How to Hold a Successful Goodreads Giveaway

While working on “The Fall: Tales From the Apocalypse,” I met South African author, Judy Croome. When “The Fall” was released, she rocked a Goodreads giveaway, getting “The Fall” added to many Goodreads reader’s shelves. Curious about the ins and outs of holding Goodreads giveaways as well as the Goodreads ad she ran at the same time, I asked Judy to share her knowledge with the readers of The Helpful Writer.

Judy didn’t disappoint! She shared so much helpful information that I’ve broken her interview into two parts. Today’s post covers successful Goodreads giveaway tips for authors and next week’s post (part 2) will cover tips on holding a Goodreads ad–and if you are like me and thinking a Goodreads ad would be a waste of time and money, you’ll definitely want to read what she has to say on them. She’s changed my mind!

Interview with Author Judy Croome on Goodreads Giveaways

The Fall: Tales From the ApocalypseThe Helpful Writer (Jean): In December you held a Goodreads giveaway for the book “The Fall: Tales From the Apocalypse” which includes your compelling short story The Last Sacrifice. Why did you decide to host a giveaway on Goodreads?

Judy: Of all the marketing strategies I’ve used since 2011 when I first independently published my work, I found giveaways the most effective form of branding. Like any marketing, it’s impossible to directly link sales to a specific promotion, but I have two goals for any giveaway I do:

1.  Get my writing out into the wide world.

2.  Get the book listed on people’s bookshelves on Goodreads.

Both goals are aimed at reaching new readers and promoting awareness of my author brand “Judy Croome.” Any book sales and any reviews that flow from that I consider a bonus!

So, when “The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse” was published, I decided a giveaway was the best route to go to create awareness of both the book and my author brand.

What surprised you most about your giveaway on Goodreads?

The giveaway for “The Fall” was my fourth Goodreads giveaway, so there weren’t too many surprises, although the high interest in apocalyptic fiction versus the other giveaways (spiritual fiction, poetry) did make me blink!  This giveaway ran for half the period of my other giveaways and had nearly the same number of entrants.

Note from Jean: The giveaway for “The Fall” was also ‘advertised’ via widget by some of the contributing author’s blogs which could account for added giveaway visibility.

What disappointed you about your Goodreads giveaway?

No marketing strategy is perfect and giveaways are no exception. What’s disappointed me the most about all the giveaways I’ve run – whether on Goodreads or a similar book reading site – is what I call the “lottery-effect.”

When you approach an individual book review blog, you can identify whether the blogger is interested in your type of story. With the reader sites giveaways, however, everybody and his dog can enter your giveaway, and you have no way of controlling whether the books you giveaway have reached the “Right Reader.”

And, of course, if your book lands in the lap of someone who hates that genre, you’re bound to get a bad review or no review.  For example, after one of my early giveaways, I received an aggrieved email from a reader complaining that she entered the giveaway because she liked the picture on the cover, but didn’t like the story. Now, in my giveaway description, I made it as clear as possible what the story was about – but clearly this giveaway winner hadn’t read the blurb before entering.

In a giveaway, how do you stop your free books going to the “Wrong Reader?” Well, like a lottery, you can only buy a ticket and hope for the best. It’s the same with giveaways. You give away x number of books and hope they reach the right reader – one who enjoys your book AND who’ll post a review.

That’s another disappointment. Readers enter the giveaway knowing that the author requests a review in return. Goodreads readers are by far the most conscientious readers when it comes to completing reviews and/or ratings of books they receive free (I no longer do giveaways on any other reader sites because the reviews received/books given away ratio is not viable). However, despite the 2010 Goodreads article claiming a “typical 45%” review rate, the number of reviews received for any books I’ve given away on Goodreads is around 20%; on other reader sites the ratio is much smaller.

To get a significant number of reviews, one has to give away a lot of books – and Goodreads only allows giveaways of paper books. So it’s an expensive exercise, but still the most cost effective marketing strategy for me.

Do you believe the Goodreads giveaway helped boost sales for “The Fall” as well as create title visibility?

Unfortunately, there are very few ways that you can directly track sales from advertising, which is more about repetition and creating familiarity through that repetition than it is about direct sales.

I’ve had debates about whether “freebies” kill sales or not. There’s a train of thought that says, for example, a potential buyer may enter the giveaway and decide not to buy until she sees whether she’s won or not – by the time the giveaway is over, the potential buyer may have forgotten the book.

As my purpose in running giveaways is strictly for branding/visibility purposes, I’m content to carry on with giveaways as my main advertising tool. Somehow, I feel it’s more ethical to give a book away (with no expectation of anything – not even a review – in return) than it is to participate in some of the marketing strategies I used very early in the game when I didn’t really know what I was doing as an independent publisher.

Giveaways get my name and my writing out into a very tough and competitive world. As a bonus, I may get a few reviews (even bad reviews are good!) and I count every person who enters the giveaway and adds my book to their Goodreads bookshelf as a success, because the more bookshelves a book appears on, the sooner the Goodreads rating algorithms take effect.

Do you have any tips for authors who want to hold Goodreads giveaways?

After four Goodreads giveaways, the best tips I can give an author new to giveaways are:

 1.  Play around with your ad campaign first. [Note from Jean: More on ad campaigns from Judy next week!] Get your targeting right and then do your giveaway.

2.   The more you give, the more you get. If you only give away a 1-5 books, you won’t get many reviews. I usually give away between 20 -30 books per giveaway.

