Amazon Advertising for KDP Authors in 2019

AMAZON ADVERTISING VIA KDP

As of 2019, Amazon modified how their advertising campaigns work, so this seems like a good time for a new article about how to use it.

I started using Amazon’s advertising feature several years ago, when it was first introduced to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

Since then, my ads have generated over 100 million impressions. So I have a little experience with how this works.

Advertising is one of many marketing tools. Like most marketing tools, you probably won’t blindly achieve instant success.

And like any paid marketing tool, advertising carries risk. If you aren’t careful, you can spend a lot of money quickly, and you might not recover your investment.

Advertising probably isn’t the solution for a book that isn’t selling on its own. It works better for some books than others, and for some authors than others. The success of the ad depends on a variety of factors.

One big problem is that there are many variables to consider:

  • How much should you bid?
  • How do you target your ads?
  • Is your custom text helping or hurting?
  • Does your cover draw your target audience in effectively?
  • Does your product page sell effectively?

However, if you’re smart about placing your bid, you get some valuable feedback from your ad data. Through trial and error, you can learn how to optimize your ad performance, and the ad metrics can help you determine whether or not running your ad is cost-effective.

There are millions of books, and all of their authors and publishers would love to see those books sell. So there are hundreds of thousands of people and businesses who are willing to place a modest bid to gain valuable advertising space on Amazon. Everyone is asking the key question, “How much can I afford to bid on my book?”

As a result, if your book is in a hot genre like Romance, some ads will place expensive bids for broad keywords. But there may still be hope.

First of all, the highest bid doesn’t necessarily land the impression. Amazon’s algorithm for ad placements uses relevance as an important criteria, so an ad that establishes strong relevance can potentially land impressions with a more modest bid. Secondly, narrower targeting criteria can sometimes help you land impressions with a lower bid.

CHANGES TO AMAZON ADVERTISING

As I mentioned, Amazon changed how their ad campaigns work in 2019.

Amazon is discontinuing Product Display Ads. You can still target by product or by interest, but you’ll need to use one of the other types of ads to do it now. You really aren’t losing anything, in my opinion.

However, if you already have a Product Display Ad running, it will stop running on February 5, 2019. You are able to copy any existing Product Display Ads to one of the other types of ads and run a new one.

Sponsored Product ads now let you target specific products and categories, in addition to keywords. That’s why I said you aren’t really losing anything: Sponsored Product Ads now let you target books basically the same way that Product Display Ads did in the past.

There is now a new type of ad called Lockscreen ads. These appear to be aimed at Kindle eReaders and Kindle Fires. Lockscreen ads allow interest-based targeting.

The dashboard has changed. I’ve tested it out extensively and like it much better. But I had to customize it before I realized that I like it much better now. I’ll discuss how to get the most out of the new dashboard later in my article.

You might also have noticed that the name of Amazon’s advertising service has changed from Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) to Amazon Advertising. Why? Amazon previously had a variety of advertising services with different names, and realized that it would be simpler to have a single name, Amazon Advertising.

There is also an Author’s Guide to the New Amazon Advertising Features. Click here to visit Amazon’s free guide.

RELEVANCE

Successful advertisements tend to develop strong relevance.

You probably understand relevance as a concept. If your book is a good fit for most of the customers who are targeted by the ad, then your ad is highly relevant.

But to Amazon, relevance is more than a concept. It’s also a metric. Amazon’s algorithm is comparing data for thousands of ads, and has instructions for how to determine which ads are more relevant than others.

There are a variety of factors that go into determining relevance. (By the way, Amazon’s algorithm for displaying books in search results and customers-also-bought lists also measure relevance in similar ways.)

One simple and important factor is your click-thru rate (CTR). Amazon is asking the question, “How many people need to see your ad, on average, before they click on it?”

You figure the CTR by comparing the number of clicks (when a customer clicks on the ad to visit the product page) to the number of impressions (when the ad is displayed somewhere on a page that is visible on a customer’s screen).

It’s very common for internet advertising CTR’s to be roughly 1 out of 1000, meaning that on average 1 out of 1000 customers click on the ad. That comes out to 0.1%. Remember, that’s a rough average.

At Amazon, if the CTR is 1 out of 2000 or worse (meaning 0.05% or less), your ad will likely be stopped due to low relevance.

1 out of 1000 (or 0.1%) is relatively common, but it’s average. It isn’t good.

I have placed ads for 13 different books (keeping in mind that some of my books are under pen names or have coauthors) that have individually landed over 1,000,000 impressions.

6 of these ads have CTR’s of 0.3% to 0.45% (1 out of 333 to 1 out of 250), which are rather high. My best CTR is 0.6% (1 out of 167). Only one of my best 13 ads has a CTR as low as 0.1%.

I’ve placed over 100 ads over the years. Only 13 out of those have landed 1,000,000 impressions or more. What I see from my ad reports is that a high CTR is critical towards landing a large number of impressions over a long period.

When you first place your ad, it really helps to generate a strong CTR at the outset. Sometimes when the CTR starts out low, an ad can really struggle to get any impressions. That’s because the metrics suggest that the ad might not rate high on relevance. In this case, it may be better to terminate the ad and start a new one than to simply modify the existing ad campaign.

