Learning How to Market Books: I Take Back What I Said About Goodreads

The Goodreads logo.I ran my first Goodreads giveaway back in October. I wrote about the experience here. I was pretty happy about it! I gave away 3 copies and 480 people put it on their to-read list. After one month, I haven’t seen any reviews (or sales) that I can attribute to it, but it only cost me $35 dollars.

All of that changed on November 29.

Here’s how it used to work.

Goodreads used to have one type of giveaway. You gave out print books. This cost nothing.

It wasn’t really $0 for an indie author, though. You had to buy your own print books. Then you had to buy shipping materials. Then you had to ship them.

Back in October, the Goodreads FAQ included a section on a not-yet-released feature: e-book giveaways. These, they said, would cost you $119. In exchange, you’d give away 100 free e-book copies.

But now Goodreads wants to charge for print giveaways.

On November 29, Goodreads unveiled something subtly different. Instead of what everyone expected (print books = free, e-books = $$$), Goodreads announced that ALL giveaways would cost money after January 9, 2018. The new pricing is:

  • $119 to give away up to 100 print or e-book copies
  • $599 for the same thing, but with special placement on a “Featured Giveaways” page.

But for print books, the rules are the same: you still have to ship them yourself.

This is not good for indie authors. Or small presses. Or most people, really.

For a small-time author, this is disappointing.

You used to be able to run small giveaways. You wanted to give away 2 books? Sure, have fun. You get some promo, you get some attention, and you can spend less than $20 or $30, depending on how cheaply you can get your books.

Now? If you want your money’s worth, you’re giving away 100 books. You’re paying at least $119, if you give away 100 e-books. If you give away print books? You get to buy and ship those all yourself, on top of that $119 fee.

And know what’s maddening? These are giveaways! You’re probably not going to sell anything! Sure, people will see your book, add it to their lists, and possibly buy and read it in the future. But considering that the new Goodreads giveaway forces entrants to add the book to their to-read lists (when you could choose whether to do it before), it’s not like you’ll know if the people who have your book marked as “to-read” actually want to read it.

All in all, this is bad news. This makes Goodreads giveaways much worse for indie and small-time authors. Big publishers will continue to do giveaways because they’re willing to pay for it–and will eat the charges for their authors–but if you’re publishing for yourself (or with a small press), you’re out of luck.

If you’re an author, keep an eye on this.

As-is, it feels like Goodreads is about to become much less useful for promotion.

But keep an eye on this. The announcement’s pretty new, and there’s a lot of backlash out there. And once the change takes effect, it’ll take time for the advertising gurus of the writing world to decide whether the new program will actually benefit an indie author.

I personally can’t imagine paying $120 out of pocket to promote my books. But this announcement is still very new, and I’ll be keeping an eye on how this unfolds.


4 thoughts on “Learning How to Market Books: I Take Back What I Said About Goodreads

  1. There’s been speculation (based on “suspicious behaviour” flags people have had on their accounts during non-Amazon promotions) that Amazon are attempting to make author-publishers only use AMS.

    Don’t know whether there is a conspiracy or just an issue with Amazon’s automatic fraud detection, but as they own GoodReads it doesn’t surprise me that they’re making GR Giveaways less great.

    1. Ah, I think I heard about that one, too. People who were using Bookbub to drive Amazon sales had their accounts flagged for fraudulent activity, right? I’m not super sold on that conspiracy. Overzealous bots wrongly flagging stuff as fraud is bad, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it was an intentional decision by Amazon. (I haven’t been reading enough on this story, though. There’s probably more to it.)

      But Goodreads… ugh. Amazon owns Goodreads, so I don’t think the master plan was to make it worse. But I do think someone realized that they had an extremely popular service and asked, “Why the heck are we doing this for free?” So they monetize it. It’ll probably get them a lot of money. But it’ll also hurt the authors who don’t have a big enough publisher to shoulder the cost, and that sucks.

  2. I missed the memo on this, and tried to do a giveaway earlier this month, only to find out about the $119 charge. How did I miss this??? Giveaways were one of my favorite ways to get my book in front of potential readers. Too bad.

    1. It’s absolutely horrible, isn’t it? $119, even if you only want to ship your own, physical copies! $119, plus shipping to send them all! They’ve made the physical giveaway completely and utterly useless for anyone but big publishers.

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