This is a guest post written by indie author Scott Barlett. Thanks Scott for sharing so many great tips about maximizing your results!
What if there was a social network whose users were all book readers? What if there was a cost-effective way to bring your book to the attention of hundreds, if not thousands of those readers?
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Goodreads giveaways.
I tend to think of Goodreads as Facebook for readers. If you haven’t set up an author page on Goodreads yet, I recommend you do that, lickety-split.
Holding a giveaway on Goodreads will cost you:
That’s it! And a significant portion of the people who enter your giveaway will end up adding your book to their ‘to-read’ shelf.
As a result of the four giveaways I’ve held to date, a total of 1,843 Goodreads users have added my books. That makes the cockles of my heart toasty-warm.
Another reason I run these giveaways is because generating interest in your books on Goodreads makes them more attractive to advertisers such as BookBub.
Why is that important? Well, without getting too sidetracked, another tool I use to promote my books is the Kindle Countdown Deal. When I have one of these, I seek to use advertisers like BookBub, Ereader News Today, and Pixel of Ink to spread the word.
The three I’ve mentioned are among the biggest, and they turn down most book deals submitted to them. If your book gets traction on Goodreads as well as Amazon, they are that much more likely to accept it for a promo spot.
How to Maximize Your Giveaway
How to get the most out of a giveaway on Goodreads? I’ve done a lot of research on the subject, and by now I’ve tested a few different approaches. Here’s what I’ve learned.
1) Only offer 1 copy
Thinking it would generate a lot more interest, for my first giveaway I offered 15 copies of my medieval comedy novel Royal Flush. 1,984 people entered that giveaway, which was certainly a success.
But shipping all those books, not to mention giving away the copies themselves, proved quite an expense. So in my next giveaway for the same novel, I offered only 3 copies. This time, 1,033 people entered.
I offered 20% as many copies, and received 52% as many entries. Not quite as much interest, but much more cost-effective.
And in my next giveaway, for my contemporary novel Taking Stock, I only offered 1 copy. That netted 1,010 entries.
Lesson learned: holding several giveaways with 1 copy at a time is much more powerful than having one big one with multiple copies.
2) Have an attractive cover
If you’re poised to have your first Goodreads giveaway, this point is probably well past its expiry date. But it’s relevant nevertheless. Having an intriguing cover that immediately communicates your book’s genre is important for a giveaway’s success, and of course for a book’s success overall.
3) Open your giveaway to every country
Since you’re only giving 1 copy, in my opinion this is well worth it. Making your giveaway available to everyone, worldwide, will amplify your exposure significantly. Sure, postage could get a bit expensive if you’re shipping to somewhere on the opposite side of the globe, but even if it ends up being $20 or more, I consider it money well spent.
How many other ways are there to become known to hundreds of people for such a small amount?
4) Choose unpopular start and end days
Goodreads giveaways are divided into four lists: Ending Soon, Most Requested, Popular Authors, and Recently Listed. The higher your giveaway appears on these lists, the more exposure it will get. The lists are in constant flux, as old giveaways end and new giveaways begin.
Appearing on the Popular Authors list depends on having lots of reviews, so if you don’t already have a strong Goodreads presence you’ll need to focus on the other lists until you do.
The Most Requested list is pretty straightforward: you rank highly on it when your giveaway is among those with the most entrants.
You’ll have the most control over your ability to appear on the Recently Listed and Ending Soon lists. To accomplish this, you should choose start and end dates that few other giveaways are likely to share.
If you choose Christmas Day, for example, your giveaway will be drowned in a sea of other
authors/publishers offering their books. But if you choose January 17th, well, nothing much tends to happen on January 17th. If only 15 giveaways begin that day, and yours is one of them, for 24 hours your giveaway will appear in the top 15 of Recently Listed.
5) Pay close attention to your giveaway’s description
This is arguably as important as your book cover when it comes to attracting entries.
How to structure your description is a matter of debate. Some hold that it’s best to begin with quotes from reviews/readers. Others say you should start right in with a synopsis.
Either way, make sure this is attention-grabbing copy. If your book description on Amazon and elsewhere doesn’t already shimmer and glow with all the polishing you’ve done, you should probably spend some more time polishing before using it on Goodreads.
Pay even closer attention to the first line of your description
The very first line of your giveaway description should be something about how the winner will receive a signed copy: “SIGNED COPY” or “AUTOGRAPHED COPY,” maybe with some asterisks thrown in on both sides for good measure:
If, however, there are other things that make your giveaway special, you should mention them in this first line as well.
For example, of all the giveaways that began on the same day as my most recent one, the only one that was more popular than mine had the following first line:
**Signed 1st Edition Hardcover – 9 Giveaways Remaining**
I don’t know what the “9 Giveaways Remaining” bit is about, but otherwise it’s pretty clear what
makes this prize unique. “Signed 1st Edition Hardcover” sounds way cooler than just “Signed.”
If there’s something similarly special about the copy you’re offering, say so!
6) Promptly mail the winner’s book
We are authors who want to maintain a good relationship with both our readers and Goodreads. We are professional. Of course we’ll have the book in the mail shortly after a giveaway’s end date!
7) Include a handwritten note
Handwritten notes are extra meaningful, nowadays. Slip one just inside the cover of your book, thanking the winner for his or her interest, and offering congratulations on winning.
Also: humbly request that he or she honestly review your book on Goodreads upon finishing it.
I recommend viewing the advice I’ve offered here as a starting point. You are a different author, who writes books that are different from mine, and you will be listing your giveaway at a different time. What worked for the giveaways I’ve discussed here may not work for yours.
Relying solely on received wisdom is unwise. For instance, during the research I did to prepare for my giveaways, I read that it’s best to start your giveaway description with quotes. Yet the giveaway in which I implemented that advice (my latest one) received the fewest entries.
Here’s another example: my research indicated that it’s often better to keep a giveaway’s duration brief, in order to appear on the Recently Listed and Ending Soon lists in quick succession. And yet, the briefer I’ve made my giveaways, the fewer entries I’ve received.
For my next giveaway, I will likely be reverting to my original giveaway’s length: one month.
It will take a few giveaways to determine what works best for you and your books.