But CTR is just one factor that Amazon helps to determine relevance.

What Amazon really wants is for a high percentage of customers who see your ad to click on your ad… then explore your product page… then purchase your book… and then be satisfied with your book.

All of Amazon’s algorithms place a premium on customer satisfaction metrics. If you’ve ever sold products via Amazon Seller Central, you should know about this because customer satisfaction metrics help to determine product placement.

The next question to ask is, “How many customers who visit your product page proceed to purchase your book?” Then ask, “How satisfied are customers who purchase this book?” Amazon has a variety of ways to try to establish this (and may also have some methods in place to penalize people from trying to manipulate these metrics for better or worse).

WILL YOUR AD BE RELEVANT?

This partly depends on your targeting. If your choice of keywords, specific products, or categories fits your book to a tee, this greatly helps with relevance. If your keywords and categories are broader than your book, this hurts relevance: Some customers who see the ad won’t be interested.

Targeting is just one factor though. Even with the best imaginable targeting, some books won’t score well with relevance due to their covers, descriptions, Look Insides, reviews, etc.

So before you think about the targeting, you should think about your cover and product page.

Many new authors publish a book with KDP, only see an occasional sale, and incorrectly conclude that nobody is finding their book on Amazon.

The reality is that books with below average marketability have at least 100,000 strangers see the book before they make a purchase. So if you’ve sold 10 copies of your book to total strangers and your book has below average marketability, it’s quite possible that over 1,000,000 have seen your book on Amazon. Most authors have sold at least 10 copies to strangers. Maybe 100, maybe even 1000. Many, many more customers have probably seen your book on Amazon than you realize.

Where am I getting these numbers? I have a lot of experience with Amazon ads, and I’ve discussed these ads with many other authors who’ve tried them. The ad report data helps us determine typical CTR’s and closing rates (where the closing rate is the number of purchases compared to the number of clicks) for books of both good and poor marketability.

Let’s start with the internet average CTR of about 1 out of 1000. A book with poor marketability needs 100 people or more (sometimes much more) to visit the product page to make a single purchase. But only 1 out of 1000 people who see the book will visit the product page. Combine the CTR (1 out of 1000) with the closing rate (1 out of 100) to see that 100,000 people need to see the book to make the purchase. Now if you sell 1000 books at these rates, 100 million people saw your book on Amazon.

But remember, these numbers are for books with poor marketability. Such books don’t sell well on their own, and probably won’t sell well with advertising either. Something about the cover, description, or product page is deterring sales. This poor marketability will lead to low relevance no matter how good the targeting is.

The good news is that there are books with strong marketability that earn much better numbers.

A highly marketable book can earn a closing rate of 10% or higher, where 1 out of 10 people who visit the product page purchase the book. This is well above average, but there are books doing this. Many factors go into this, and it’s really difficult to get each factor right. The first thing is having a cover that really attracts your specific target audience very well (most books don’t have this). Secondly, the description and Look Inside must really seal the deal (few books have this, too). Customer feedback (reviews) also factor into marketability. Ultimately, it takes amazing content (highly informative, or highly engaging, or quite compelling in some other way) to generate the best long-term marketability.

If you happen to have a highly marketable book, if you use ideal targeting, you might get 1 out of 1000 people (instead of 1 out of 100,000 people) who see your book to purchase it. This makes a huge difference. If you can improve the marketability of your book (especially the long-term value through amazing content), you can see a huge increase in sales without even advertising. And if your book is highly marketable, advertising is more likely to work well for your book.

A great thing about Amazon Advertising is that you can use your ad data to see how marketable your book is. Divide the number of impressions by the number of clicks to get the 1 out of ____ number associated with your CTR (or divide the number of clicks by the impressions to get a decimal, then multiply by 100% to make a percentage). Similarly, divide the number of clicks by the number of sales (we’ll discuss this later) to get the 1 out ____ number associated with your closing rate (or divide the sales by the clicks to get a decimal, and multiply by 100% to make a percentage).

A CTR significantly higher than 0.1% is above average, meaning that well fewer than 1000 customers who see your ad click on it.

A closing rate of higher than 10% is way above average, meaning that fewer than 10 customers who click on your ad purchase your book.

A more modest closing rate of 3% to 7% is more attainable. Less than 1% is all too common. If your closing rate is below 1%, there is a significant opportunity to improve the marketability of your book. But is it the cover, description, Look Inside, or the content? Good question, but one well worth examining intently.

If your book has a good closing rate (and that’s a huge “if”), then the success of your ad is determined by how well your targeting fits your specific targeting audience.

TARGETING

There are three main ways to go about targeting your ad:

  • keywords
  • specific products
  • interests

At first, specific products is enticing. I bet you can find dozens of popular books that are fairly similar to your book. It’s possible to target those books.

But there’s a catch. You’re not really targeting those books (unless Amazon has recently changed how this works, which is doubtful since it would make sense for them to publicize this detail if they have).

Rather, you’re targeting customers who have ever shopped for books similar to those sometime in their shopping history.

Let’s say you’ve read hundreds of books, but one time a year ago you happened to visit the product page for a science fiction book. Well, if an ad targets science fiction books, you might see an ad for a science fiction book.

