When it comes to marketing a book, never underestimate the power of a book giveaway. Perhaps one of the best ways to kick start book discovery is by offering your book for free. I recommend doing multiple giveaways for a book and, in fact, I have done pre-publication giveaways that have really helped to spike success and reviews on the site.
I recommend that you run your giveaways for 30 days. You can run them for a smaller amount of time, but the longer you have to promote the better, right? Be sure to post an update about this on your Goodreads page and you can also post it to your blog (for your blog readers) especially if your blog is connected to your Goodreads page. So how many books should you giveaway? I've done anywhere from ten to fifty. Keep in mind that while the higher number is great, at some point you will have to fulfill this order and Goodreads only allows printed books, so you can't give an eBook version or PDF, they have to be print books and they are all mailed (or you can also ship them from Amazon if you want to).
If you are a member of a few groups, it's likely that there is a thread to promote a giveaway. Find that thread and promote your giveaway. If you're running it for a month, you should feel free to post it once at the beginning and again as you're nearing the end of the giveaway. I'm not a fan of blasting groups with "all about me" posts so twice is my limit. You may find groups that encourage more frequent giveaway reminders but I doubt it. Remember that other authors are on there trying to get attention, too.
If you're reading this post and thinking, "Well, my book is too old for this," take heart. There aren't any rules on Goodreads preventing older books from getting promoted on the site. If you have a great book and are just discovering this site, by all means do a giveaway and see what happens. Especially if it's not your only book and you continue to write new material. I've known authors who have multiple titles that start with the oldest and work their way forward.
One more point on the giveaways. If you want to really max out your exposure on the site, I recommend letting the contest run worldwide. You'll get much better participation that way and in the big picture global shipping isn't really that expensive.
Ready to sign up for your own giveaway? Then head over here: www.goodreads.com/giveaway. Once you're there be ready to list the start and end dates as well as all of the pertinent book information such as ISBN, book description, publisher and number of copies you're willing to giveaway. Once you have that information, you're ready to go with your first Goodreads giveaway!
When the campaign is over, you'll get notified and the system will send you a spreadsheet with the winners, their Goodreads ID's and their addresses. It's a great idea to congratulate them on Goodreads and let them know you're shipping the book out. Why is this good? Because it's another great way to connect with the person on the receiving end of your book. And it helps encourage a review from the reader. You're no longer an anonymous writer; you are now connected on Goodreads and following each other's reviews, etc.
Whenever I've done a Goodreads giveaway I am always sure to include a short, hand-written note thanking them for participating and congratulating the person on winning. I never ask for a review in the note, but that's just me. Instead, I encourage their feedback because I really do want to know what the reader thinks of the book. Then I give them my email address if they wish to make direct contact. I think the added step of a personal note is key. Why? Because it's a great opportunity to connect with a reader and encourage them to connect with you. I also sign each of the books I giveaway. Why? Readers love signed books!
So how many reviews can you expect, really? Well Goodreads estimates that 60% of the books that are given away get reviewed. I think that's probably a really good average. I've seen numbers higher than 60% and also lower. A lot of it depends on the book of course. Good books get reviewed more frequently, also it would seem that fiction gets a lot more reviews than non-fiction, but I'm not always clear that that's true.
Another way to boost exposure is to run an ad to help push your giveaway. Ads are really simple on Goodreads. They operate on a pay-per-click system, which means you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. You also buy credit, so I suggest starting with $10, you can always add more, but you may never use $100. Get started by going here: http://www.goodreads.com/advertisers.
It's important to keep in mind that Goodreads openly admits that new ads that generate a lot of clicks in the first few days will be shown more frequently throughout the day - essentially Goodreads gives its users what they want. So make your ad content compelling, and don't go the super cheap route when it comes to bidding on your per click cost. The minimum is $.10, the max is $.50. Some people say go big or go home, I say do what you're comfortable with, but remember, higher per click ads are also given priority. Some additional insight into how Goodreads ads work can be found here: http://www.goodreads.com/help/list/advertisers/.
I usually suggest creating two ads, try different tactics. One should say something like "Enter to Win" and the other should say something like "Get your FREE book". The words "win" and "free" are always hot. In the main content include a short, irresistible description of your book, something that will make it stand out and close with "giveaway ends [insert date]" to help push people to act. The link you include with your ad should be the link to your giveaway page. Don't know how to find the link? Go here: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway and on the right hand side of the page you'll see a section for "Giveaways You've Created".
A few more giveaway tips:
- Let readers know if you plan on providing signed copies.
- End your giveaway on a non-popular date, like the middle of the week, definitely not a holiday.
- Again, more countries = more exposure.
- Mail your copies promptly.
- Reach out to winners with a short, respectful follow up. Friend them, let them know you'd love their input when they're ready.
Bonus! When you're done creating your ad you'll be give the HTML code for a giveaway widget that you can add to your blog or website!
While authors often tell me that they don't want to give copies of their book away, I always caution against that way of thinking. You have to give something to get something. Will every person who got your book review it? No. Do some people just want free books? Sure. But I've found that most of the readers on this site are genuinely interested in books and love it when their opinion matters. I mean, who doesn't?
Using the power of free to help boost your book is always a good idea, especially on a site like Goodreads. Just keep in mind that using a giveaway like this can help push other opportunities like connections to new readers and a dialog about your book in general. Maximize this opportunity; you'll be glad you did!
And one final note on these Goodreads pieces. Both of these were tested with anonymous, first time (fiction) authors. Why did I do that? Because I wanted to make sure the playing field was even and the test was authentic.
Did you miss Part One on How to Become a Goodreads Power User? See it here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/penny-c-sansevieri/how-to-become-a-goodreads_b_3719161.html