How to run a Goodreads giveaway with maximal results: 11 tips we know you’ll need

By Melissa Storm/ Ahhh, Goodreads. If there is one social media site that is most important for authors, it’s GoodReads. Not Twitter. Not Facebook. Not even my beloved Google+. It’s GoodReads, hands-down.

Why? Because that’s where the readers are!

Goodreads has many, many fun features and functions—so many in fact that the site is often overwhelming at first glance. This is the first in a series of blog posts I would like to bring you in order to explain the mysterious wonder that is Goodreads.

First, make sure you’ve read our posts on creating an author profile (part 1 is here; part 2 is here), and if you have a moment, please stop by and join our karmic fan chain on Goodreads. It’s every Wednesday; the rules are here.

Now that that’s taken care of, I’d like to jump head-long into a fresh topic. The single best thing you can do for yourself on Goodreads—other than joining the site and claiming your author profile—is to host book giveaways.

The site has a fair amount of verbiage discussing how they think you should run giveaways (that’s here). I’m going to add to that and, in some places, contradict it with my own personal experience.

 

My experience and my experiment

I was so excited to run my first giveaway. I set it up to span 2 1/2 months leading up to the release of my first novel, Farsighted. I made it US only and offered 10 copies with the thought, “the extra copies will definitely drum up interest.”

During that giveaway 1479 people requested my book, which wasn’t too bad, but it wasn’t too good either. Between running the giveaway and using Goodreads pay-per-click advertising program (more to come on that later) plus admittedly using my online platform, I was able to get around 600 people to mark my debut novel as to-read before it ever came out. Now I’ve cut advertising out of the picture and have only been using giveaways to drive people to add my book, in the 3-4 months since its release, 2000 people have added it to their shelves. How’s that for exposure?

I immediately saw the value in these giveaways and decided to study them for optimal results. I ran a series of 10 giveaways as something of an experiment. Each time I posted a new giveaway, I adjusted one variable:  the length of time, number of countries, etc. When the giveaway was completed, I recorded results in terms of the number of people who requested my book in the giveaway and the number who added it to their shelves. I then took averages for a consistent measure of success.

Did I mention that I have a degree in survey methodology? I really can’t help myself sometimes.

Anyhoo, the whole point of this schpiel is to let you know I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Goodreads giveaways and how best to run them. So please look at my fancy table and then scroll down to my suggested guidelines.

 

GoodReads Giveaway Experiment:  Nov 17, 2011 – Jan 25, 2012

ID

# of days

Countries

ppl requesting

books added

avg  requesting

avg added

1

1

US, CA, GB

534

69

534

69

2

1.5

US, CA, GB

568

97

379

65

3

2

US, CA, GB

636

77

318

38

4

2.5

US, CA, GB

588

62

238

21

5

4

US, CA, GB

825

72

206

18

6

7

US, CA, GB

905

132

129

19

7

14

All countries

1226

279

88

20

8

3.5

All countries

1113

134

318

38

9

8

All countries

1449

213

181

27

 

Tips for running an effective Goodreads giveaway

1. You only need to offer one copy. The additional copies don’t really add to the allure, but they do add to your postage tally. If you have many copies to offer, I suggest running additional giveaways rather than offering all of them at once.

2. Let readers know you’ll be providing an autographed copy. They love that. In fact, I include the words “AUTOGRAPHED COPY” in all caps at the very top of the giveaway description box. Similarly, if your giveaway is for an ARC (Advance Readers’ Copy), say so. Readers love to have the first look at new titles.

3. End your giveaway on a non-popular date. In my lovely table, you’ll notice that the average copies added drops off steeply somewhere in the middle of my experimentation. That was because I was ending giveaways on very popular days (around Christmas time). On the giveaway list, there were several pages of giveaways ending on one specific day, which means mine never got to the top of the list and didn’t garner much attention. Scroll through the list of giveaways and find a date where you will have minimal competition and maximum exposure.