You want the ad to target customers who are shopping for those specific books today. It would be great if it worked that way. And sometimes it does because those customers are, in fact, looking for such books. But it also targets customers for whom your ad may not be relevant.

How you should target your book depends on the circumstances.

For most nonfiction books that provide information that customers are likely to search for, I recommend using Sponsored Product ads and manually entering dozens of highly relevant keywords (and putting much thought into researching and brainstorming your keyword list). Ideally, the keyword would be highly relevant for your book.

For fiction books in popular categories that tend to sell much better as eBooks, I would first experiment with Lockscreen ads.

But here’s a secret: You’re not restricted to placing a single ad for a book.

And you don’t know which type of ad will work best.

So you can run a few different ad campaigns, trying different types of ads with different targeting, and let your ad report data help you determine which type of ad seems to work best for you.

But you have to be careful not to bid too high, as you’d hate to spend way more money than you intended in a short amount of time, only to realize later that the ads weren’t very effective. With a modest bid, you can generate valuable data at a relatively low cost, and once you have the data, you can experiment with your ads and hopefully figure out how to get it ‘right.’

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR AD REPORTS

When I first checked the new ad reports, it was missing information that I wanted to see, and it was including information that I didn’t care about.

So I clicked the option to customize it. Look for a button called Columns. When you click it, one of the two options is Customize Columns. This is the magic button.

When you finally click on Customize Columns (not just Columns) correctly, a window will pop up.

I like to look at Impressions, Clicks, Clickthrough rate (CTR), Spend, Cost-per-click (CPC), Orders, Sales, and Advertising cost of sales (ACOS).

Notice that new column: Orders! Now you can see how many books were ordered instead of trying to divide your sales figure by the cost of your book (which gets complicated when you offer promotional pricing and don’t know when the book sold exactly).

Unfortunately, if your Kindle eBook is enrolled in KDP Select, the ads still don’t have a column for Kindle Unlimited KENP Pages Read. That’s a shame. But it means your ad is probably doing a little better than the sales data suggests. Surely, it’s impacting pages read to some extent.

Next, I clicked on the Date Range button. The Lifetime option is cool if, like me, you’ve been running ads for years. When I looked at my Lifetime Spend total, I almost went into a state of shock, but then I noticed my Lifetime Sales Total, and that was a pleasant surprise.

But the Last 30 Days is much more meaningful. This option shows you how your ads have performed recently, which is most relevant to the question, “What should I do now?”

Then I clicked on a column to sort the data. I don’t like that I have to click twice to sort from highest to lowest, but that’s just the way it is. I like to look at the ACOS column and make sure that no ad has a percentage above my comfort zone. I like to sort by the Spend column to quickly monitor which ads are costing me the most money. But unless you have more than 10 ad campaigns, you probably don’t need to do as much sorting as I do.

A nice change is that there are a few changes that you can make to several ads very quickly. For example, you can manually adjust the budget for several ads at once, instead of having to adjust them individually. If you ever have dozens of ad campaigns, you’ll be thanking Amazon for this feature.

The copy button at the far right comes in handy. It lets you make a new ad campaign just like a previous one, and then just modify what you already have instead of starting over from scratch.

HOW IS YOUR AD DOING?

The first thing you should note is that there may be significant reporting delays.

It would be great if we could get the data almost instantaneously, but it often doesn’t work that way.

Amazon clearly states that ad campaign data may be delayed by 12 hours.

But there have been many times over the past several years where some of the ad data was delayed by a few days, and occasionally even a week or two.

It pays to be patient. Even if you terminate an ad, it may continue to generate data (including costs) for a few days afterward.

And if you impatiently raise your bid, you may come to regret it. I suggest not raising your bid more than once per day, and not to raise it more than a dime at a time.

Once you have 1000’s of impressions, 100’s of clicks, and dozens of sales, you have some meaningful data.

Is your CTR significantly higher than 0.1%? If yes, that’s a good sign. If no, try improving your targeting.

(Divide your CTR by 100% to convert it to a decimal. Now divide 1 by that decimal. If this number is significantly lower than 1000, that’s good. For example, 0.2% becomes 0.002, which becomes 1 out of 500. This is good because 500 is less than 1000.)

Divide your Clicks by your Orders. If this number is less than 10, that’s amazing. Many of my best-performing ads are in this range. If this number is around 20, that’s pretty good and better than the average book (but it may not be better than the average advertised book). If this number is around 100 or higher, that’s not so good. Either you made mistakes with your targeting, or you should reexamine your cover, description, Look Inside, and content. There is room for improvement somewhere. Ideally, you want about 1 out of 10 customers who visit your product page to buy your book; you don’t want it to take 1 out of 100 customers on average.

The average cost of sale (ACOS) figure is very important. Compare your ACOS to your royalty percentage. Figure out what your royalty is when you sell a single book. Divide that by the list price for your book. Multiply by 100% to make a percentage. (Example: Your eBook list price is $2.99 and your royalty is $2.00. Divide $2 by $2.99, then multiply by 100% to get 67%. Example 2: Your paperback list price is $9.99 and your royalty is $3.00. Divide $3 by $9.99, then multiply by 100% to get 30%.) If your royalty percentage is higher than your ACOS, your ad is earning a short-term profit. This is good. You should keep your ad running as long as this persists. If your math is right, you’ll be earning more royalties from your ad than you’re spending on your ad campaign (but watch your numbers closely just to be sure, and continue to monitor the progress of your ad).

