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.

 

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Screenshot of the Goodreads Giveaway for Justice Unending.I finished my very first Goodreads giveaway last week, and it was was awesome. Since it’s still fresh in my mind, this seems like a great time to share what I learned.

Let’s get to it!

You are going to need print copies of your books.

Goodreads only has one way to do giveaways at the moment, although that’s changing in the near future.

  • Print Giveaways. This is all you can do right now. They’re also free. (Well, “free.”) First, you have to get several physical copies of your own book. Then you run the giveaway. When it’s over, you have to get your butt down to a post office and ship those books to the winners.
  • Kindle Ebook Giveaways: These were announced in March 2017. The program’s in beta, and is not currently available for most authors. In the Goodreads blog post, they explain that you’ll pay a flat fee of $119 to give away 100 Kindle ebooks.

So if you want to do it now, you need print copies. Be prepared to buy and ship them at your own expense.

Think about shipping costs when you decide who’s eligible for the giveaway.

You can choose which countries are eligible for your giveaway. This is important if you want to keep your costs down. International shipping is pricey!

For example, I opened my giveaway to people in the United States and Canada. It cost me just shy of $4.50 to send an envelope within the country. It cost me $15 to ship the same envelope internationally.

So consider that when you make your giveaway. You can afford to send a lot more books if you only send them inside your own country–but you’ll also get fewer entrants.

You only have to offer one copy of your book.

But you can offer as many as you want.

I gave out 3 copies for my first giveaway, because it seemed like a nice, small number to test the program out on. I’ll probably do larger giveaways now that I know more about how it works!

Run your giveaway for at least two weeks.

I did a couple of things:

  • I ran my giveaway for just shy of a month.
  • I wrote the blurb (and timed the giveaway) around Halloween. Justice Unending isn’t a horror novel (it’s solidly YA fantasy), but it IS about being possessed by a murderer.

I had about 200 entries the end of the first week. The requests slowed down after that, then spikedĀ heavily during the last week (due to the fact that Goodreads has a “Giveaways Ending Soon” list.) By the end of the giveaway, 1,149 people had requested my book.

So why did I run it for so long? I was only offering 3 copies, so it’s not like I needed hundreds more people to request it. But people weren’t just signing up for the giveaway–they were adding the book to their “to-read” list. And people added my book to their reading lists every single day that the giveaway was up.

So, speaking of that…

Expect a TON of people to add your book to their to-read list.

When I started my giveaway, fewer than 10 people had my book on their to-read list. When it was done, 488 had.

Of course, someone marking a book “to-read” doesn’t mean they’ll buy it. In fact, many people have thousands of books tagged on Goodreads–far more than they could ever realistically read. So it’s not clear how useful a metric this is.

But it does translate to awareness. And it can’t hurt, right? More than 480 people have tagged my book on Goodreads now. Isn’t that better than the 10 who had it tagged before?

And there’s one other benefit: if I do another giveaway for this book (and I will!), all of those 480+ people are going to get an email saying “One of the books on your to-read list is having a giveaway!” And that gets my book in front of their eyes all over again.

So what do I think?

Goodreads giveaways are awesome.

Like other forms of marketing, doing a giveaway doesn’t translate into direct sales. You’re giving away free books, after all–and there’s no guarantee that anyone will buy their own copy. Heck, there’s no guarantee that the winners will read your book, much less review the thing. (Goodreads does claim that a high percentage of winners do both, though.)

And since these are print books, this isn’t cheap. Even though I get a discount on purchasing my own print copies, it still cost me about $12.50 to send it within the country and $23.00 to ship internationally. And that’s per book!

But you know what? With other forms of marketing, I’ve ended up spending about the same amount of money for far less in return. Facebook netted me 65 clicks and one sale. Goodreads ads (which I haven’t written about yet) have, thus far, gotten me less than 30 clicks in nearly two months, and I’m not sure they’ve gotten me any sales at all. Those are low numbers for big bucks.

Meanwhile, it cost me roughly $35 in books, packaging and shipping to get more than 1,100 requests and 480 people showing direct interest in the book. That’s a lot more social interaction for about the same cost.

Will this actually result in any sales? We’ll see. The giveaway ended on the 21st, so it’ll be a while before I see if I get any reviews (or sales!) out of it.

But in terms of raw exposure, Goodreads giveaways are a straightforward, easy way to get your book in front of a lot of people. And it gives you a ton of bang for your buck.