompt you to specify what kind of email you want to send
- Use the ‘Add ingredient’ button and select ‘FromAddress’ to put the sender’s email address into your email. CC other people too, if you’re into that kind of thing.
- It’s up to you what kind of email you want to send or whether you want to BCC anyone. I personally do, because I want a simple way to know if the system is working.
- Even though this is an automated system, be as human as possible in your choice of Subject
- You’ll also decide what kind of email greeting you’ll send. Again, being as human as possible, you can also use a bit of HTML formatting in this field, so use it wisely.
- In the ‘Attachment URL’ field, it’s time to drop in the URL of the file of your e-book story that you noted from Step One. Paste it into this location.
- Once you’re satisfied with your service, you’ll click ‘Create Action.’
- In the final scree (Review and finish – Step 6 of 6) you’ll give everything a once-over and click ‘Finish.’ Your new IFTTT book delivery service is running!
Step Five: Test your book delivery system
Now it’s time to test the system.
- Go back to your free e-book web page and select a book to be delivered. Click the URL and have the email you set up pop up (it’s working, right? If not, go check all the stuff you did in Step Three)
- Send the email off
- Let IFTTT check your Gmail box for the new ‘Please email me’ mail – this can take 1-3 hours.
- If you don’t want to wait for IFTTT to work, you can also go into the applet in IFTTT and click the ‘Check Now’ button.
- Let IFTTT do its thing and see if your email arrives as expected. If it doesn’t, go back and check the steps you followed in Step Four.
- Quick troubleshooting note – If things aren’t working, try Step Four again and keep it simple. Sometimes it’s better to do a simple email with no attachments to demonstrate that the system is working first before doing any tweaks.
- Your requested email and attachment should arrive
- Congratulations – your Free Book Delivery system is now working and ready to delivery free samples of your work to excited new readers!
All successful authors give away samples of their work to attract new readers. Every hour you’re spending sending out free samples is another hour you aren’t writing. It’s in everyone’s interest, then, to use automated systems to leave you free to do what you do best: write.
Most of those systems are expensive, but you can build your own system for free with a little time, elbow grease and know-how. All it takes is some time, some curiosity, and of course, some coffee. You’ll be engaging with your readers like a boss in no time.