If your ACOS is comparable to your royalty percentage, your ad is roughly breaking even. I would continue running the ad in this case. Why? Because there are other benefits to advertising, such as branding, future sales by the same customer, selling other books now to the same customer, sales rank boost, and potential word-of-mouth sales (for a book with amazing content, this can be a huge long-term asset).

If your ACOS is much higher than your royalty percentage, your ad is losing money short-term. There are possible long-term benefits (see the previous paragraph for examples). If your overall royalty income (from all of your books on all platforms) exceeds your overall expenses (royalties and other publishing and marketing expenses), you can afford to run your ad since you’re playing with the house’s money (so to speak). Is the short-term advertising loss worth the possible long-term gains? Tough question. If the advertising expense is small compared to your overall royalty income (perhaps because you have several other books), it’s easier to take this loss.

But if you’re losing money overall, you need to have a compelling reason to keep running your ad. Maybe you have other short-term goals and are willing to lose money short-term for those other goals.

You can pause or terminate your ad at any time (even if you haven’t spent $100 yet; there is no minimum to stop advertising).

Maybe the solution is to try a new ad, changing your ad type or your targeting. Sometimes, it takes experimentation to get your ad just ‘right.’ But it also depends on how marketable your book and product page are, as I discussed earlier.

Or maybe the solution is to lower your bid. Yes, if you lower your bid, your ad probably won’t make as many impressions, but if you lower your bid enough, you might be able to afford the ACOS. Remember, the bid isn’t the only factor in landing impressions. If Amazon determines that your ad is performing very well in terms of relevance, you can earn significant impressions with a lower bid.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Changes to Amazon Product Pages, Reviews, Author Central, Etc.

 

AMAZON IS A DYNAMIC MARKETING ENVIRONMENT

Have you noticed a variety of little changes at Amazon recently? Following are some examples.

  • Customer reviews now display in a single column based on helpfulness. Previously, there had been a second column on the right (if you viewed the product page on a PC), giving the most recent reviews significant prominence. Now, the most recent reviews don’t automatically have more prominence than other reviews.
  • Amazon finally fixed the aspect ratio problem associated with Author Central author pages. Previously, when you clicked on an author’s profile at Amazon to open their author page, the cover thumbnails appearing in the top had all been forced into the same narrow aspect ratio, which distorted covers noticeably when they had a distinctly different aspect ratio. Now, if the cover is wider than the default, you get little gray bars at the top and bottom; the cover is no longer distorted.
  • In search results, at the top or bottom of a list, you often find 1-2 books (or other products) with a subtle Sponsored Products label. You also see Sponsored Products on product pages. These are actually paid advertisements, but the way Amazon did this makes them more effective than usual. Especially in search results, they don’t ‘seem’ like advertisements, since they fit right in. Many customers don’t even realize that there is a Sponsored Products label, and even if they do it doesn’t sound like an advertisement. Sponsored Products receive bonus exposure, now that there is a “Sponsored products related to this item” carousel just beneath the “Customers who bought this item also bought” carousel. If you publish a book with KDP, you can run an advertisement for your book via AMS (from KDP); this is available even for paperbacks.
  • There are other labels at Amazon that are changing. The Best Seller labels don’t always include the #1 before them any more, and in some instances they appear in orange, while in other cases they appear in blue. There used to be a #1 New Release label, then it changed to New Release, and today I don’t see new releases highlighted. I’ve also seen other labels, like for items included in a holiday and toy list.
  • Video Shorts display prominently on a product page, showing higher than the customer review section.
  • The options for Amazon Giveaways have changed significantly. There are now only a couple of types of giveaways with fewer options, but now there is less guesswork in setting one up and from the contestants’ point of view, the giveaways are much more standardized and all have a reasonable chance of winning.
  • Some products (even a few traditionally published books) let you clip a coupon. For other books, sometimes the savings are clearly highlighted in search results.
  • Amazon has really been pushing Audible audio books. You can create one using ACX, and even hire a narrator for your book (with the option of splitting royalties instead of paying up front). One of my credit card companies was even incentivizing Audible audio books recently.

What does this mean? Amazon’s website is a dynamic marketing environment for your book (or other product).

For several years, Amazon’s decisions have appeared to aim towards long-term success. A strong part of this has been long-term customer satisfaction.

Obviously, like any business, Amazon wants to earn profits, but unlike some short-sided business practices that I see all too frequently with other companies, Amazon often seems to make a decision based on long-term gains.

Another thing that sets Amazon apart is that, for such an enormous company, it often reacts quickly to change. This makes it a highly dynamic marketplace, compared to a traditionally much slower publishing industry.

These changes tend to favor customer-pleasing content and long-term marketing strategies. A book (or other product) that most customers really enjoy is more likely to be successful in the long run, especially if it gets good exposure in the beginning (an effective marketing campaign that goes beyond Amazon can help with this).

