How to run an effective Goodreads giveaway
Many authors claim that when it comes to social media, staying active on Goodreads is even more important than maintaining a presence on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Why is Goodreads so important? Because that’s where avid readers are hanging out already, discussing books, leaving reviews, and making reading recommendations.
One of the best ways to encourage advance reviews for your newest book, build a buzz, and turn those avid readers into fans of your own writing is to host a Goodreads giveaway.
The Goodreads giveaway process is pretty simple:
1) you decide how many books you want to give away (they must be physical books, no eBooks)
2) you set a duration for how long the giveaway should run
3) Goodreads users can sign up to win a free book
4) Goodreads sends you the info for the winner/s so you can mail them your book
According to Goodreads’ site, over 40k users are entering giveaways every single day with an average of 825 people entering per giveaway. That’s a lot of exposure for you and your book.
To make the most out of your giveaway, Goodreads recommends that you:
* Start early — at least 1 month before official publication (3-6 months would be better) — in order to increase your chances of advance press.
* run the giveaway for a month to maximize signups.
* give away at least 10 books, since the more you give away the better your chances of getting early reviews (though it’s worth noting here that Goodreads doesn’t remove negative reviews — so you’ll have to be brave and live with whatever criticism or praise comes your way).
* use Goodreads’ giveaway widget on your blog to increase entries.
* do multiple giveaways — one or two pre-release, and one upon the official on-sale date of your book.
A slightly different take on Goodreads giveaways from an author who saw results
Author Emlyn Chand ran a number of Goodreads giveaways for her book. After analyzing the data, she offers a number of great tips to help you maximize the power of each 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.
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!
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.