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 spiked 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.

The JUSTICE UNENDING Facebook ad.OK, first thing’s first: this is not a post about how to be successful with Facebook ads.

I created my first Facebook ad last month. I’ve run a single one-month test. I’ve got a lot to learn.

But if you’re an author who doesn’t know where to start–or what to even think about–maybe this will help.

Here’s what I learned from my very first test.

What did I do?

I ran one ad  campaign for my YA fantasy novel, Justice Unending. Here are the stats:

  • The campaign ran for 30 days.
  • It had a limit of $30 for that period.
  • I targeted men and women ages 10-40 who listed “fantasy books” or “young adult books” as one of their interests.
  • I ran two ads simultaneously for the first week, then switched to the more effective ad for the rest of the campaign.
  • I added a third ad, which only ran for one week, to promote my Goodreads giveaway.
  • I ultimately got 1,560 views and 65 link clicks.
  • I got 14 followers on Facebook.
  • I made at least one sale.

These are not amazing stats, sure. But I learned a ton from them. Let’s go into the details!

You should really make an fan page for yourself first.

A Facebook “fan page” is, well, a page about a topic, not a person. It’s not your personal Facebook page, with your friends and family and your super-tight security that ensures no one will ever see your pictures of your cats.

A “fan page” is a page about a topic–like that page about your local animal shelter or that government agency that posts tips on how to save energy at home.

And if you make an ad and link it to your fan page, your fan page will be linked at the top of your ad. This has a lot of benefits:

  • People who think your ad looks interesting can easily go to your fan page.
  • You can fill your fan page with fun stuff about you and your books.
  • If someone likes your fan page, then the things you post on that page will show in their news feeds.

And holy moly, people actually do this! They see an ad, which is trying to sell them something, and they go, “Sure, why not? I’ll follow that author.”

And then they’re fans of your page! Do you know what that means? Your ads only run for as long as you pay for them. But people who follow your page? You get those people forever! (Or until they unfollow you, at least.) When you post updates on your fan page–say, about sales or giveaways–those people will see those posts when they log in to Facebook! Because they followed your fan page!

Yes, Facebook has done a lot of tweaking to fan pages. And yes, the stuff you post on your fan page is not guaranteed to be seen by all of your followers, even if they’re active on Facebook. That’s all true. There are lots of things to think about when it comes to Facebook.

But if you’re going to run an ad, linking it to a fan page is an easy decision. It’s a pool of followers you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

People prefer Amazon links.

I ran one ad that linked to my website. Justice Unending is available in several formats, so I thought I’d give people a choice.

But that ad was absolute garbage compared to the one that linked directly to Amazon. The Amazon ad did so well, in fact, that I just turned off the other ad entirely.

So there’s a simple lesson: people trust Amazon.

The payment structure determines how much exposure you’ll get.

You get two options when you make an ad campaign:

  • Advertise every day and set a daily cap. Facebook will run your ad every single day until you manually tell it to stop. So if you do $5 a day, it will show itself to $5 worth of people, then stop. The next day, it’ll do it again.
  • Put in a monthly cap and a time range. If you do this, it will take the amount you want to pay, divide it by the number of days, then spend that much money per day.

I went with option #2. I ended up doing $30 for 30 days. Facebook helpfully told me that my target audience–YA and fantasy book fans–was a large audience. I had a potential reach of many tens of thousands of people.

I did not reach that many people.

Why is that? Well, $30 for 30 days gets you about a dollar a day of advertising. You get billed for every view and every click. And while there’s no cold, hard number for how much those are worth, it meant that only a few dozen people saw my ad (and only about 2 or 3 clicked it) a day. And Facebook limited my exposure, on purpose, so I wouldn’t spend more than $1 a day.

So money matters. I’d be interested to see how more money on fewer days would have gone–for example, what would $30 on two weeks look like? Or one week?

You pay by the campaign, but you can put infinite numbers of ads in that campaign.

Basically, you have an campaign that is full of multiple ads. You pay at the campaign level. So you might set up “Book Campaign #1” to bill $5 a day until you stop it. You could then make as many ads as you want, which will all share that $5 a day.

This means your ads fight for money. The more ads you have, the fewer interactions each will get.

And it looks like Facebook does some calculations to decide which ad gets your money, because I definitely did not see an even split. I had one really successful ad that ran most of September. By the end of the month, I threw in a second one, to promote my Goodreads giveaway. It ran for a week and was seen by all of 4 people.

