The two major book giveaway programs have changed considerably in the past couple of years.
One nice feature is that both types of giveaways now offer Kindle eBooks.
Amazon’s giveaway program has undergone several significant changes. It’s convenient and now offers better exposure for authors who don’t already have a large following, but there are now fewer options to choose from. The overall cost can be quite reasonable, especially if you give away a small number of books.
Goodreads’ giveaway program is no longer free. However, it is cost-effective for giving away 100 Kindle eBooks. The print option, while fairly expensive per book, allows you to include the personal touch.
Both programs let you run giveaways in the United States. Goodreads now has an option for Canada for print books. It would be nice to see expansion at least to the United Kingdom and Australia (and any expansion with eBooks).
Obviously, Amazon’s program has Amazon customers, which is nice, but Goodreads’ program consists of many dedicated readers, and Goodreads winners are encouraged to leave reviews (at Goodreads), which is in some ways nicer. There are pros and cons of both programs. Neither program is ideal, and the programs make more sense for some books and authors than for others. The only way to really know for sure is to try it out.
To run an Amazon giveaway in the United States, visit the product page of an item on Amazon.com, scroll down the page below the customer review section, and look for the option to setup an Amazon Giveaway.
- You can give away print books, Kindle eBooks, Amazon gift cards, and most products on Amazon.
- Amazon giveaways are fairly cheap. For a Kindle eBook, you just pay the current sales price (plus sales tax). If there happens to be a Countdown Deal in progress, it costs you even less. For a print book, you must also pay the shipping charges (though if you have Prime, you might notice a sweet reduction in the cost, as of early 2019).
- The best new feature is at the bottom. Under Discoverability, choose Public to have your giveaway included in the dedicated Amazon Giveaway pages. For authors who don’t already have a large following, this helps strangers discover your work.
- You can visit the Amazon Giveaway page here: https://www.amazon.com/ga/giveaways. There are currently 147 pages with 3500 giveaways. Not every product gets optimal exposure, but since many giveaways do result in hundreds of entrants (without added exposure), people are finding products here. There is an option to subscribe to the giveaways.
- There are currently only two types of giveaways: Lucky Number Instant Win and First-come, First-served. If you’re hoping for exposure from Amazon, choose Lucky Number Instant Win.
- The downside to Lucky Number Instant Win is that Amazon has greatly restricted the options for the odds of winning. Amazon will give you a few options, which varies depending on the product, and you must select one of the options. For many Kindle eBooks, the options are 100, 200, and 300. For some paperbacks, the options are 400 to 600.
- If you’re hoping to give away a large number of products, you either need an extremely popular giveaway, or you need to have a large following of your own and then pick First-come, First-served.
- Unfortunately, KDP books aren’t eligible for a discount, and the giveaway dashboard doesn’t show the number of sales. These options are for Amazon Sellers who sell products through Amazon Seller Central. Feel free to email KDP support and request that they add an option to discount KDP published books in Amazon Giveaways. It would be great if they did this.
- You can gain valuable data by checking your giveaway dashboard. Divide the number of Hits by the number of Entrants. The smaller this number, the greater the percentage of people who checked out your giveaway proceeded to enter the contest. Divide the number of Hits by the number of Product Page Visits. The smaller this number, the greater the percentage of people who checked our your giveaway visited your product page. If 1 out of 2 people enter your contest, that’s much better than if 1 out of 10 people do. Similarly, if 1 out of 10 people visit your product page, that’s much better than if 1 out of 50 people do. These ratios tell you something about the marketing appeal of your cover and title (but it also depends on how well your book appeals to the giveaway audience, which isn’t a good fit for all books).
To run a Goodreads giveaway in the United States (or Canada for a print book), login to Goodreads and visit your Author Dashboard. One way is to scroll down to Your Giveaways and click the word giveaway where it says, “Listing a giveaway…” Note that your book (including the edition you need, paperback or Kindle) must first exist on Goodreads (if not, visit the FAQ’s to learn how to properly ask the librarians to add your book).
- You can give away print books or Kindle eBooks (provided that you published through Amazon KDP). Print books are sometimes appreciated better, and they allow you to include the personal touch. However, giving away 100 Kindle eBooks is quite cost effective. For Kindle eBooks, you don’t need to pay for the books (you just need to pay the setup fee). For print books, you must purchase author copies and ship them yourself (or have each author copy directly shipped to each different address).
- Check out the Goodreads giveaway page here: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway. Compared to Amazon Giveaways, I like that it’s much easier to sort and search.
- Your Goodreads followers and anyone who has already added your book to their Want to Read list receive notifications that your giveaway is available.
- Your book will be marked as Want to Read by entrants (unless they undo this).
- Approximately two weeks after the giveaway ends, winners receive an email reminding them to rate and review the book. They aren’t required to do this, but this does help. A percentage of reviews generally show up at Goodreads (but not nearly as many are likely to show at Amazon).
- For a print giveaway, you can include a brief thank-you note. You can state that any review at Goodreads, Amazon, or anywhere else will be appreciated, but reviewing is optional (and you should note this in your request). You want to keep it short and simple. You don’t want to sound like you’re harassing the winners, or that you expect a certain star value (since each of these are violations of the policy, and likely will upset the recipients). The best thing is to simply ask for honest feedback.
Why run a book giveaway?
- The contest gives you a chance to send a marketing message other than, “Check out my book.” Your message is more like, “Enter for a chance to win a free book.” There is potential here. Some authors are more effective at marketing than others, and thus are more apt to take advantage of this potential than others.
- The real hope is for word-of-mouth sales. Few books (percentagewise) succeed at this, but for those that do, it’s well worth it. When a book has that magical content and really spreads well by word-of-mouth, every copy you can get into the hands of readers can really pay dividends months in the future. The best way to get word-of-mouth sales has to do with choosing your content wisely and preparing it just right. If you manage to do that, then giveaway copies help to jumpstart sales.
- It can take several months for word-of-mouth sales to come (and for some books, it never happens). In the meantime, you want to create buzz about your book. You would love to have people talking about your book. Your giveaway and the marketing you do to help promote your giveaway can help with this. Some authors are successful at creating buzz, which helps to generate early sales.
- Another hope is to get some reviews. Goodreads winners are pretty good at posting reviews at Goodreads (not nearly 100% obviously, but the ratio is often far better than random buyers who read the book), but it’s less common for them to also review the book at Amazon (though it’s great when they do). You’re getting review potential, and the Goodreads reviews are helpful (since readers at Goodreads are looking for books to read).
- You gain some exposure. Several people who previously didn’t know about your book have seen your title, your name, and your cover. It’s a small part of the branding process.
If all you do is run a giveaway, and you don’t do anything to promote your giveaway, in many cases you probably wouldn’t feel like you got enough out of it.
If you promote the giveaway effectively, and if you also do much other marketing (and premarketing) to help launch your book, and if your content is spectacular, then you are far more likely to reap the benefits of the giveaway.
Write Happy, Be Happy
Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides