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.
(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.)
- 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.
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:
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.
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Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers
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