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Two of the most popular methods that authors and publishers use to hold contests for book giveaways have changed.
- Amazon Giveaways have undergone a series of changes.
- Goodreads Giveaways changed significantly as of January, 2018.
So 2018 is a good time for a new post regarding how to host a book giveaway.
WHY HOST A GIVEAWAY?
A giveaway is one tool that authors and publishers utilize to help with book marketing.
Following are the main goals for a book giveaway.
- Help create buzz and initial exposure for a new book release.
- Give the author a chance to call attention (in other forms of marketing) to a contest, rather than always calling attention directly to the book.
- Hope that some of the winners will write book reviews.
- Hope that the winners love the book so much that they help with word-of-mouth sales.
When a book is loved so much by an audience that it thrives on word-of-mouth sales, it can really take off. This is the best-case scenario, but often isn’t attained.
Only a percentage of winners will post reviews. A good percentage of Goodreads winners will rate or review the book at Goodreads, but it’s not as common for Amazon or Goodreads winners to review the book at Amazon.
There are a few other possible benefits of running a giveaway.
- Generate activity. At Goodreads, entrants automatically have your book added to their To-Read lists. (They can undo this, but most don’t.) It helps make your Goodreads book page look more active.
- Increase your following. At Amazon, you can require entrants to follow you. Note: You don’t have to give away a book. You can run an Amazon Giveaway for a $5 gift card or most other products. For a popular product, you may draw many followers (but keep in mind that most probably won’t be part of your target audience).
- Help with branding. People see your book cover and read your name. A large part of book marketing involves effective branding. This helps a little.
HOW MUCH DOES A GIVEAWAY COST?
That depends. Of course, it’s free for the entrant. The author or publisher who sets it up does pay a cost.
- For an Amazon Giveaway for a Kindle eBook, you pay for the current price of the Kindle eBook plus any applicable tax. (They may not show you the tax when you setup your giveaway, but you may notice that it has been added when you view your orders and then select Digital Orders.) If your book is in KDP Select, you can save money by setting up your Amazon Giveaway while a Countdown Deal is in progress. (This also adds a little exposure to your Countdown Deal.) Note: You can’t receive a refund for unclaimed prizes (but you can run a new giveaway for them, gaining additional exposure, or you can turn them into gift cards to send out).
- For an Amazon Giveaway for a print book, you pay for the current price of the print book plus estimated shipping charges plus any applicable tax. If your book happens to be on sale when you setup your contest, you will save a little money. Sometime after your contest ends, you will receive a small refund if the actual shipping charges are less than the estimated charges. You will also receive a refund for any unclaimed copies.
- For a Goodreads Giveaway for a Kindle eBook, you pay a setup fee of $119 for a standard giveaway (or $599 for a premium giveaway). However, you don’t have to pay for the cost of the Kindle eBook on top of the setup fee. When the Kindle eBooks are delivered, you will see free copies of your Kindle eBook show up in your KDP sales reports.
- For a Goodreads Giveaway for a print book, you pay a setup fee of $119 for a standard giveaway (or $599 for a premium giveaway), and after the contest you must also pay to send the books to the winners (which means you must order author copies in advance, package materials, and be prepared to send the books via media mail, for example, at the post office).
In general, Amazon Giveaways cost less to run.
- There is no setup fee. You just pay for the cost of the book (plus tax, and plus shipping for a print book).
- If you choose to give away a small number of books (or just one copy), the cost will be fairly reasonable.
For example, if you have a Kindle eBook on sale for 99 cents, you can run an Amazon Giveaway for one book that costs approximately $1, or you can run a contest for 10 books for about $10.
As another example, if you have a paperback book with a list price of $9.99, you can run an Amazon Giveaway for one book that costs around $20.
However, Goodreads is now quite cost effective for giving away a large number of books. Suppose, for example, that you wish to give away 100 Kindle eBooks.
- If your book’s current price is $2.99, it would cost $299 plus tax to do this at Amazon (and you may need to setup multiple giveaways for such a large number of prizes).
- At Goodreads, you could give away 100 copies for a total of $119, which in this example would save you $180 (or more, as Goodreads might not charge you tax on the order).
If you want to give away several copies of your book, hoping for maximum exposure, confident that your story will merit word-of-mouth exposure, Goodreads lets you run a contest for 100 Kindle eBooks at an effective cost of $1.19 per book, which is pretty good.
However, if you want to host a contest for a small number of books, the cost per book is much lower with an Amazon Giveaway.
WHAT HAS CHANGED?
With Goodreads Giveaways:
- There is now a setup fee. It used to be free.
- You can now run a contest for Kindle eBooks. It used to be for print books only.
- The book is automatically added to Want-to-Read lists. This helps make the book’s Goodreads page appear more active.
- Entrants must currently reside in the United States. Previously, authors or publishers could choose to open participation to a few other countries.
With Amazon Giveaways:
- There is a little automated exposure now. Before, you had to share the link to your giveaway, or at least tweet about it using the #AmazonGiveaway hashtag. Now there is an option to click Public, which gives you some added exposure. This might include the Amazon giveaway listing page, a daily email, or other placements on Amazon.com.
- Your manage your giveaways page now shows you the number of hits (people who visit the giveaway page), number of entrants (people who enter the giveaway), and the number of product page visits. For example, for one of my more popular contests, I had 4033 hits, 2424 entrants, and 79 product page visits, but for one of my recent contests, I had 290 hits, 124 entrants, and 13 product page visits.
- You can’t enter a custom message anymore.
- You can’t require entrants to follow you on Twitter (but you can still require them to follow you on Amazon).
- You can require entrants to watch a short video.
HOW MUCH EXPOSURE WILL I GET?
It can vary considerably. There are no guarantees.
A popular giveaway can receive 2000+ views over the course of a week or a month. An unpopular giveaway might not receive 100 views.
I’ve run over a hundred giveaways and the results are quite varied. (Keep in mind that some of my books are under pen names.)
When a book happens to be popular among the giveaway audience, it often pulls 2000 to 3000 views without any marketing on my part.
If a book isn’t attracting the giveaway audience, if the contest isn’t marketed by the author, it can really struggle to pull 200 views.
Many books fall somewhere in between.
Results can vary considerably depending on the genre or subject, whether it’s print or Kindle, cover appeal, and whether the book’s audience matches the giveaway audience.
At Amazon, if you require entrants to follow you or watch a video, you will get somewhat less participation.
Note that the Goodreads giveaway audience is changing with the recent changes to Goodreads giveaways. It used to be exclusively for print books, but now many of the giveaways appeal to Kindle customers.
DO GIVEAWAYS HELP WITH AMAZON SALES RANK?
The first thing to realize is that the answer to this question may have changed over the years.
Amazon appears to contradict itself on this very point (perhaps also due to a change having occurred over time).
Consider this quote from the KDP help pages:
“Activities that may not be an accurate reflection of customer demand, including promotional Amazon Giveaway sales and purchases that are later returned, are not counted towards sales rank.”
This states clearly that Amazon Giveaways do not count towards sales rank.
However, consider this quote from the Amazon Giveaway FAQ’s:
“Using giveaways to manipulate sales rank (i.e. by creating multiple giveaways for the same ASIN, rather than creating one bulk giveaway).”
If, as the KDP quote suggests, giveaways don’t impact sales rank, how could creating multiple giveaways for the same ASIN manipulate sales rank?
Perhaps the giveaway FAQ’s page is simply a little outdated. Maybe the giveaways used to impact sales rank, but now they don’t.
Nonetheless, I often see a boost to sales rank after hosting a giveaway. But the effect may be indirect.
The giveaway generates activity on your Amazon product page, it gets customers interested in your book, and it may result in a couple of sales of its own. Thus, if you see your sales rank improve during the giveaway, it’s possible that this occurred indirectly due to that added interest and not directly from the giveaway itself.
For Kindle eBooks enrolled in KDP Select, sales rank is even more complicated. That’s because every Kindle Unlimited borrow helps with sales rank, but your reports don’t show you when your book is borrowed (they instead show how many pages are read, which may occur weeks or months after the actual borrow).
Goodreads giveaways are different. If you run a Goodreads giveaway for a Kindle eBook, when the contest ends, the books show up as free books in your reports, not as paid sales. Amazon has separate ranks for free book promos and paid sales, so Goodreads giveaways definitely do not impact paid sales rank directly (though again their can be indirect benefits). (If you run a free book promo with KDP Select, your free rank looks great during the promo, but that isn’t a paid sales rank. Once the promo ends, it will be replaced by a paid sales rank.)
SHOULD I DO A PAPERBACK OR EBOOK GIVEAWAY?
If either edition is likely to offer a better reading experience, or if either edition is more likely to be appreciated by the customer, that’s the edition I recommend.
For example, if the Kindle edition has color illustrations while the print edition is black and white, I would prefer the Kindle edition.
As a counterexample, if parents are more likely to read an illustrated kids’ book to their children in print format, I would prefer a paperback or hardcover.
If you’re giving away a large number of copies, it’s much more economical to create an eBook giveaway.
If you want to include a brief thank-you note or bookmark, go with a print edition.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER COUNTRIES?
To enter a Goodreads or Amazon Giveaway, the entrant must be in the United States.
HOW CAN I WIN A FREE BOOK?
Enter for a chance to win my latest book, 50 Challenging Algebra Problems (Fully Solved).
Explore the Amazon Giveaways page.
Explore the Goodreads giveaways page.
Spend a little time as a customer exploring giveaways before creating a giveaway as an author.
For example, at Goodreads, this will help you get ideas for writing an effective contest description, and it will show you which types of giveaways tend to be more popular.
If you’re thinking about paying extra for a premium giveaway, spend some time researching active giveaways to see whether or not the premium placement seems to be bringing in the kinds of results that you would expect. If you find premium giveaways on the main landing page that have been out for over a week, but don’t have several thousand views, it’s not likely to expect huge results for your own contest.
Write happy, be happy. 🙂
Copyright © 2018
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