Sometimes, clever people figure out how to take advantage of the system, but since Amazon is dynamic, Amazon often catches onto this and finds way to make a change that hurts those who are trying to take advantage, and is more likely to reward good products long-term. Amazon has always placed a premium on its customer satisfaction metrics, and these metrics continue to evolve.

It pays to visit Amazon every few months (if you’re not already a frequent customer) to see how product pages, searches, etc. are changing. Knowledge is power, and it can impact your marketing decisions.

My recommendation to authors is to focus on writing engaging content that will satisfy your readers (better yet, write such amazing content that it is likely to earn you recommendations and referrals). The engagement part is important because you need customers to start reading and keep reading all the way through. There are so many other books, and so many other forms of entertainment, and your book is competing with those opportunities.

My second recommendation is to focus on long-term marketing strategies. Think long and hard about ways that might help your book continue to sell for many years, or ways to go about marketing that might bring you continued exposure for many years. Content marketing can help with this: For example, post short articles with helpful information (possible even if you write fiction) relating to your book, hoping to catch daily traffic through search engines. Effective long-term marketing strategies tend to be less susceptible to publishing dynamics.

If you tend to favor short-term promotional strategies, you really need to keep up with the latest changes.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Update to Amazon’s Downloadable Kindle Previewer 3

KINDLE PREVIEWER 3 RECENTLY UPDATED

Amazon KDP’s most recent update to the downloadable Kindle Previewer 3 (version 3.20) includes some nice improvements.

  • Auto-Advance View with adjustable speed allows click-free previewing.
  • Thumbnail Pane with adjustable size shows you several pages at once.

If you haven’t used the downloadable Kindle Previewer recently, a few other features are worth noting.

In particular, just above the Thumbnail Pane, if your Kindle eBook supports Enhanced Typesetting, you can adjust View All to one of the following:

  • Pages
  • Images
  • Links
  • Tables
  • Drop Caps

The View All option provides a convenient way to quickly check all of your hyperlinks, inspect all of your images, or find your drop caps.

Some other helpful features have been around for a long time now.

  • Change the background from white to black, sepia, or green (though green isn’t available for iOS). What is relatively new is the green background.
  • Try out different fonts that customers can select, such as Bookerly or Caecilia, along with different font sizes. The new type faces were introduced with Kindle’s new Enhanced Typesetting feature (which has been out for a while now).
  • Switch between portrait and landscape mode (this has always been available).
  • Though one thing that may seem backwards at first is that the device type is limited to tablet, phone, and Kindle ereader. Even the online previewer has limited the device types. If you own a few devices (or can borrow them), nothing beats testing your MOBI or AZK file out on an actual device. For those devices that you don’t have, the tablet, phone, and ereader options are designed to mimic the general experience. (If you upload your converted MOBI file to a Kindle Fire, look for your book under Documents instead of Books.)
  • To preview on IOS, as in the past you need to download the AZK file. Click File > Export and adjust Save as Type from MOBI to AZK. You will need to use iTunes on the iOS device.

The two newest features, Auto-Advance View and the Thumbnail Pane have me especially excited.

In the picture above, you can see a preview of my newest book, Kindle Formatting Magic, which will be published in just a few days. Since the print version has 500 pages, I was very grateful for the Auto-Advance View. It is saving me from a tremendous amount of manual clicking. (I still do some manual clicking, of course, but this is a huge time-saver for me.) It’s also nice to see several pages at once in the Thumbnail Pane.

The prior versions of the Kindle Previewer wasted most of the space on my monitor. The Thumbnail Pane finally utilizes my screen space much more effectively.

I also appreciate the options to quickly find all of my hyperlinks, images, and drop caps using the View All option. I go from one hyperlink to the next, click on it, and check if it works. That is really handy.

My preview isn’t complete until I test my book out on several devices, but I always spend the most amount of time with the downloadable Kindle Previewer (considered to be more reliable than the convenient online previewer), so these updates are wonderful for me. Thank you, Amazon.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2018

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Tips for the New Goodreads Giveaways

GOODREADS GIVEAWAYS

As you may have heard, Goodreads Giveaways have changed.

  • One change is that KDP authors can now give eBooks away.
  • Another change is that it now costs money to create a Goodreads giveaway.

If you’d like to learn more about these recent changes to the Goodreads giveaway program, click here to read my recent article about it.

In my current post, I will offer some tips for making the most of it.

EXPLORING THE GIVEAWAYS

First off, there is the question of how readers will find your giveaway. It’s worth exploring the giveaways as a reader would before you proceed to create a giveaway as an author. This will give you some insight into the process.

Unfortunately, when I visit the homepage at www.goodreads.com, I don’t see any mention of the giveaways there. But that’s okay. Experience shows that thousands of readers already know where to find them.

After I log in, I still don’t see the giveaways out in plain sight. But they are accessible. Hover your cursor over the Browse tab and you will find them fourth on the list. That’s one plausible way for a reader to discover them (aside from the thousands who already know exactly where to go).

Some readers have this page bookmarked in their browser: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway. If anyone uses a search engine to find Goodreads Giveaways, this page will also come up that way.

Once they get there, there are a variety of ways that readers will search for giveaways. Here are some examples. I encourage you to explore these options.