4. More countries = more exposure. I’ve made it a point to offer my giveaways for all the countries listed and not just the US. More often than not, a US user wins anyway (since they are the most populous on the site). Still, when an international person wins, I pony up the $16.95 for postage and honor my commitment. There aren’t as many giveaways for international users, and I know they appreciate being included!

5. Make your giveaway description compelling. It’s all too easy to simply copy-paste your back cover synopsis into the giveaway description box. Don’t! Through trial and error, I found that review blurbs work best here. Also note any awards you may have won. If readers want a synopsis, they can easily click over to your book listing on Goodreads to learn about it. I’ve pasted the giveaway description that works best for my book to give you an idea.

 

[jbox]

AUTOGRAPHED COPY

Move over, Edward Cullen! And make way for Alex…

“You don't have to be psychic to know that Farsighted is going to take the world by storm. Vampires are so last year.”

“Alex Kosmitoras might not have a magic wand or vampiric strength and speed, but he is a totally swoon-worthy hero that any mom would be proud to let her daughter date.”

*Overall Winner of the Dragonfly eBook Awards, 2011
*Best Young Adult Fiction, Dragonfly eBook Awards, 2011
*Best Debut Author, Dragonfly eBook Awards, 2011
*Readers Favorite 5-Star Review Recipient
*Winner of the Alternative Booker Award
*Winner of the WritersType First Chapter Competition, Sept 2011

For more info, visit www.emlynchand.com

[/jbox]

 

6. Reach out to winners. When your giveaway ends, Goodreads will send you a notification and a link to click to view the winner’s name and address. You can also click on the winner’s name to visit his/her Goodreads profile. I like to send a message congratulating them for the win and telling them when the copy will be mailed out.

7. Send books promptly. I can’t stress this enough. I’ve seen many Goodreads users flag a book as one-star with a review saying “never received this book that I won from a giveaway.” That’s such a shame. It’s so exciting to readers when they win. Deliver on your commitment, and send the book as quickly as you can.

8. Pulse your giveaway lengths. Goodreads recommends running giveaways for 2 weeks, I don’t. A short giveaway can be a powerful thing. Goodreads organizes their giveaway listings by those that have recently begun, those that will be ending soon, those that are most requested, and those by popular authors. If you run a giveaway for only 2 days, you’ll likely be listed on both the newly listed and ending soon pages for the duration or your giveaway. That is awesome exposure! Readers can search by genre, but it’s far easier to just browse. By alternating longer and shorter giveaways, you can balance cost with impact. Many short giveaways in a row may lose their potency.

9. Schedule your giveaways to start in the future. Don’t set-up the giveaway and click for it to start immediately. Goodreads goes through an approval process which can take a couple days. If they approve your giveaway midday, you will be lumped with the authors who also scheduled theirs to start at the beginning of the day, and you will spend less time in the recently listed section. I usually schedule mine to start 3 business days later, so that I know it will be ready. NOTE: Goodreads does not work on weekends, so listing a giveaway on Thursday or Friday could be a bad idea!

 

Additional points to consider

10. Book covers count. Back cover copy counts. The better each of these is, the better your giveaway will do. Seriously, go look at the giveaways that are ending soon. Compare the number of copies requested for books with beautiful covers to those with meh covers. There’s a very clear correlation between attractiveness of cover and number of copies requested (consider copies requested a proxy measure for the desirability of your book and therefore people’s likelihood to purchase).

11. How to become a “Popular Author.” I was lucky enough to befriend a member of the Goodreads staff, and now she lets me ask her all my questions. The first and most pressing thing I wanted to know was:  How does an author become “popular?” The answer is simple. More reviews = higher popularity. This is across all titles, so an author with many books out has a better chance of becoming popular. The more popular you are, the more prominently your giveaway will be listed. Right now, I’m on page 4-6 of the popular author section, which isn’t too bad. Always looking to improve! Another reason to find readers to review your book and to cross-post those reviews on Goodreads.

So there you have it. I hope this will help many of you find new readers and gain exposure on the most happenin’ book site on the web.

