Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Promoting through a Goodreads Giveaway: Experience and Tips from an Author

A little over a month ago, I created a Goodreads giveaway in an effort to stir interest in my gay erotica novel, Clipped. (I promise I won't say anything more about my dirty book. This post is just going to be a helpful guide for anyone considering using Goodreads giveaways.) At the time, I had published the manuscript myself on Amazon. I didn't really know how successful a Goodreads giveaway would be, but I decided that I didn't have anything to lose by giving it a go, so I tried it out. Since I went hunting for experiences from author's before I went forth with the giveaway, I decided it would only be fair for me to discuss my experience, as I benefited from other people's thoughts on the subject. I always like to research people's experiences before I pursue something. That said, I'm hoping that someone will find this of use.

If you're an author considering a Goodreads giveaway, I definitely would recommend it. Though I can't say how the giveaway effects sales (halfway through the giveaway, I signed Clipped with Wilde City Press and removed it from Amazon), at the very least it:
  • Put the title in front of people who might otherwise not have seen it.
  • Doubled the amount of people who had added the book to their to-read list.
Now, does that mean that everyone who added it is going to read it? Not even a little bit. In fact, it's likely half of them will let it archive in their TBR queue. But when starting out, I don't think it ever hurts to just have the name of your book floating around in people's faces.

So here's the rundown on how I went about my giveaway. I've included advice and clues for authors and publishers that are considering this option.

1. Things to Consider
  • You need to have a Goodreads Author account to do a giveaway. This is fairly easy. If your book isn't already listed on Goodreads, you can manually add it and then sign up for Goodreads and link your profile to your book.
  • To create a giveaway, you have to be able to send physical books to winners. Goodreads doesn't do e-book giveaways. Don't ask me. Half the things Goodreads does doesn't make any sense.
  • It can take Goodreads two to three days to approve and/or update giveaways and ads, so if you want to list a giveaway for a few days, keep this in mind. Also, if you need to edit the info at any point, it will take another two or three days before they are able to update. As a general rule, I'd say they don't update on the weekends. However, occasionally I've found that something will just randomly get approved. I have no idea. I haven't hacked the Goodreads update system yet.
  • After the winners are selected, you have six-eight weeks to deliver the book to the winners. For those of you who are planning to use POD options (as I was), keep this in mind. Between creating files, getting approved, and proofing, all that time really adds up, so ideally you need to have the book ready to go by the time winners are selected. 
  • The costs of a giveaway easily add up. Cost of book production + shipping to you + shipping to each winner + marketing and promotion = total cost. Just don't be tempted to underestimating your cost and set a realistic number of books for winners.
2. How Do You Create the Giveaway?

Goodreads makes it fairly easy to setup a giveaway. On top of reminding every Goodreads Author that they have the option, the setup is pretty straightforward.

If you click on the title of your book, the right side of your page should look like this:

Click on the "List a giveaway" link, and it will take you to this screen:

You can just copy and paste your description from your book's page, but you should add a little intro before that. A lot of publishers/authors will say something along the lines of, "Giving away ten paperback titles..." I suggest you do a little research before just throwing your title up. Go to other authors in your genre that are hosting Goodreads giveaways and see how they do it. I noticed that more people were signing up for giveaways that were giving away 5+ titles. 10 seemed to be a bit of a magic number at the time. As for the giveaway dates, I noticed that most giveaways were about a month long (this is the length that Goodreads recommends), and I stole my dates from some of the other titles that were posting around the time I wanted to post. In hindsight, it might have been better to choose an end date or time with less people. Your title stands out as the giveaway comes to an end because it shows up higher on the "Ending Soon" page. If there are only a few titles on the "Ending Soon" page with you, you'll stand out to potential readers.

3. Tags Are Important

Something that you may not be thinking about, but which is incredibly important, is the tags that you choose for your title. This section is on the listing page and appears like so:

When filling this part out, you should go around and see what other titles in your genre are tagged as. For instance, for my title, I used some of the following: gay erotica, mm erotica, mm romance, dark erotica. Similar to creating meta-tags for sites, you want to put in genres that you think your audience will write into search engines. Again, the best thing you can do for this part is look and see what others are tagging their titles as. Popular shelf names work, too. By doing this, I found that my title showed up on a variety of lists of "Most Popular" and "Best in" pages because they were tagged similarly, and I'm sure this contributed to some of the sign-ups I got for my giveaway.

3. What Should You Expect?

Though I had a steady stream of signups throughout the giveaway, it definitely peaked in the beginning and at the very end (particularly stronger toward the end). I'm sure that this has a lot to do with how Goodreads set up the giveaways and how people are more likely to notice it in the new and ending soon giveaway sections.

I want to add a little disclaimer here. I posted Goodreads and Google ads for the contest. This did help me get some sign-ups throughout, but when I signed with Wilde City Press, I pulled my ads, so they in no way affected the major spike that occurred at the very end. I'm fairly sure this is a common occurrence with the giveaways. As I mentioned previously, as your contest comes to an end, your title is listed on the "Ending Soon" page of the Goodreads giveaway, and this seems to get titles noticed.

By the end of the giveaway, I had 551 entries, which I am very happy with. I'm not sure how this stacks up overall, but for the niche that I'm writing in (and the fact that I'm an unknown author), I'd say that's not too bad. I also ended up with over 300 people adding me to their to-read shelves. When I started, I think I was around 120, so it doubled the efforts that I made outside of the giveaway.

3. What Can You Do To Promote It?

Like I mentioned before, I used Goodreads ads, and those seemed to be very effective. At the same time, Goodreads ads is a skill that must be learned through trial and error. I'll be posting about my experience with that soon, but just know it's all about getting a good CTR in the early stages. If an ad doesn't take off right away, change your approach ASAP and try again. You learn as you go, and with all PPC advertising, it's all about rapid adaptation.

Outside of Goodreads, obviously you should use any social media platform you can to promote the giveaway. Ultimately, I think the in-house Goodreads promotion that giveaways offer provided me with more promotion than anything that I was able to accomplish through my ads or social media.

4. Overall?

An excellent experience. Again, I can't say how this all adds up in terms of sales, but when you're an indie author, you really have to take exposure where you can get it. A little press is better than no press, and the cost of a giveaway is minimal compared to the cost of PPC advertising.

As I mentioned researching previous posts on Goodreads giveaways, I thought it was only fair to include some of these resources here:

Annie Daylon's Giveaway
Promoting Your Book Through a Goodreads Giveaway

Feel free to ask any questions about Goodreads giveaways. I won't have all the answers, but I'm willing to share anything I've learned in my experience.