Goodreads Giveaways: Indie Author Review - Worthwhile in Finding New Readers

*Updated December 1st to reflect the new giveaway service that Goodreads is starting in 2018. I'll try it out to give a more complete picture once this new option is live, but in the short term this will just include some information and my opinions.

Goodreads giveaways can be a great benefit for finding new readers

Goodreads Giveaways

These can be easy to set up and help build an audience. They aren't perfect, but they can definitely help!

Original (updated) review below:

Goodreads giveaways can be one of the most powerful tools an author has at their disposal. They used to be a free service for all authors (minus the cost of shipping and handling) but recently Goodreads has announced that they are doing away with the free version of the program in favor of a paid program.

Free or not, though, it can be a great way to get your name out there. For most self-published authors, there aren't a lot of good ways to get your books into the hands of new readers. Mark it down for free on Amazon and a lot of people might download it, but not many of them will actually crack it open. Why? They don't know who you are.

With Goodreads giveaways, though, you are asking them to give you a chance. The people who use Goodreads and notorious for being more invested in reading than just about any other community of readers in the world. Not only are Goodreads readers willing to take copies of your book, they are usually more interested in reading it than other readers as well.

Reading, though. I didn't say reviewing. Goodreads likes to make you think they will leave reviews for your books, but in general don't get your hopes up.

Running a Goodreads Giveaway

Basically, when people sign up to enter your giveaway on Goodreads, one of the (now required in 2018) conditions is to add the book to their Want to Read list. This, in turn, adds the book to their feed and notifies their friends, who in turn will join the giveaway and notify their friends. 

Free viral marketing.

Of course, this is in theory. In practice, many of the people who join giveaways do so to get free books, and if they don't win they just move on to the next group of books and authors until they score a win. Why? We will cover that below. The point is, this can have positive effects in building up your books numbers, but that isn't a guarantee. In fact, I'm betting they will include an 'opt-out' option for people to click to keep your book from going to their feed at all.

The benefit of the Want to Read list is that anytime something happens around your book (say you run another giveaway) they will get notified about it. Sometimes they even tell people when your book goes on sale, though this isn't guaranteed.

They haven't read it or rated it, and many people have thousands of books on these lists, but it means that when you post news about the book, or list another giveaway in the future, they will get notified about it in their timeline.

The problem is, it becomes a self-feeding cycle:

  • Create a giveaway.
  • People join.
  • List grows.
  • Create a giveaway.
  • People join.
  • List grows.

The cycle didn't use to be a problem, but now goodreads wants you to pay for these giveaways. Instead of getting two to five thousand people adding your book with the old system, now you will have to pay for maybe a few more thousand people each time.

This is a huge downside, especially with the cost. Their basic system is prohibitively expensive, and the premium service is downright robbery. Indie authors can't generally afford things like this, which makes it feel more like this is an exclusionary tactic than an actual offering.

That being said, it means the results could be significantly better if you are willing and able to pay. It will also (in theory) cut down on the number of bad options up for grabs (this is debatable, because even when it was free only a few authors regularly took advantage of the service). 

However, if you are able to afford it, it can make a big difference in selling books. Think of the service like a gentle nudge: Maybe a reader will spot your cover and think it looks like a good read, so they enter the giveaway. They don't win that copy and forget about it, but a few months later you offer another giveaway.

Goodreads will tell that reader about this new giveaway and 'nudge' them into thinking about your book again. This time, when they don't win, they might actually buy it. Brand recognition. If nothing else, they remain linked to it and to you, which means more visibility. It's a slow process, but no one said being an indie author was easy.

With the new system, you will still have to mail the books on your own, but now they can also sync up to your KDP account and giveaway e-books for you. Up to one-hundred copies can be given away, and Amazon will handle the distribution. This is the feature I'm most excited for, because it could be incredibly beneficial.

Risks

Many authors have reported that Goodreads is full of trolls who enter giveaways as often as possible just to win copies and sell on ebay. Or, even, on Amazon. Sometimes that free copy you gave away will show up on your platform right next to your own paperback, and when it sells you just have to accept the fact that you bought a copy to essentially give away a royalty.

This is not the norm, however, just a possibility. I wouldn't worry too much about it and just hope that the winner is a real reader with a lot of friends who will push your book and become a mega fan!

Alternate Options

Amazon giveaways

These are a decent option as well. However, I would say goodreads giveaways can get more real readers and not just people who want to win. Unlike Amazon, Goodreads readers are more invested in reading your book than if they got your book from an Amazon giveaway.

You won't get reviews on a one-for-one basis, but I've consistently gotten about one review for every three books given away. I've also managed to make lifelong fans and friends from the giveaways, because these are usually people who love to read.

Gleam Giveaways

Running these can be easy, but the best features are locked behind a paywall. You can give books with these giveaways as well, but you will get a lot more traction on giving away gift cards or other prizes. The thing is, you want people to actually buy your books, not just win a free copy, and the hope of 'winning' a copy might actually turn people away (they will wait to see if they won, forget about it, and never buy the book).

Big ticket prizes are great for promotion, but to help offset the cost you might want to work with other authors in your genre to create a 'team' giveaway. If you don't then they can easily break the bank if you aren't careful. My advice would be to find other like-minded authors and work together on something like this.

In closing

It is incredibly easy to build a giveaway and share it, though making it go viral is something else entirely. You generally need to pay to have images and more options to signup, but you can certainly run a free giveaway without much effort.

Goodreads giveaways used to be a great way to find new readers and get a little bit of viral marketing on the platform, but as a paid service it'll be much more exclusionary in who can participate. If you can't afford the upfront cost, know that there are easier (and better) ways to get copies out into the hands of willing readers.

This is much like gleam. Both companies do a great job of giving away products and making it easy for people to enter. If you are at the stage that you want to give stuff away, then research both companies and decide if this is the route you want to go.

Don't put only half effort into it, though, because if you aren't able to gain a lot of traction it can be a costly venture with very little gain.

Lincoln Cole

Lincoln Cole is a Columbus-based author who enjoys traveling and has visited many different parts of the world, including Australia and Cambodia, but always returns home to his pugamonster and wife. His love for writing was kindled at an early age through the works of Isaac Asimov and Stephen King and he enjoys telling stories to anyone who will listen.

He has won multiple literary awards for his novels. He has also been a bestseller in multiple different categories.