 


Emlyn Chand, President of Novel PublicityMelissa Storm was born with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). Novel Publicity’s mascot is a sun conure, thanks to her obsession with birds–and she gets to decide anyway since she is the company’s founder and president. Her first novel, Farsighted, won the prestigious Writer’s Digest Self-Published Novel of the Year award in 2012 for the YA category. She now writes most of her fiction under her real name, Melissa Storm. Learn more or connect with her her author website:  www.melstorm.com or via Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Netta

Great advice, Emily, and thanks for being the guinea pig for us! 🙂

Harlow Coban

This is terrific advice. Thanks so much for sharing what you learned.

Gale Martin

Very helpful post, Emlyn. As I understand it, you can only do a book giveaway in advance of a book’s release, not after it’s been released. Is that correct? If so, I will store this info in advance of next release.

    Emlyn Chand

    Nope, that’s wrong. You can do giveaways up to 6 months after the publication of a title. Farsighted came out in November, and I’m still running giveaways with aplomb

      D. Robert Pease

      I didn’t know there was any limit on when you could do a giveaway. Good to know.

Jill Kemerer

Wow, interesting post, Emlyn! First, congrats on your success, and second, thanks for sharing the nitty-gritty on giveaways with us. I’m bookmarking this one!

Maria Catalina Egan

THANKS EMLYN ! You are my on-line hero!
Catalina

Diana Holquist

So much info! Thanks for the excellent post.

I’m not sure I understand the only one book offered suggestion, though. Isn’t part of the idea to generate reviews? Goodreads says that about 50% of those who receive the free books review them. Do you not think it’s worth the extra reviews?

Thanks again! I followed your blog and subscribed to your newsletter.

(Oh, and LOVE the Weds. follow chain. Brilliant!)

    Emlyn Chand

    You can giveaway the same number of books over more contests for the max effect. I’ve gotten some reviews from doing my giveaways–it definitely hasn’t been as high as 50% of the winners though!

Dorothy Thompson

TERRIFIC advice, Emlyn! I can’t wait to start doing this myself. I’m encouraging all authors to do this but…will lead them to this article because it’s sound advice!

Lisa Buie-Collard

Thank you for this post. Very informative for us that know practically nothing about statistics, much less marketing! I didn’t know there was a time limit on giveaways being offered after publication. Does that mean if my book has been out for more than six months I can’t offer it for giveaway? I’m obviously as confused as a ‘newbie’ should be.

    Emlyn Chand

    You can still try to set one up, but it probably won’t go through. They like to restrict giveaways to new-ish titles, otherwise we’d all keep running them forever!

andy

most excellent post, you are the GR wiz for sure… anyway to track sales results with them? i kno u said that u sell via their platform so maybe you can?

Pavarti K Tyler

Awesome post, thanks!

Laura Pepper

Fantastic post! For all the articles and blog posts on FB, Twitter etc, GR is so overlooked and mis-understood! Thanks for all the experimenting and being so transparent with your results. Tons of useful info here 🙂

m. garzon

Thanks so much for this very helpful post! Who knew survey methodology could be so helpful? 😉

    Emlyn Chand

    Haha, it shocked me too! Sometimes I feel bad about not using my degree, so I run experiments on social media 😛

Virginia

Great information! These were exactly the facts I was looking for. Thanks.

suzanne

Awesome information! I’m running my first giveaway right now on goodreads, so this is perfect. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful research!
Suzanne

A.D. Duling

Thanks for this great advice Emlyn…once again your kind and sharing heart has gone far and wide. I cannot express how thankful I am of all the wonderful shares of tips,advice and experiments you have passed along. Also a large congrats on the sucess of Farsighted, a well deserved sucess!

R,
A.D.

    Emlyn Chand

    Aww, why thank you, A.D. I’m always happy to hear my advice has helped. It helps me to figure these things out, too 😉

Elaine Littau author of Christian Western Fiction

Thank you so much for making this part of goodreads understandable.

Sadie Forsythe

Now that is putting your education to good use! Thank you so much for going to the trouble to write this post and share this information. it is really helpful.

