A lot of authors have strong feelings about Goodreads, but no matter where you stand, the reality is that the platform is owned by Amazon, so having a solid profile, pushing for reviews and ratings, and running giveaways to get books in hands are all part of staying competitive in today’s publishing marketplace.
I’m a fan of Goodreads giveaways – when they are done correctly. We’ve done enough of them for clients that I’ve developed a set of guidelines to ensure that we’re maximizing the platform’s ability to deliver for our authors. I hope that sharing them here will set you up for similar success.
Best Length for Goodreads Giveaways
Goodreads encourages you to run your giveaway for a month because doing so gives readers more time to enter, and this really is a smart strategy. With the new paid format, every single reader who enters to win your book gets it added to the Want-to-Read list on their account. Every time that they access that list, it’s going to put your book in front of their eyes. And we all know that exposure is one of the driving forces leading to action, action in this case being book sales!
Start & End Dates
In terms of start date, Goodreads requires seven days’ notice before launching a giveaway, so keep that in mind as you’re planning. They also require you to run the giveaway for a minimum of seven days.
Concerning end dates, I wouldn’t recommend ending on a Saturday. Extend the giveaway through the full weekend and end on a Sunday or Monday instead. This also makes sense logistically if you don’t have the option to give away a Kindle edition and will have to mail out print books, which we’ll also cover.
Goodreads Giveaway Description
Keep in mind that only the first handful of lines in the description you submit will show as part of your giveaway preview, so you need to make an impact right away! What’s the best hook for your book? If it’s fiction, you need a first line that makes people go, “Whoa, I need to read more!” Don’t assume you have time to tease them – you have to wow them.
If you write non-fiction, your first line should connect to the problem you can solve for readers. You want people to instantly think, “Hey, they’re talking to me…” and that will get them to read on and discover why your book is just what they’ve been searching for.
Whatever you do, do NOT follow the format Goodreads gives you. Yes, format makes it easy, but it won’t help you stand out. Being a successful author in today’s market is about standing out—more than ever before. Don’t fade into the crowd.
What Format & How Many Books
If you’re an Amazon KDP author, you can give away up to 100 Kindle copies, and I say go for it! You want books in hands, and you’re paying the same price no matter what.
If you need to give away print copies, I typically opt for 10. You’ll have to pay shipping, and I suggest writing a custom note to each recipient. This is an added bonus of going through all the other work involved with mailing print books – the connection you make with those 10 recipients is potentially stronger.
National vs. International
If you’re giving away Kindle copies and you have a strong argument for an international, English-speaking audience, then go ahead and include major markets like the UK, Australia, and Canada. If you’re mailing print copies you may want to stick to the US for shipping reasons, but that’s totally up to you.
Promoting your Goodreads Giveaway
I’ll be candid: I haven’t had a lot of luck with Goodreads ads, so I don’t recommend relying on those for your giveaway promotion. So that’s a downside.
But here’s an upside. One promotion is already built into the platform: when there’s a giveaway starting, Goodreads notifies the author’s followers and anyone who has already added the book to their Want-to-Read list. This helps generate even more entries, creating more stories in the Goodreads updates feed. In terms of table stakes, this is pretty good marketing. But you should also definitely plan to share on social, write a short blog post, and/or send a special email to your list.
You should also take advantage of the Events option on your Goodreads profile to create an event for the giveaway. You can link to your giveaway page and ask followers to “invite” their networks and help you spread the word.
Join genre-appropriate groups on the platform; many of these have a self-promotion or giveaway thread going, so be sure to post there. If you’re not as active in your groups as you should be, let this be your motivation. I hear a lot of authors complain about Goodreads giveaways because they feel readers are just in it for the free books – and there’s a lot more truth to that when the author only shows up to give something away and doesn’t spend any time getting to know their readers and supporting the genre by taking part in discussions in groups like a true fan.
If you have a Superfan group, this is a great time to enlist their help as well! Ask them to rate and review the book on Goodreads if they haven’t yet, and share your social media posts or tag friends in them.
After Your Goodreads Giveaway
Connect with your winners. Approximately eight weeks after your giveaway ends, Goodreads will email all of your winners to remind them to leave a rating or review. This is a fantastic new feature of the paid programs.
But you can do your part, too. Connect with your winners and see if they’ll accept a networking request. Check out their profile first, be sure to personalize your request, and don’t spam them. Congratulate them on winning a copy, let them know how grateful you are that they’re interested in your book, and tell them that you look forward to receiving any feedback they have to offer. If you belong to any of the same groups (which you’ll know because you checked their profile!), call attention to that connection as well. And then sign off saying you’d appreciate adding them to your network and letting them know that they are welcome to message you directly at any point in the future.
And don’t waste the opportunities you’ve created by having your book added to all those participants’ Want-to-Read lists! Even if a Goodreads user hasn’t won a copy of your book, you still have the opportunity to connect. You can check out where your book has been shelved by going to the book’s page and scrolling down the right hand side until you see Genres. As part of that you’ll also see “See top shelves….” With a click, you’ll see everywhere on Goodreads where your book exists and the individual accounts that have shelved your book. Again, be thoughtful and strategic about connecting with the right people because if done genuinely, you’ll for sure start building up your network and impressions on Goodreads, which will serve you long term.
With more than 90 million book lovers online daily – reviewing, sharing, discussing, and searching for new books – Goodreads is full of opportunities. Authors who take it seriously often find that the time they invest in the platform comes back to them exponentially in book sales. And it all starts with giving, which may be just a little more evidence that karma does have a role in the universe.
Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. To learn more about Penny and AME, visit www.amarketingexpert.com.