Do Goodreads Giveaways Work?

Goodreads is essentially a social media website for readers. Its stated mission? “To help people find and share books they love.” This April, Goodreads announced that 50 million reviews of books had been posted by users on the site. There’s no doubt that many, many readers frequent Goodreads and that many authors hope to catch the attention of some of those readers.

Goodreads landing page

One of the aids to discoverability offered by Goodreads is its giveaway program.

The author or editor or publisher of a book lists the title in the GR giveaway program, specifying the dates during which the book will be offered, the number of copies to be given away, and which nationalities are eligible to participate. Goodreads chooses the winners. Then the author (or editor or publisher) mails the paperback books.

I first tried the program in 2013 with my novel Troll-magic.

I followed the GR recommendation that I give away 10 copies and that I let the giveaway run for a month, from March 1 to April 1 in this instance. I limited the countries to the US, the UK, and Canada, because I was concerned about shipping costs.

As it turned out, US shipping averaged $4 per book, the UK $5 per book, and Canada $7 per book. I sent each copy directly from CreateSpace. International shipping from the US has become more expensive now than it was back in 2013, so how you get the books to the giveaway winners is even more important. I suspect CreateSpace mails each book from the plant nearest to the specified address and thus gets the cheapest shipping rate possible.

Just last month, when I attempted to mail a brand new copy of Quantum Zoo sitting on my shelf at home to a reader in the UK, I was shocked to learn it would cost me $24 or more! I quickly reverted to sending the book directly from CreateSpace.

thumbnail imageSo how did my first giveaway turn out?

March 1 – April 1, 2013
Sign-ups: 580
# put on GR to-read list: 239
Reviews: 2
Money spent: ~$112

I wasn’t impressed.

At the time, Troll-magic had been out for 14 months. When it first released, about ten of my family and friends bought and read it. After that it sold one or two copies a month. It seemed fairly clear that the book was largely invisible, readers who might like it stumbling upon it by sheer chance.

What I wanted to do was advertise Troll-magic in one of the newsletters then available, such as Pixel of Ink or Ereader News Today. But in order to be accepted by such advertisers, my book needed reviews. Most readers do not write reviews. I’ve heard rates ranging from one reader out of a hundred to one reader out of a thousand who will do so. But no matter where the truth might lie, my book was not selling enough copies to garner reviews.

The Goodreads giveaway guidelines state that the average giveaway book receives six reviews for every ten copies given away. They caution that this is an average. Each title will perform differently.

Troll-magic received only two, and their substance was not in the least helpful. One winner’s review was merely a note explaining that she was too busy to read at that moment, but that she planned to bring Troll-magic on her next vacation and maybe read it then. The other winner said that Troll-magic had too many point-of-view characters for her taste. (It has five.)

I did notice that the book sold 5 copies in April, instead of its usual 1 or 2. But I was not convinced the increase was due to the giveaway. I’d tinkered with the book’s keywords. The increase could well be due to that change. I’d also joined a writers’ group that focused on marketing. There were five of us in the group, and the other members were reading Troll-magic in April. I figured 4 of the 5 sales were my fellow writers buying their copy to read.

However, the GR guidelines were talking about averages. With reason. The tire is always going to meet the road in the specific readers who win. And the readers who enter a giveaway will not be as choosy as they might be, if they were spending their own money to buy a book. Some of the readers signing up would be people whose reading tastes are such that they will never like any of my work. Some of the winners could be readers who will never like my work. If I’m really unlucky, all of the winners might be such people!

I decided I would try another giveaway with a different book.

Sarvet cover image, 150 pxSarvet’s Wanderyar
August 31 – September 30, 2013
Sign-ups: 384
TBR list: 149
Reviews: 6
Money spent: ~$70

These were better results! Six reviews, and all of them positive: one 3-star rating (I liked it!) and five 4-star ratings (I liked it a lot!).

The substance was better too.