Matthew Iden

Hi Emlyn – Thanks for the great advice on GR…this is very practical stuff that has really high value.

Can I ask a semi-OT question? What is the value of–or best way to use–the “Get A Copy” links on your GR book’s page?

On my pages, Barnes & Noble is always the first, most prominent link and goes to their homepage…useless. The list of “online stores” includes Amazon, which I’d rather was its own button, but the other stores just lead to searches of the stores you’ve included from your Author dashboard rather than direct links I could’ve provided.

All very frustrating…am I missing something fundamental? Do you just put your book’s links directly in the description?

Thanks!

    Emlyn Chand

    You’re not missing anything. This feature is not very user friendly. In fact, you can’t change it at all. You have to rely on the GoodReads staff to find and fix as necessary 🙁

Gretchen

You are the best ever. This is the kind of math that makes my head hurt, and you did it for me. I trusted your research and submitted a Goodreads Giveaway (one of your recommended brief 3-day jobbies) and after 12 hours there are already 115 people requesting it. I have saved this post to “Favorites” on my laptop. And saved you to “Favorites” inside my head. Thank you for this invaluable experiment!

    Emlyn Chand

    Hooray, Gretchen! Always glad to help, especially someone who enjoys my dorky numbers ;-D

Macy Beckett

I just finished my first GR giveaway, and found your article immensely helpful! There’s just one thing that’s puzzling me. You mentioned connecting with the winner by sending them a private congratulatory message, but GR only supplied me with the winner’s name and address, not her user ID. How do you track down your winners?

    Emlyn Chand

    Hi Macy. The name of the winner is hyperlinked. If you click it, you’ll be sent to said winner’s profile and can send a message from there 😀

Macy Beckett

Aaaaah! I found it, thanks! I expected the information to be in the email from GR, but that was just a spreadsheet with the winner’s name and address. I was able to find the hyperlinked user ID you mentioned by visiting my author dashboard, then clicking on the old giveaway.

This is fun. I’m going to run the next one for 2 weeks and compare data. You’re rubbing off on me. 🙂

J S

I publish ebooks exclusively. How/when will Goodreads enable ebook promotions? Sure a few POD copies could be made, but a POD has additional variables on top of the ebook (physical dimensions and margin formating differences, font choices, etc) that changes the eventual review mix.

Have many exclusive ebooks been printed as POD for the giveaways?

    Emlyn Chand

    Although I recommend having print editions of your books, I don’t recommend getting them done just to do the giveaways. A lot goes into creating the print files including interior layout of text, a full cover wrap around, and securing the necessary ISBNs. For now KDP Select is your friend–it will let you giveaway your ebooks!

      J S

      What are the best routes to securing (at low cost) the ISBNs?

      ISBNs seem to be the expensive part for me, last I remember they were over two-hundred dollars each. Maybe that has come down or there are some new services that can get them for “under ten dollars”? Like the range of options for securing URLs and website hosting which I’ve been getting lately for under ten but know I could pay hundreds if I wanted to or didn’t know better.

      The rest of the layout and cover artwork I do. I’d have to learn the requirements of the specific sizing for trims and margins but I know where to locate those details. So that’s not a significant hurdle.

      .

        Emlyn Chand

        If your only goal is to have books for giveaways, then you can use a CreateSpace assigned ISBN. CreateSpace will show as the publisher, which may or may not matter to you. If you have your own self-publishing imprint, then Bowker is the way to go. I’d suggest purchasing a block of 10.

Chris Sorensen

This is the GREATEST POST EVER (until I start looking around and find all the wonderful nuggets I’m sure are lying around)!

Thanks so much Emlyn for sharing…I’m so glad I found this site.

RJ Heald

Great post – just what I was looking for! Thanks 🙂

One thing’s confused me though – when I go to the submission form for the Goodreads giveaway there doesn’t seem to be any way to upload your cover. As my book hasn’t been published yet, it doesn’t have a profile on Goodreads yet. How did you add your cover and did you manage to have a book profile on Goodreads before it was published?

Thanks!

Ruth

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