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A "something for nothing" book
on 1 April 2011
I find myself in the slightly odd position of having been offered a free (electronic) copy of a book in return for writing a review, when the book is about getting things for free in return for services such as writing reviews.
The author Mike Essex's theory is that many companies give samples of their product away for marketing or PR, and that if you can show the company that you can offer them something they want in return for a sample, you stand quite a good chance of getting something. With the growth of blogging and marketing using social networking, it has become quite easy to get yourself to a position where you can be useful as an aid to marketing. Reviews - even bad ones - create "buzz" about a product, and (as the old saying goes) any publicity is good publicity. Essex sets some sensible rules: don't break the law; if you're reviewing, be honest; always make sure you fulfil your part of the bargain, and make sure you show the company what you've done. His relatively slim 150-page ebook is an easy read, doesn't outstay its welcome, and genuinely gives you some ideas about how to start out getting stuff "for free".
If I have a criticism, it would be that Essex appears to be obsessed with getting things for free - this is fine if it's something you actually want, but if you're getting sent items that aren't necessarily what you'd choose for yourself, you can find out quite quickly that you can have too much of a good thing. And "stuff for free" isn't free at all, of course: you're entering into an agreement to spend your time trying the product, reading the book, watching the film, and then finding something interesting to write about it, all of which can take up a fair bit of your free time.
Having said that, I can't fault Essex's evident enthusiasm, and I can vouch from experience that companies are willing to enter in to arrangements like this. If you have a good set of web pages, they may even seek you out and make you an offer.
As with many self-published books, there are some spelling mistakes, but the content is well-written, if slightly repetitive. There's nothing strikingly new, but if you think you might like to try this sort of thing, it gives some good ideas about how to start, and it might also give you the confidence to give it a go.