“I loved this book and recommend it to everyone…” a cup of coffee and a fairytale    “Short and sweet and easy to read.” Nadhirrah    “I enjoyed the author’s style, and how she successfully wove together a brief story that did not sacrifice depth and detail.” Tyler    “Wonderful tale of coming to age…” Jay    “…quite engaging. Sarvet’s Wanderyar is a bildungsroman that depicts a girl’s transformation from an innocent and fearful child to a wide-eyed and open woman.” Shelby Rollenhagen

I’m not sure I noticed that in the month following the giveaway, Sarvet’s Wanderyar sold 5 copies instead of its usual 1 or 2. Since I spent $70 to purchase and mail 10 copies to giveaway winners, and those 5 copies sold (at $2.99 each, with Amazon keeping its 30%) netted me only $10.46, the giveaway was not a cost-effective way to advertise. But I note the increase now. At the time, I remained focused on gathering honest reviews.

Because the results of the Sarvet and the Troll-magic giveaways were so different, it seemed clear that one could not depend on any one giveaway. The sensible thing to do would be running a series of them. I decided to run giveaways for each of the novels and novellas that I had published.
Navarys cover 150 px

Skies of Navarys
November 25 – December 20, 2013
Sign-ups: 509
TBR list: 187
Reviews: 2
Money spent: ~$70
2014 sales rate: ~1 per month
JAN sales: 0

“The characters are realistic thirteen years old with all their curiosity, doubts, amiability and daring in the face of adversity.” Wendy     “The plot of this novel was more action driven than character driven.” Lyle Appleyard  (Note the opposite reader reactions!)

thumbnail image of cover
The Troll’s Belt
January 13 – February 8, 2014
Sign-ups: 597
TBR list: 207
Reviews: 6
Money spent: ~$70
2014 sales rate: ~1 every 2 months
FEB sales: 3

“Different take on an old classic. Enjoyed thoroughly.” Shelia    “Wow… It was a really good read.” Emilia    “There were a lot of loose ends left.” Bob Stuhlsatz     “The part of the story I enjoyed the most was…about finding courage to get yourself out of a situation that seems hopeless.” Deanna Lenz    “…a good book that I’ll be holding on to to read to/give to my son when he’s older.” Bel

Livli's Gift, 150 px cover
Livli’s Gift
February 17 – March 22, 2014
Sign-ups: 848
TBR list: 332
Reviews: 4
Money spent: ~$90
2014 sales rate: ~3 every 2 months
APR sales: 3

“…the novel was beautifully written.” Eva     “It was truly a trip reading Livil’s Gift. Especially when the character goes into trance…” Jay    “…a good story.” Sabrina Bradley    “I cannot believe how lucky I am to have received this incredible treasure of a novel for free…” Joe

A medieval lady stands in an ancient stone hall
A Knot of Trolls (anthology)
April 14 – May 10, 2014
Sign-ups: 789
TBR list: 295
Reviews: 1
Money spent: ~$95
2014 sales rate: ~1 per month
MAY sales: 2

“I don’t read a ton of high fantasy so I was a little apprehensive to start reading this book. However, I found these stories to be a fun and interesting read. Ney-Grimm has created a fascinating new world rich with details and memorable characters. Very well written, Ney-Grimm paints a vivid world full of magic.” Alisha

A goddess of ancient times under a volcanic sunDevouring Light
June 30 – July 26, 2014
Sign-ups: 599
TBR list: 238
Reviews: 1
Money spent: ~$85
2014 sales rate: ~3 every 4 months
AUG sales: 2

“Pretty accurate understanding of astrology… Hades: I have a real problem with people always portraying him in an ‘evil’ light; as far as gods go he was actually pretty nice.” Jodi

(Okay… the reader is always right about her experience. Yes. But this is my blog, so… my novella Devouring Light has nothing to do with astrology; it is inspired by mythology and the ancient Greek cosmological model of the celestial spheres. I portray Hades as a complex character, not an evil one. Just sayin’.) 😀
thumbnail cover image
Perilous Chance
August 18 – September 19, 2014
Sign-ups: 859
TBR list: 351
Reviews: 2
Money spent: ~$75
2014 sales rate: ~3 every 2 months
SEPT sales: 4

