Best Selling Author Gerald Hansen: How Free Ebook Promotions Help Fund His Wanderlust
Author Gerald Hansen is best known for his humorous Derry Women Series of books, about a dysfunctional family in Northern Ireland.
He’s lived — and traveled — around the world and we talked to him about how that has influenced his writing and how free ebook promotions help fund his wanderlust.
Fussy Librarian: You’ve done two things that are great for developing good people-watching skills. First, you’ve been a waiter. And second, you’ve lived in a lot of different places – Thailand, America, Germany, Northern Ireland, and England. Do you think that’s helped you pick up on people’s eccentricities and develop your characters?
Hansen: You’re so right about both things. It’s true. I used to work at the famous Comedy Cellar/Olive Tree Cafe in New York as a waiter. Eventually, I trained all the staff. And what I always said during these training sessions was, “I’ve learned all my life lessons and most of what I know about human nature by working here.”
It’s so true.
Each table you serve is a little microcosm of life and relationships, so serving tables teaches you so much about people, if you are open to it. And as for my strange upbringing all over the world (and you’ve left out Iceland, so it was even stranger), there’s nothing like being the new kid in town every two or three years of your life to help you see, as an objective observer, or maybe even an anthropologist of sorts, how the people in each place live and interact. They might have difficultly recognizing what it was easier for me to see because of the “forest for the trees” mentality.
I still feel like I belong everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I never thought about this before, but perhaps you’re right that it’s been easier for me to develop my characters because of these two aspects of my life.
Fussy Librarian: There’s a saying that no matter how different their cultures, that people often have a lot more in common than they realize. In your experience, have you found that to be true?
Hansen: Absolutely. And, as you’ve pointed out, I’ve experienced many different cultures, so I’ve seen the same scenarios play out in real life.
My books deal with a dysfunctional family, and their speech and the location are very specifically Irish (in fact, not even Irish, but from Northern Ireland, which is even more specific). You might think this makes the books very niche, but I don’t think that’s the case. Don’t take my word from it. I’ve heard from African American and Puerto Rican readers who said to me, “This is totally us also.” The specifics are obviously very different, but the stories and relationships are the same in many different cultures.
Fussy Librarian: One thing I’ve noticed is you give away some of your books. A lot of authors struggle with giving away something on which they’ve worked so hard. What was the thing that led you to give that a try?
Hansen: When I first heard of giving books away as a marketing strategy, I was a bit confused, but not really alarmed. I’ve always been the type of person who thinks, what use is an unread book? Why is it just sitting there in your computer or drawer? Shouldn’t you put it out there so people everywhere can read it? Even if they get it for free?
But, yes, back in the day when my first book came out, I remember how proud I was that people actually paid money to read what I’d written. Let’s be honest, though — for the first few months, it was mostly family and friends who were buying it.
Once I discovered free books mean more readers, I was eager to apply for free promos with sites like the Fussy Librarian, who have been fantastic for finding me new readers!
Fussy Librarian: And giving away books can help an author make money. Could you explain how that works?
Hansen: This is absolutely true. Again, if you are a bit snooty and think people should only buy your work, you’re not going to get very far.
A free promo is very, very cheap adverting, an easy way to get your name out there and your books into the hands of many, many readers. And if they like your work, they’ll buy more books from you.
If you don’t have a series, I don’t know how successful a free promo might be. Though I think if you only had one book, you’d still make money from a free promo, especially if your book was in Kindle Unlimited. The page reads are an exciting extra source of income. And I really do mean exciting because, with a book sale, you never really know if the person who bought it actually went on to read the book. (I would hope so, but you never know.) But with the page reads, you experience people really “reading” your book — and in real time!
And, I just want to add, some promo sites are less successful than others. Some seem full of subscribers that want free books only! You could run a promo with them, and, yes, you’ve gotten a bit of visibility, more people will read your book, but it’s a bit of a disappointment. The Fussy Librarian is one of the few sites I’ve worked with where readers, many readers, have bought every single book in my series right when they got the free book. (And I have many books in my series). They seem like readers, not just bargain hunters.
Fussy Librarian: You live in one of the most expensive cities in the world – New York — but I notice you still love to travel. Do your earnings as an author help make that possible?
Hansen: It’s true. Rent (among other things) is crazy here. I remember someone said to me something like, “I hope you’re earning money with your books.” And I told him, “Yes. Some months it’s enough to pay my rent.” His eyes saucered. But it’s true.
And, yes, the money I’ve earned as an author has certainly helped me see the world. I think without the extra income, I wouldn’t have been able to go on safari in Kenya, I wouldn’t have been able to go with my mother to Egypt to see the pyramids and cruise down the Nile. (It had been our dream for years.) Just last month, I wanted to finish a book and took off to Mexico for the week, just to sit in the sun and write. (New York had a rainy May). That wouldn’t have been possible without the extra money I’ve earned as a writer.
I’ve gone to so many places that I’ve now started a travelogue series about my trips, and that generates more income so I can go on even more trips, so it’s become quite symbiotic. And I’ve got a trip to Mongolia planned for September, so I’ll save all my author earnings for the next few months to help with that.
You can learn more about Gerald on his website, www.geraldhansen.com, or check out and buy his books on Amazon at www.amazon.com/Gerald-Hansen/e/B002YMJLIY.
To promote a free ebook with The Fussy Librarian, go to authors.thefussylibrarian.com.