Friday, June 28, 2013

Creating a Successful Goodreads Giveaway

What is a Goodreads giveaway? What can it do for you?

Goodreads is a great place to meet books, readers and authors. One of the best tools the site offers is the giveaway program. I have to admit, Goodreads might seem difficult to manage at first. It's got to be the least intuitive website I've ever come across, so it took me several months to build up the courage to use it on a daily basis. However, once I learned the basics, there was no going back!

Ever since Serving Time went live on May 2, I've been trying out different marketing methods (sort of like poking a stick around in the dark). On the different writers' forums I lurk, many people had pointed out the benefits of hosting a book giveaway on Goodreads, mainly: READERS WILL KNOW YOUR BOOK EXISTS.

This is crucial! If nobody knows your novel is out there in the world, nobody will buy it. As easy as that. So, by hosting a giveaway, we can get hundreds and hundreds of eyes on our book.

Here's what you should do:

Set up your Goodreads author page and submit your book listing. You will need the ISBN for this. Your page might take a day or two to go live, and once it does, you can play around adding links to your blog, to Twitter, and other sites. If your novel hasn't been published yet, you won't have a cover. You can upload a cover image, or a cover teaser. For the first few weeks, this was my novel's image:

Get ready to list a giveaway. You can find the giveaways by clicking on the "Explore" button at the top of the Goodreads bar, and selecting "Giveaways." You'll see a page with the different books being given away. Using the tabs, you can see what giveaways are ending soon, which novels are the most requested, which are the most popular authors, and which giveaways have been recently listed. If you scroll down a little, you can also browse by tag (the tag links appear in a list on the right), which means that you can search for a giveaway by genre.

Scroll back up to the top and you'll see a link on the right called "List a Giveaway." Bingo! The form you need to fill out is quite simple, but be sure to write a compelling description and to use useful tags to define your book. You can also watch a video tutorial on how to make a giveaway, right on the same page.

Goodreads giveaways are exclusively for print books.This means you will have to mail a copy of your book to the winner. There are two things you can do here: buy a copy through Amazon and send it to the winner's address (which means they will receive the shipment straight from Amazon), or buy the copy yourself (through Createspace), sign it, and then ship it. Personally, autographed books are much more appealing, but the choice is up to you.

Before creating my giveaway, I checked out several blogs for advice. Some of the advice was contradictory (for example, some suggested giving away several copies to entice more entries, while others suggested giving away just one copy and doing more giveaways in the future), so you need to make your decisions based on what you think is best. Here are some of the sites I visited, and which I found very helpful:

The main advice I followed is:

- Select a period of several weeks. If you are just starting out as an author, don't expect people to flock to you. They've never heard about you. It's tough, but it's the truth. By running the giveaway during a three or four-week period, we give people more time to discover our work and enter to win.

- Choose an unpopular date as your ending date. You'll have to browse through the giveaway pages for a while, but this piece of advice is totally worth it. Imagine you choose July 14 as your ending date, and there are 25 other book giveaways ending on the same day. Your listing might never make it to the front page! Fewer people will probably see it, so you might get fewer entries. If, on the other hand, you end your giveaway on a Goodreads "slow day," you'll assure maximum visibility when the giveaway is coming to an end.

- Make the giveaway description compelling. This is a vital point, and it's all up to you!

- Accept entries from all over the world. While filling out the form, you need to choose what countries can participate in the giveaway. By selecting worldwide access, you let more people know about your book. I know some authors might be hesitant to select this option, in case the winner ends up being from a remote country. Well, I think this is a risk we have to take. The majority of Goodreads users are in the US, so chances are the winner will be in US territory. However, there are many of us living outside the US! In my case, I would have preferred shipping solely to European countries, but that would have blocked out hundreds and hundreds of entries! Be fair, give everyone a chance to win--and to know your book. :-) 

- Once the giveaway has begun, use social media to your advantage! Blog about the giveaway (Goodreads offers a free widget you can place on your blog), have others blog about it, tweet about the free book, post about it on Facebook, on forums... Create an event on Goodreads and invite all your friends. People will rush to sign up!

- When the giveaway comes to an end and the winner is announced...SHIP THAT BOOK! You're giving quality service here, so you want happy winners.

Here is my own experience:

I decided to go for a month-long giveaway, partly because I wanted to draw a larger audience by giving people a longer time to enter, and partly because I was a tad scared. I checked the giveaway calendar and chose a ending date with few novels (June 7). This way, I assured my novel would appear on the giveaway front page for a longer time.

Without any doubt, I decided to give away just one signed copy of my book. If you check the links above, you'll see some suggest giving away 20 or 30 copies. Well, if you can handle the costs, go for it! In my case, and since I had never listed a giveaway before, I preferred to start small and see how things would go.

One of the giveaway advice sites I visited qualified the self serve ads as "a must." However, other authors I spoke to said their results were zilch. Curious to see what it could do for me, I decided to buy a self serve ad on Goodreads and link it to the giveaway. Self serve ads are cheap and quick to set up. The link is somewhat hidden at the very bottom of the Goodreads page ("Advertise").

The ad did nothing. I think it got about 11 clicks during the whole giveaway. Luckily, the ad keeps running until the funds run out, so now it's been several weeks since my giveaway ended, and the advert is still showing up on Goodreads--and it can be updated at any time. It's receiving many more clicks now than when the giveaway was active.

So, back to the set-up process: once I had selected my dates, I chose worldwide entries, prepared the blurb, and clicked "publish." The giveaway went live the next day and immediately started receiving hundreds of entries.

However, things slowed down for the two weeks in the middle. This was a logical dip in entries, since the novel was buried deep in the giveaway pages--but no worries! When my giveaway ending date approached, entries soared again.

Overall, the giveaway results blew me away! I received over 1200 entries, and about 560 people added Serving Time to their "to-read" shelf! This was double my expectations! I sent the winner a quick message congratulating him on the win, and telling him what day his free copy would ship.

Since the giveaway ended, things have been quiet. I've received a few ratings and one or two reviews. Still, I'm satisfied knowing my novel was in front of so many people, and maybe it managed to spark some interest. Who knows, maybe some of the people who have it on their "to-read" shelf end up buying a copy some time in the future.

In conclusion, Goodreads giveaways are a 100% recommended adventure! Just the thrill of seeing so many people interested in your novel is enough reason to host one ASAP!


  1. Enjoyed your article!

    I found your great blog through the WLC Blog Follows on the World Literary Cafe! Great to connect!

  2. Thanks. This was super helpful. I just followed your instructions. I will experiment with the ad this time. Keep up the good work.


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