“…lovely fantasies …quite enjoyable …great characters… Thank you.” Vykki    “It was almost poetry-like. That threw me off a little bit and caused me to not enjoy it that much.” Tyler Knight  (Ah. Not fond of lyrical prose!) 😉

At this point I’d run 8 giveaways, spent ~$665, and had seen only 1 or 2 reviews for the last 4 giveaways. It was time to assess my overall results.

My first thought? Goodreads giveaways are awfully expensive for the results they generate! I can’t afford to carry on in this way!

Looking at the average numbers… $84 spent per giveaway, 645 sign-ups per, 250 TBR, 3 reviews generated per, I decided I was done with giveaways.

There the matter lay for nearly a year and a half. “But, but, but…” as Ian Fleming writes in the delightful book (not movie) Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.

QZ spine photo 600 px

I had 8 lovely, brand new copies of Quantum Zoo sitting on my bookshelves, because I’d wanted to see a pile of them all in one place and I’d been convinced I would give many copies as gifts the previous Christmas. (I gave two of the ten I’d ordered. Ha!) 😀

And then I heard several indie authors say that the optimum number of copies for a GR giveaway was one or two, not ten.

What if I tried a 2-copy giveaway for Quantum Zoo? I’d already paid for the books. Even if both winners lived in Canada, I’d need to spend only $14 to learn how a 2-copy giveaway performed.

I set it up. And then, in a burst of enthusiasm, I set up 2-copy giveaways for Hunting Wild and Caught in Amber as well.

So, how did they go?

First, let me say that I was ill-informed about international postal rates here in the US. The last time I’d mailed a gift to a friend who lived across the Atlantic, the shipping rates were reasonable. Apparently that changed sometime in 2015. As it chanced, one QZ winner lived in Canada, the other in Britain. I would need to spend $24 each in order to get the books to the winners, for a total of nearly $50. No way! I quickly reverted to my old standby of sending them direct from CreateSpace, but it meant I spent ~$24 (for books and postage) instead of the $14 I’d estimated.

Quantum Zoo thumbnail size coverBut what about sign-ups and TBR lists and sales?

Quantum Zoo
May 18 – June 17, 2016
Sign-ups: 1205
TBR list: 294 +292 = 586
Reviews: 1
Money spent: ~$24
2016 average sales rank: ~#300,000
JUNE sales rank: #112,624

“5 stars… an interesting collection of stories… through the weird and the wonderful…” Michael

(Quantum Zoo is on my fellow editor’s KDP desktop, not mine, so I don’t have immediate access to sales figures.)
Hunting Wild cover image, 150 px
Hunting Wild
May 17 – June 17, 2016
Sign-ups: 811
TBR list: 315
Reviews: 0
Money spent: $15.47
2016 sales rate: 1 per month
JUNE sales: 1

“This is really well done. I only meant to read a few pages, and looked up a couple hours later when I finished.” Amazon review

Amber cover 150Caught in Amber
May 12 – June 17, 2016
Sign-ups: 1069
TBR list: 428
Reviews: 0 (one 4-star rating)
Money spent: $20.71
2016 sales rate: 3 per month
JUNE sales: 3

“The writer gave herself a difficult challenge with the setup, as for most of the book there is just one character, trying to survive and figure things out. It works. The writing is atmospheric and lyrical…” Amazon review

Obviously the proponents of the 2-copy (or less) giveaway were correct in asserting that it made no difference to the number of sign-ups. The most I’d ever received for a 10-copy giveaway was ~800. Yet both Quantum Zoo and Caught in Amber broke the 1000 mark. Hunting Wild is a novella. It received 811 sign-ups, compared to the ~500 that my other novellas received.

Nor did the fewer copies offered seem to negatively affect the number added to TBR lists, each in the 300 – 400 range.