Why? I suspect that Facebook prioritizes the “successful” ads that got more clicks. My new ad had very little chance of competing against one that had been going for 3 weeks–and there wasn’t enough time left in the campaign to level the playing field.

(On the other hand, starting a campaign with two ads, then closing the one that wasn’t working as well did work. So timing is important!)

So how did it work?

As mentioned above, I got 65 clicks for my $30 experiment, at least one of which led to a sale. I also got 14 new followers to my brand-new author fan page.

And how does that measure up to other things I’ve tried?

Well, it’s definitely not bad. Far more people click on Facebook ads than Goodreads ads, at least based on my also-very-short test over there. It has a rather high amount of interaction, too: I got fan page followers, a fair number of clicks, and a sale.

Those aren’t exceptional results, and they certainly didn’t change my life. But they definitely got me some exposure.

There’s still so much I don’t understand about Facebook ads. They’re so complex, and they blow through your money so quickly! But they do seem to be a strong option, and I can definitely see myself experimenting more with them in the future.

A Justice Unending email ad.

You can use someone else’s mailing list to send book deals directly to someone’s inbox! But does it work?

So, let’s be honest. I don’t know anything about marketing a book.

This is decidedly Not a Very Good Thing, because I happen to have a book published by a small press. But–and this is the part where I admit my very embarrassing life lessons to the internet, where it will be engraved in stone and never forgotten, ever–I didn’t really know what to expect. I threw poor Justice Unending to the winds, figuring I’d figure out what was working as I went, based on whether I was selling books or not.

Consequently, I’ve been learning as I go. If I sell anything, I did something right. If I didn’t, then I did something wrong. This is an advertising trial by fire, and I’ve done a lot of not selling books as I’ve figured myself out.

So here are my lessons. I had (and have!) no idea what I’m doing. But if I can figure it out, you can figure it out. Let’s do this thing!

This week, I’m going to talk about my experience with mailing lists.

What are they?

There are a lot of book-related mailing lists. People sign up to get ads for books they want to read. You, the author, pay for the right to send an ad to the thousands of people on these lists.

These are usually discount lists, so they only promote books that are on sale, under a certain price, or free. People don’t sign up for these just so they can be advertised to, after all–they want a deal!

What did I use?

I bought ads in two services:

*Note, GenreCrave seems to do its genre-based mailing list work through BookRebel now. I know nothing about this because that was not the case when I used them back in November 2016.

What did I get?

I got:

  • A brief, one-paragraph pitch
  • A picture of the cover
  • A link to a sales page (normally the Amazon page)
  • One promotion to the mailing list
  • (GenreCrave only) Posting on the website under the genre-specific list

For GenreCrave, I chose the very small (and very cheap) Steampunk & Dystopian list. For Bargain Booksey, I chose the much larger Fantasy & Paranormal list.

How easy was it?

These are super easy.

  • Do a little research. There are a lot of these out there. You want one that reaches a lot of people for a reasonable price.
  • Then just choose a day and pay them.
  • You’ll probably need to write a summary and send them links and a cover image.

That’s it. No learning required. No work needed on your end. Just throw money at a list and they will mail it out for you.

How well did they work?

This is mildly complicated:

  • They were good for getting purchases on a single, specific date.
  • They were not good for getting a lot of purchases.
  • They were not good for getting ongoing purchases.

So, here’s what I noticed: on the days my ads ran, I did get a few purchases. However, I got very few purchases. While you can’t tell where your Amazon purchases came from and I actually don’t have 100% of my sales data for the Bargain Booksey sales period yet, I’m going to guess that both of these got me only between 1-3 sales.

In terms of sales, that’s not great. Neither of these recouped their costs.

However, that’s not necessarily bad, because those sales all happened on a 1-2 day period. And that might have a rather specific use.

So what do I think?

One or two sales isn’t very good. And while there are always variables (did I write terrible promo text? Did I choose a bad day?), I can’t imagine that a one-day, one-time email will ever result in ongoing sales.

But I do think mailings lists have a use. Just a very specific one.

Your Amazon sales rank–and thus your position in Amazon bestseller lists–is a very fluid number. Selling just one copy can rocket up your sales rank. That rank will go down  every day you don’t sell a copy, and it’ll shoot up every time you sell another one.