  • By default, you see a list of Featured giveaways. If you were wondering whether or not it may be worthwhile to invest the extra $$$ for a Featured giveaway, browse through this list and check out the stats. Look where it says Availability, and compare the number Requesting to the Start Date. For the amount of money it costs to be Featured, you should have some very high expectations for the number of requests. If you’re not seeing it, I suggest going for a basic giveaway instead.
  • Some readers like to click the Ending Soon tab. Why? Because if they win, they will find out before they forget all about it. If they don’t win, they might still remember the book, and perhaps they will think to go check it out at Amazon. This section is handy for authors, too. Look at the number of requests on the Ending Soon page. This will show you how successful the giveaways tend to be. Today, for example, I see several with 500+ requests and a few with 1000+ requests, but these numbers will vary over time.
  • Another option is Recently Listed. Giveaways get the most exposure on the start date and end date.
  • The last option at the top is Most Requested. Today, I see giveaways that have received over 10,000 requests. These show the potential of a fantastic giveaway (combined with great marketing, and perhaps a great cover or an established name). Back to reality: If you’re thinking about hosting a giveaway, the numbers you see on average under Ending Soon offer more realistic goals.
  • Perhaps the best option is to Browse by Genre. Find the categories over on the right. This way readers can find the kinds of books that interest them. If your book seems to fit into more than one category, I recommend that you explore the giveaways that you see in various categories. This will help you decide where your book fits best, and which categories seem to be more popular.

GIVEAWAY TIPS

(1) Browse through active Goodreads Giveaways.

  • Check out the number of people requesting the book under Availability.
  • Note whether the Format is print book or Kindle eBook.
  • Browse through a few pages of results under Ending Soon to get an idea for the average popularity of a giveaway.
  • Look at the Most Requested books. Try to find some that aren’t popular because of a big author or publisher name. Check out the giveaway descriptions and author biographies: If these giveaways did something right, maybe they will inspire you. Check out the author’s social media pages to see where and how they shared their giveaways (though it may also have been announced via email newsletter).
  • Try to find books similar to yours. A good way to do this is to browse through the categories at the right. How are these giveaways doing? That will help you gauge your giveaway’s potential.

(2) Increase your exposure.

  • You get most of your giveaway traffic on the start date and the end date. However, the days in between matter: The more days your giveaway runs, the more in-between days you will have, and they can really add up. Let’s say your giveaway would get 500 views on the first day, 500 views on the last day, and 50 views per day in between. If you run a giveaway for one week, you get 1250 views, but if you run a giveaway for a month, you get 2400 views, which doubles your exposure. The more days your contest runs, the more views you get. (The drawbacks are that the longer the contest runs, the more people will have forgotten about it, and the longer it takes to get your reviews. However, a contest is primarily about exposure, and longer time equals longer exposure.)
  • Share your giveaway with many of the same ways that you normally market your book. You’re getting double exposure: People are learning about your book and they’re learning about your contest. Share your giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, and your other social media platforms. Share it on your blog or author website (you can start a Goodreads blog, too, by the way). Share it in your email newsletter. Etc.
  • If you advertise on Goodreads (there is an economical self-service option), you can draw additional attention to your giveaway. Of course, this is an additional expense on top of the cost to run the giveaway (and the cost to send out the books if you choose the print option). However, if you occasionally pay for advertising, now is an opportunity to advertise a contest instead of just advertising that you have a book. Again, it’s like a double effect: You’re sending the message that you wrote a book plus the message that people can win a prize.

(3) If you run an eBook giveaway, educate readers and contestants.

  • You don’t have to own a Kindle eBook to read a Kindle eBook that you win through a Goodreads giveaway.
  • Winners can read eBooks using the Kindle Cloud Reader, and Android device (phone or tablet), or iOS device (phone or tablet). (However, there are a few Kindle eBooks, such as those created with the Kindle Textbook Creator or Kindle Kids’ Book Creator, which aren’t available on all devices, notably phones. So if you used one of these publishing tools, you might want to check into the details first.)
  • In your marketing, you can concisely mention how a Kindle eBook can be read even if the winner doesn’t own a Kindle device. There are instructions on Goodreads’ FAQ page, for example: See the second link in Tip #6.

(4) More prizes reduces your overall cost per book, and they make the odds more appealing to contestants.

  • The setup cost is the same whether you offer 1 book or 100 books as the prize. (For a print book, you will also need to purchase author copies and pay for packing and shipping.) The more books you offer, the less the giveaway costs you per book.
  • If you’re offering a print book, I suggest that you not go overboard and offer way too many copies until you gain some experience with how it works and what kind of results you’re able to get. Author copies and shipping can get expensive (and become a hassle at the post office) if you offer a large number of prizes.
  • More prizes also make the contestant feel like the odds are better. Would you rather go to the trouble of entering a giveaway where the odds are 1 in 1000 or where the odds are 20 in 1000?
  • Only a percentage of winners post reviews (and then primarily on Goodreads, not as often on Amazon), so the more prizes you offer, the more reviews you are likely to eventually get. (There is no guarantee that you will get reviews though.)

(5) I.t…t.a.k.e.s…t.i.m.e.