3.   Run your giveaway for a decent length of time. I got the best results for the giveaways that ran for 4 weeks.

4.  If you want to do more than one giveaway of the same book, make sure the different giveaways don’t start and end on the same day. It takes a week or so for the winners to be notified so, if you start your second giveaway too close to the first one, readers who did not win in the first giveaway may think they’ve already entered, not realising it’s a new giveaway.

5.   Be sure to use the giveaway widget Goodreads provides on your blog, website and Facebook to spread the word about your giveaway.

6.   If you’ve written a series, give away #1 in the series and make sure the entrants know that all winners will receive only that particular book.

What mistakes have you seen other authors make on Goodreads (or other similar sites)? How do you feel those can be avoided?

I can’t talk for other authors, but the mistakes I made on my previous giveaways have included:

1.   Opening up the giveaway to all countries, instead of targeting a few countries such as the US, Canada and UK (the postage to mail the books out to obscure corners of the world was an enormous expense!).

2.   Impatience – I wanted instant results, but there’s a time lag for the giveaway effect to kick in.

3.   I contacted winners of the giveaways, and discovered later that Goodreads discourages authors from contacting giveaway winners and readers who entered, but didn’t win. Apparently, readers find an author “pushy” when contacted directly. That’s counter-productive – the reader may feel so pressurised that they end up either not reading the book or giving a more critical review than they normally would have.

4.   Not running the ad at the same time as the giveaway.

5.   Not setting up the ad properly.

Overall, the benefits of the Goodreads giveaways (branding, visibility and a few “real” reviews) are worth the cost and time. If you decide to run your own Goodreads campaign, good luck and may the reviews all be good!

A big thank you to Judy for sharing her knowledge and experience on Goodreads giveaways. Be sure to thank Judy by checking out her awesome, thought-provoking story The Last Sacrifice in “The Fall: Tales From the Apocalypse” as well as her award-winning books (see below). And if you have held or entered a giveaway on Goodreads and want to share your thoughts and experiences, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

As well, be sure to sign up to get The Helpful Writer posts delivered straight to your inbox (see the signup (“subscribe”) up on the right hand side (you can unsubscribe at any time)–or below if you are on a mobile device) so you don’t miss part 2 of this interview with Judy Croome. Thanks for reading!


Judy Croome lives and writes in Johannesburg, South Africa. Shortlisted in the African Writing Flash Fiction 2011 competition, Judy’s short stories and poems have appeared in various magazines and anthologies. Her books “a Lamp at Midday” (2012) and “Dancing in the Shadows of Love” (2011) are available. Judy loves cats, exploring the meaning of life, chocolate, cats, rainy days, ancient churches with their ancient graveyards, cats, meditation and solitude. Oh, and cats. Judy loves cats (who already appear to have discovered the meaning of life).

You can join Judy on Goodreads or on Twitter under @judy_croome

Judy Croome's books

Tweet this post –> Tips on How to Hold a Successful Goodreads Giveaway for #authors by @Judy_Croome on The Helpful Writer ~ @jeanoram

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9 comments on “How to Hold a Successful Goodreads Giveaway
  1. Jemi Fraser says:

    Great information Judy – thanks for sharing. I have another blog buddy who also found a Goodreads giveaway combined with an ad to be a very good marketing strategy. Definitely something I’ll look into! Thanks :)

  2. Great tips. I’ll have to try these out myself on our next anthology!

  3. Thanks Jemi & Matt. As you can gather. I’m a great fan of Goodreads giveaways! :)

    • brucearthurs says:

      I’ve won about eight books in Goodreads and giveaways over the last year. I keep them in a separate TBR stack from all the other TBR books I have. (Lots. I’ve always tended to buy more books than I have time to read, and I’ve been buying books for more than forty years.) I’ve read… two, so far. Still intend to read, or at least dip into, all of them. Realistically, though, it’ll probably be at least another year or two before I’ve looked at the complete stack. TBR priorities and precedence shift continuously. (I have one book that been in my TBR stack since 1972. Yes, really.)

      The three top things that make me want to enter a giveaway are: cover, title, and blurb. (Occasionally, an author’s prior reputation, or previous experience reading their work.)

      The blurbs are where giveaways most frequently make me lose interest. Biggest pet peeves:

      1) Blurbs that say “I’m giving away a copy of my book!” and nothing at all about story or plot or anything else.

      2) Blurbs that say “[number] five-star reviews on Amazon!” Considering how many five-star reviews on Amazon seem to be written by friends, family and (according to some reports) by people paid to post enthusiastic reviews, Amazon reviews have pretty much zero positive impact, and a fair measure of negative impact, on whether I’ll want to read a book. Amazon reviews are meaningless. (I’m being a little harsh. I’ve seen some reviews by individuals who actually seem to have read a book and written a genuine and intelligent review of it.)

      Basically, if an author can’t write an effective blurb, I’m probably going to think they can’t write an effective book either.

      • jeanoram says:

        FABulous feedback, Bruce. Thank you for weighing in.

        How big is your TBR pile? Probably pretty big. And 1972! Love it. 😀 Let’s hope the book is worth the wait. Ha ha.

        Very good points about the blurb and cover being so important in a giveaway as well as the title. And are authors really saying “I’m giving away a copy of my book!” and that’s all? Oh nooooooo! They need to read your comment ASAP!

        Thanks again for your input, the 5 star thing has me thinking. I’ve used it for sales here and there and have wondered if it is effective.

  4. #JORauthor says:

    This article was very helpful and encouraging.

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