Goodreads giveaways – yay or nay?

Goodreads is hands down the best social networking site for book lovers, authors and readers alike. It brings millions of people together, united by the love for books. I find it better than Facebook or Twitter when it comes to promoting books, because on Goodreads I do not have to seek out the people who might be interested in reading what I write, but the site is populated by people who have signed up precisely because they are interested in finding good books to read.

Today, I sat down to write about the “giveaways” on Goodreads. It is a good promotional tool and quite easy to set up. You can decide how many books you want to give away, write up a blurb, pick the dates, choose the areas you want to include (currently limited to US, Canada, Australia, UK) and submit for approval to the Goodreads team. Once it is approved, your giveaway will go live on the pertinent section of the site. Readers interested in your genre will enter the giveaway and add your book to their “to-read” list. All this translates to higher visibility, which is the ultimate goal of any promotion.

A few tips on hosting a giveaway –

  • You can run giveaways from before your book is published to six months after publication date. So, start early. Offer ARCs, or Advanced Reader Copies.
  • You do not have to give away 10 books or even 5 books. Start with a number between 1-3. From my experience with these giveaways, offering 3 books had the same effect as offering 10.
  • There is not much value in running the giveaway for too long. Instead, I found it more useful to have more giveaways more frequently. I had my first one for a month, the next three were all two days long. And the spike in interest was more when the duration was short.
  • Plan on ending the giveaway on a non-popular date. For example, you do not want it to end on New Year’s Eve.
  • Plan on getting the approval ahead of your planned date. Goodreads has a manual approval process, and they work Mon-Fri only.
  • I have found that increasing the geographical reach increases the interest. A lot. For my third and fourth giveaways, I included UK and then Australia – the results were much better. Chances are though that one of your winners will be from these countries, so be prepared to shell out the $$ for postage.
  • Send out “Autographed copies” and make sure you advertise that on your blurb for the giveaway. Readers love signed copies and you will generate a lot of interest.
  • Media mail is the best way to send the books. I use bubble wrap and send them out within a day or two after the end date.
  • Promote these giveaways on all your social media – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and whatever else you might have going.

After all is done, what is your cost?

  • Printing the book(s)
  • Time invested in creating the blurb, cross promoting etc.
  • Postage and packaging costs
  • Time invested in posting and packaging

What do you gain?

  • Increase in visibility that hopefully results in sales
  • Reviews from the winners
  • Friends/contacts on Goodreads

My opinion on this tool – it is not too shabby but it is nowhere near as powerful as it could be. It is an ineffective tool for authors mostly because Goodreads does not expect anything from the winners of these giveaways. It, however, holds authors accountable for sending the books out in time. The winners are simply expected to write reviews, so of course most people who win do not write reviews but simply walk away with their winnings.

Why am I writing about this then? And commending Goodreads as well? Because, there is one great thing an author can get out of this exercise – a curated list of readers who are interested in your book. You can friend all those who sign up for your giveaway, that is add them as contacts. If you do not want to friend them all, pick ones who have written reviews or have lots of friends, or have rated a lot of other books. You can hope that people on this list will be most receptive to announcements about your book or advertisements of similar books in the future.

If you have any tips of your own, please post in the comments. I would love to hear from you.

S.G. Basu is an aspiring potentate of a galaxy or two. She plots and plans with wondrous machines, cybernetic robots, time travelers and telekinetic adventurers, some of whom escape into the pages of her books. Once upon a previous life on planet Earth, S.G. Basu trained to be an engineer, and her interest in science and her love of engineering shows up time and again in her books.

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