  • The giveaway itself may run for weeks. The longer the giveaway, the more exposure, so if the contest runs for a month or more, you get more views and participation.
  • Reading takes time. Most winners don’t read the book cover to cover instantly. People are busy. They may have other books to read, too. It will take months for some readers to complete the book. (And not everyone may enjoy or appreciate the book enough to read it all the way through.)
  • Reviews take time. People are busy. Even after reading the book, it takes time to write a review.
  • What does this mean? If you publish your book and then run a contest, you should realize that it may take several months to fully realize any results that the giveaway may bring.
  • If, on the other hand, you run a contest months in advance of a book’s release, some readers may be ready to post reviews when the book comes out.
  • Another thing that takes time is packing and shipping books. If you run a print contest, order author copies well in advance (keeping in mind that Murphy’s law might make you waste time getting defective copies replaced by the publisher), and be prepared to spend time (and money) with packing and shipping.

(6) You can include a note with your print book. (But other than that, you’re not supposed to contact winners or entrants.)

  • A short thank-you note that doesn’t violate the Goodreads giveaway terms and conditions is appropriate. (Also check the FAQ’s. Note that it currently has 2 pages.) Note that there are probably reasonable expectations that aren’t specifically mentioned in the posted terms. Use discretion so that you don’t ruin your good standing with Goodreads.
  • You may include a link to your website, blog, Amazon author page, social media, etc. Tip: At Author Central, click on the Author Page tab and create an Author Page URL that will be easier to type than the default URL. For example, I made it so that readers can type amazon.com/author/chrismcmullen to reach my Amazon Author Page, which is easier to type than the default URL which is www.amazon.com/Chris-McMullen/e/B002XH39DS, which includes a hyphen and a jumble of numbers and letters at the end.
  • If you have an appropriate bookmark or business card, you may include it with your book. A nice looking bookmark (that doesn’t look like an advertisement) may actually get used, continually reminding the reader about you or your book, and it’s not too hard to find a place to get these printed economically (they come in handy for many marketing endeavors).
  • After thanking or congratulating the reader, you can politely mention that it would be great if they posted a review. Really, it’s not necessary, as Goodreads already encourages this, and readers loathe to be nagged about reviews (and you’re not allow to bug the winner).
  • Be careful: You want to clearly state that reviewing is optional (it is NOT required by Goodreads), and you want to ask for an HONEST review. Just like Amazon’s terms and conditions, you shouldn’t place any conditions on the review (any review that the winner may choose to write is unconditional).
  • Most readers naturally post a review at Goodreads if they write a review at all. If you’re hoping for a review at Amazon, then you might mention politely (one time) something like this:

Congratulations on winning my Goodreads giveaway. Reviewing is optional, of course. If you decide to write an honest review at Goodreads, Amazon, or anywhere else, I would be very grateful for your time and consideration. Thank you.

(7) It’s nice to hold a prize in your hands.

  • Obviously, it costs you less to send an eBook, but a print book has many advantages for a giveaway. Since there is a setup fee regardless of which format you use, you might want to spend a little more to get the best possible result for your investment.
  • For several years, Goodreads members have become accustomed to winning print books. People who have participated for years may be more likely to enter contests for print books.
  • When you browse through current giveaways, compare the number of requests for print books and Kindle eBooks. See if contests for print books seem to be more popular (all else being equal).
  • Print books provide a marketing opportunity. If your book is engaging enough to get read, it might get read in public. Other people might see your book being read on a bus, train, plane, park bench, restaurant seat, etc. And they might ask that person, “What are you reading?” They’re thinking, “That book sure has captured your interest. Maybe I will enjoy it, too.” So they might indeed ask a stranger about it.
  • You can include a short (appropriate) thank-you note as I mentioned in tip #6 with a print book, but not for an eBook.

(8) Deliver your prizes promptly. You want your winners to be excited about your book. Don’t disappoint them with a longer than necessary wait (for a print book to finally arrive in the mail).

For a print book, use reliable packaging. Make sure the address label can’t possibly fall off. You want the winner to receive your book, and to receive it in excellent condition.

POSSIBLE BENEFITS

Running a Goodreads giveaway comes with an expense. It also comes with possible benefits:

  • A few winners may eventually review your book somewhere. Most likely it will be Goodreads. Occasionally, but far less likely, it is also Amazon (but it won’t show as a Verified Purchase).
  • You should see a lot of activity with your book being marked as to-read. This was always the case, but now it is even more so, since it’s required for entry into the contest. If nothing else, this helps to draw a little interest to your book at Goodreads, as it shows some sign of a little popularity. (Of course, there are many other books that receive hundreds or thousands of to-reads this way. But there are also books that have very few to-reads, and yours won’t if you run a giveaway.)
  • Goodreads will notify your followers about your giveaway. If anyone has marked your book as to-read, Goodreads will notify them, too. This helps draw additional attention to your giveaway. These are new features.
  • Even more people see your book than enter the giveaway. Every time someone sees your book cover, reads your author name, or reads your giveaway or book description, it helps with branding, which is a huge part of marketing. Branding is a very long and slow process. Every little bit helps.
  • Some participants will check our your books and biography at Goodreads. You will get some attention. Maybe not as much as you hoped for, but you do generate a little activity.
  • Hopefully, a few people who saw your book, but who didn’t win it, will visit your book page at Amazon and consider buying it.
  • Between the winners who receive your book and any readers who don’t win but still buy your book, if they enjoy your book enough, they may help to spread the word about it. Word-of-mouth sales are the toughest type of sales to earn, but when you earn it, this can be the best kind of marketing that you can get. There is hope.