For making readers aware that a book exists, 2-copy giveaways seem just as effective as 10-copy giveaways.

What about reviews?

Honestly, I’m no longer pursuing reviews. Sure I like receiving them, especially the glowing ones! If a reader were to ask me my preference, I’d say, “Please! Do leave a review! Yes!” But I’ve had the chance to try some of those newsletter ads that have review thresholds, and none were effective.

Glory review image

Most require that the book advertised be on sale for 99¢, which means I’ll make 35¢ for each sale. The ads cost between $15 and $40 (or more). So I’d have to sell from 43 to 115 copies in order to break even. I don’t. So far, the best a newsletter ad has done for me is 8 copies sold – nowhere near good enough.

I’ve come to the conclusion that most of my audience are not finding their next good book from such places. I’m not myself.

Oh, I tried the newsletters as a reader for several months. And I regretted buying (and reading) the few books that caught my attention. Maybe that makes me a cranky old cow, but I don’t think so. I suspect that not many writers are writing the type of book I enjoy, and those that are do not advertise on Ereader News Today, etc.

Furthermore, I’m guessing that readers of J.M. Ney-Grimm books are also not able to find a lot in the newsletters that appeal to them.

Now that I have the ability to buy spots in the newsletters, I’m no longer very interested in doing so. Wouldn’t you know! 😀

However, I’m reconsidering the proper purpose of GR giveaways and whether they might be useful for overall discoverability. As I prepared to write this post, I did a little digging online (again) for what other authors had to say about giveaways, and I found a very interesting post by Catherine Ryan Howard. She agrees with two of the conclusions I’ve come to: 1) don’t use GR giveaways to get reviews, and 2) don’t give away 10 copies at a time.

I wish I’d encountered her advice before I did all my expensive experimenting! Although she wrote it just as I was starting my last 10-copy giveaway, so… too little, too late? 😀

But I’m wondering if a 1-copy giveaway might have a place in my launch strategy for new books. Reviewing the effect that giveaways had on my sales, looking at the long term, not the short term, was very interesting.

Up until May 2013, I sold very few books. With each new release, the four friends who’d decided they actually enjoyed reading my fiction would make their purchases. Another handful of strangers would buy their copies. And then the book would settle down to selling very sporadically.

Business for Breakfast, cover imageI was in what Leah Cutter, author of Business for Breakfast, calls the “drips stage.”

You write a novel and publish it.

Somebody buys it. Great! This is a drip. You make another sale that month. Maybe you don’t sell anything the following month. Then you have another sale. … A sale here, a sale there.

She described my experience well.

But in May 2013, something changed for me. I reached what Cutter labels the “trickle stage.” (Cutter calls books “properties” in the quote below, as in “intellectual properties.”)

Everyone who has read your stuff loves it. You continue to write and publish. But your work hasn’t found its audience yet. Drips continue. Then, at some point… you notice a change. A single property may still only have a sale every other month or so. However, this other property is also selling a copy every other month. … Not a single property is selling consistently or well. However, all your properties sell one or two here or there. Suddenly you have a trickle.

That was it exactly.

From the time my first book released in December 2011 through April 2013, I sold in drips. Most months I sold 1 copy of one of my titles. Some months I sold 4 or even 8 copies. Some I sold 0. Once I sold 14 copies! That was exciting! But I never knew what to expect. I hated the “drip stage”!

I won’t claim that “everyone” who read my work loved it; the reviews that appeared were by-and-large positive and one reader who kept a blog posted several glowing reviews on his site. I was encouraged, but eager to reach more readers.

Wanderyar review image

Then, in May 2013, I sold 20 books. From that month onward, my sales stabilized. I averaged 12 sales per month, with a low of 6 and and a high of 33, most often hitting the 9 – 15 range. I had reached Cutter’s trickles stage. And – looking back – I suspect it may have been the Goodreads giveaways that did it.

