If there is one social media site that should be important to authors, it’s GoodReads. Not Twitter. Not Facebook. Not even Google+ (which is good, because I can’t make heads nor tails of G+). Nope, above them all, 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 can be a little overwhelming for a novice published author such as myself.
But 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 the usual amount of legalistic mumbo-jumbo discussing how they think you should run giveaways (that’s here, and a fancy slideshow here). I’m going to add to that with lessons learned from my own hard-earned experience.
Tips for running an effective Goodreads giveaway
- 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.
Let readers know you’ll be providing an autographed copy. They love that. In fact, I should have included the words “AUTOGRAPHED COPY” in all caps at the very top of the giveaway description box (sigh, next time). Similarly, if your giveaway is for an ARC (Advance Readers’ Copy), say so. Readers love to have the first look at new titles.
*WARNING: I made the mistake of promising 20 ARC proof copies before the book was available from CreateSpace, and only then realized I could only order FIVE advanced proof copies from CreateSpace. Consequence of failure to plan: I’ve had to resubmit the book content to CreateSpace four times, ordering five copies each time. Take it from me, the postage is murderous. So if you use CreateSpace, plan ahead. Either limit your giveaway to five copies, wait until your title is available, use a local printer for your ARCs, or see point #1 above.
- End your giveaway on a non-popular date. If you end giveaways on very popular days (e.g., around Christmas time), there will be several pages of giveaways also ending on that one specific day, which means yours will never got to the top of the list and you won’t draw much attention. Scroll through the list of giveaways and find a date where you will have minimal competition and maximum exposure.
- More countries = more exposure. I’ve limited my first giveaway to the US only. More often than not, a US user wins anyway (since they are the most populous on the site), but when an international person wins, you’ll have to pony up the postage and honor your commitment. This time around, with the aforementioned problem of getting ARCs from CreateSpace ahead of publication, I just couldn’t afford to do this. But there aren’t as many giveaways for international users, and they appreciate being included! So if you can afford the postage, you’ll get much better exposure for your title and win fans overseas.
- 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! In retrospect, review blurbs would have worked best here. Noting awards for which I’ve been nominated would have also been good. If readers want a synopsis, they can click over to the book listing on Goodreads to learn about it.
- 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 intend to send a message congratulating each and every one of them for the win and telling them when their copy will be mailed out.
- Send books promptly. I can’t stress this enough. Many Goodreads users will flag a book as one-star with a review saying: “I never received this book that I won from a giveaway.” That’s just bad customer service, and there’s no excuse for that. It’s exciting to readers when they win; it should be important to you. Deliver on your commitment, and send the book as quickly as you can. I’m still about a week (as of this writing) from the winners being selected, and I already have all twenty of my envelopes purchased, with return addresses and appropriate postage all taken care of. All I have to do is fill in the recipient and stop by the post-office. I don’t even need to stop and see a clerk, because I already bought the stamps. Boom. Get the winner list and go.
- Vary your giveaway lengths. Goodreads recommends running giveaways for 2 weeks. This is what I did, and it’s garnered me a fair number of entries. But I don’t recommend it. 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 of 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.
- 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 scheduled mine to start 3 business days later, so that I know it would 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
- 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).
- How to become a “Popular Author.” A friend of mine on the Goodreads staff explained it to me: How does an author become “popular?” Of course, nothing could be easier: 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. 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 you find new readers and gain better exposure on Goodreads.
And just a reminder, my own Goodreads Giveaway is a two-fer: Enter before Saturday 5 April 2016 for a chance to win not one, but TWO AUTOGRAPHED BOOKS, both Hedge King in Winter and the not-yet-published A Merchant’s Tale. Check it out, before you miss your chance!
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