The question is whether or not the benefits will outweigh the expense. In regards to that, please read my disclaimer:

DISCLAIMER

Nowhere am I suggesting that a Goodreads giveaway will be successful for you.

Nor am I suggesting that they will be worth the cost for you.

Every book and author is unique, and just like with book sales, results will vary. It will work better for some than for others.

Rather, what I’m saying is this: If you decide to run a giveaway, the above tips are intended to help you make the most of it.

Good luck with your giveaway and with your book.

If you’re a reader and you enter a giveaway, I hope you win and enjoy your prize.

FOLLOW ME AT GOODREADS

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6970004.Chris_McMullen

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2018

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Goodreads Giveaways: Important Changes Effective January 9, 2018

Image from ShutterStock.

GOODREADS GIVEAWAY CHANGES

Like many authors and publishers, I have used Goodreads giveaways for years to help with discovery, create buzz, and seek honest reviews for newly released books.

I have been a big fan of the Goodreads giveaway, having written a few articles about it on my blog.

I’m still a fan, but there are some important changes coming January 9, 2018:

  • All KDP authors/publishers will be able to offer eBook giveaways. Previously, this was only open to traditional publishers.
  • It will cost a minimum of $119 to run a Goodreads giveaway. That’s in addition to the cost of purchasing and sending physical copies (if you choose to run a contest for print books). Until now, there has been no fee to run a Goodreads giveaway.
  • Entrants will have the book automatically added to their Want-to-Read lists (which friends potentially see through their update feeds).
  • You will gain additional exposure, as Goodreads will notify the author’s followers and anyone who has already added the book to their Want-to-Read list about the new giveaway.
  • Initially, Goodreads giveaways will only be open to residents of the United States. (This restriction applies to entrants, not to authors.)
  • It’s possible to gain premium placement among Goodreads giveaways by paying $599 (instead of $119) for a Premium Giveaway (instead of a Standard Giveaway).
  • You will need to link an Amazon account to your Goodreads account in order to run a Goodreads giveaway. (You can create a new Amazon account if you don’t already have one.)

Are these changes good or bad?

Like most changes to the publishing world, it will be better for some authors than others.

Let’s start with the bad. There are really only two things that I don’t like:

  • It’s no longer free. Having to spend $119 seems a bit pricey. And if you run a print giveaway, it costs even more, as you must pay for author copies plus shipping and packaging.
  • Only residents of the United States may enter the giveaway, at least initially. It’s not a big issue for me, personally, since most of my book traffic comes from the United States, but I have acquaintances in the United Kingdom and Canada who feel left out.

The real question is this:

Will the benefits of a Goodreads giveaway offset the cost?

Keep in mind that with the changes to the Goodreads giveaway program, it’s possible that it will be more effective now than it has been in the past.

How might it be more effective starting January 9, 2018?

  • There might be less competition from other giveaways, making it easier for readers to discover your book. Not as many authors/publishers will be willing to pay the fee.
  • The giveaway might gain more exposure since the book will be automatically added to Want-to-Read lists, and since Goodreads will notify the author’s followers and anyone who has already added the book to their Want-to-Read list that a giveaway is available for the book.

Note also that the cost of the giveaway has not necessarily increased as much as it may seem.

Starting January 9, 2018, you can run a Standard Giveaway for $119. However, if you choose to run an eBook giveaway instead of giving away print books, you will save on the cost of author copies, shipping, and packaging. I’ve actually paid more than $119 for a Goodreads giveaway when it was FREE: I’ve spent over $50 on author copies and over $80 on shipping for several giveaways, which comes to over $130. In those cases, I would have saved money by paying $119 for an eBook giveaway.

The new cost of the Goodreads giveaway encourages authors/publishers to offer more prizes.

You pay the same $119 fee for a Standard Giveaway, regardless of whether you offer a single book as a prize, or several copies of the same book.

If you only give away one book, $119 is a pretty steep price to pay. However, if you offer several copies of your book, the cost per book drops down dramatically.

Like all paid marketing, Goodreads giveaways are more likely to be cost-effective for authors who write compelling books. If you only sell a few books per month, paying $119 for a giveaway will come at a great loss. If your book sells thousands of copies per year, paying $119 is relatively cheap.

Are you upset that you won’t be able to run a free/inexpensive giveaway?

That’s ridiculous! Of course you can.

You can run an Amazon Giveaway directly from your book’s Amazon product page.

You just pay for the selling price of the book. For a print book, you must pay the shipping charges, too. In either case, you will be compensated partly later when you receive your royalty. You can even require entrants to follow you at Amazon. (When you publish a new eBook through KDP, Amazon notifies your Amazon followers of your new release.)

Learn more about the changes to Goodreads giveaways:

  • Click here to see the Goodreads giveaway help page.
  • Click here to read an article by David Wogahn.

Would you like to tell Goodreads how you feel about the new giveaway program?

  • Click here and scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the survey (if it’s still available). Look for “send us feedback” in bold letters.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.