So you don’t need to sell a large volume of books for your Amazon sales rank to go up. You could hit the top of some genre bestseller lists with a relatively small number of sales–they just have to happen close together.

And mailing lists are good for this.

So, based on what I saw:

  • It’s not a very good technique if it’s all you do. A mailing list, by itself, will not result in enough sales to mean anything.
  • But it is helpful as part of a marketing campaign that focuses on a specific date.
  • And it could be helpful if you want to get a high rank on an Amazon bestseller list.

So a good one, chosen on a specific date, might be a great choice for, say, your launch date! Or your relaunch date! Or a sale when you’re doing a lot of other ads!

But if you’re brand new at marketing and really want to get your book out in front of eyeballs, or you’re starting from scratch–like I was!–I wouldn’t suggest doing these and nothing else.

I didn’t make my money back on either of these ads. I didn’t even come close! And they didn’t seem to give me any ongoing benefit–I didn’t gain followers, see traffic on my websites, gain book reviews, or see an increase in shelved books on Goodreads. I saw literally 1-3 sales around the date I placed my ads, and then nothing.

So if you’re trying to use your marketing dollars carefully, I probably wouldn’t start with these–or at least use them without a specific goal in mind.

Cover of How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn.

Hotlinked from Goodreads.com.

(First, in unrelated news, check out the four-star Uncaged Book Review of my YA fantasy novel, Justice Unending! You can find it on page 98. And with that out of the way…)

I have a confession: I don’t know anything about marketing.

I started this blog and my author website several years ago, and proceeded to do absolutely nothing at all with them. I went on Twitter and then spoke to no one, because I’m super shy and have no idea how people make friends… anywhere, honestly, but Twitter especially. When my first novel came out, I did a few guest posts, posted a few announcements, put in one request for a book review, and wasn’t sure what else to do.

I really don’t know anything about marketing.

So I started reading.

Joanna Penn’s How to Market a Book covers an immense amount of turf. It’s divided into several sections: an introduction to marketing, short-term promotional techniques (which don’t require an established internet presence), long-term techniques (which do), and an example of how you’d bring all of these together for a launch or re-launch of a book. It also has an absolutely killer appendix that lists every single main point of the book in checklist form. It’s immensely skimmable, incredibly useful, and possibly my favorite part of the book. Seriously. And it’s an appendix. Full of bullet points.

The book is a little vague on the technical details, but I’m guessing that’s intentional. It doesn’t tell you how to make a Facebook ad, for example; it tells you why they’re a good idea and explains that you can use your email list to target lookalike groups, but it doesn’t explain how you actually go into Facebook and do that. (This is probably intentional–that gets into “How to use Facebook” territory, and I’m sure the author didn’t want to write a technical how-to that’ll just go out of date the next time Facebook tweaks something.) And while this is true for a lot of things (“just do a giveaway,” as opposed to “here’s where you can learn how to do an Amazon/Goodreads giveaway”) the author does have an awful lot of supplementary links on her website that explain things that the book does not.

So while I might not feel like I could run out this very second and run a Facebook campaign, I did come away with an immense amount of ideas. How to Market a Book covers a ton of ground, from ads to book reviews to videos, podcasts, and more. I now have a lot of ideas about what I could look into next–and isn’t that exactly what an introductory book on marketing should do?

Oh yes, one more thing: there is, unsurprisingly, a very, very heavy emphasis on self-publishing, and many of the techniques aren’t easy to do if you’re published through a publisher. I could probably experiment with categorization, keywords, and metadata, for example, but because I published with a small press, I’d have to send those changes through my publisher. I’m fairly sure I can’t do Amazon advertisements at all, since I don’t have access to the Amazon KDP page for my book. So if you aren’t self-published, you’ll have to suss out with specific elements are still open to you. (Don’t worry. There are still a lot.)

Overall, this is a really lovely book for someone who’s brand new to marketing. It doesn’t go into immense detail about anything, but it does cover a little bit about a lot. And that’s just what I needed: an idea on where to start.

Overall, five stars. It’s a great introductory book.

(Also, in totally related news, I now have a mailing list! You can sign up on my website. You’ll get a free short story, too! Or, if you’re a writer, you can get the word counting spreadsheet I used in my Fun Ways to Use Excel to Track Your Writing Progress [#1, #2] posts.)