It couldn’t have been the writers’ group I joined (as I surmised in the immediate wake of the Troll-magic giveaway). There were only five of us, and when the other members read Troll-magic for the purpose of giving me marketing suggestions, only two of them purchased the book. The other two sideloaded it to their ereaders from a file I emailed to them. And after they’d read it, three of the four said, “I don’t usually read this type of fiction, but I liked it anyway.” I seriously doubt they converted to Ney-Grimm fandom. 😀

Sales stats May - June 2013So, where did the sudden and sustained increase in sales come from?

It could have been the keyword changes I made, but I doubt it. Their main use is to determine which categories Amazon places your book in, and which “bestseller” list it will appear on when sufficient copies are sold.

Some writers get a lot of sales when their book appears on a bestseller list, due to the increased visibility. My sales have always worked exactly opposite to this. Some unknown factor will prompt a spurt of sales and pop Troll-magic onto the Norse bestseller list. But once the book is there, the extra visibility does not result in more sales. Instead, the book slowly slides down the rankings and eventually off the list. Until the next time a spurt of sales pops it back onto the list.

That behavior fits with what I suspect about my audience. They don’t get their reading recs from bestseller lists, any more than they do from newsletters.

Which means… that the greater visibility for my books that suddenly arrived May 2013 was caused either by the Goodreads giveaways or by some other unknown factor. There’s no way to know for sure, of course.

But my next step will be trying a 1-copy giveaway. Will it receive as many sign-ups as a 2-copy giveaway? What about additions to TBR lists?

I currently average 20 books sold per month. Would a series of 1-copy giveaways with short, 7-day durations as recommended by Catherine Ryan Howard boost my visibility to the next level (Leah Cutter’s “streams”) the way the first giveaways boosted me from “drips” to “trickles”?

I still have more questions than answers, but I’ve got some new questions. 😀



33 thoughts on “Do Goodreads Giveaways Work?

  1. Fascinating, as usual. You must keep such good records. I don’t keep any – but I don’t have your body of work.

    In fact, sales are so low that if someone says, “I bought your book today,” I know if they’re lying!

    I’ll let you know when I reach the drips stage.

    I tried some of the review groups on GR – and received my first 1* review as punishment for my crime. A second one yielded my only 3* – at least he said he loved the cover.

    So the result has been to lower my overall rating; not a great result.

    Mostly I’m still at the hand-selling stage – after a discussion online, someone might indicate they’re open to reading a review copy. I have only done 1 paper copy – and that one went to a personal contact.

    I’m going back to writing – and trying to find the extra energy to put up some of my short work (need covers), so my Amazon Author Page isn’t so empty.

    I’m an extremely slow writer, and I’m having trouble handling life events and also finding ‘good time’ with my brain on to write.

    Oh, well. I always said I write for myself. It has been nice to find a few people who like my work, and I’ve made such nice online friends.

    It is enough.

    • In fact, sales are so low that if someone says, “I bought your book today,” I know if they’re lying!

      Ha! Given that there are 28 to 31 days in a month, and I sell 20 books per month on average, I have at least 8 to 11 days every month with 0 sales. So… if someone says, “I bought your book today!” on one of those 0 days, I know, too! 😀

      Honestly, Alicia, I think you are at the “drips stage.” You’ve written a fantastic novel – I loved it – and mostly nobody knows about it yet. That’s frustrating. Believe me, I had 17 months (December 2011 – April 2013) of essentially no one knowing that my books existed. I found it supremely frustrating!

      I’ll admit that the next stage – some readers knowing about my books; the “trickles stage” – is more comfortable, although it still has its frustrations. I suspect all the stages do. I think the answer is always to make the writing itself one’s main focus. That’s where the joy is.

      Regarding records: only recently have I felt the need for spreadsheets. I always kept a simple list of my sales from each month, but spreadsheets allow me to see patterns that eluded me before (such as the tiny bump in sales that followed my early GR giveaways). Luckily Amazon keeps a spreadsheet for each and every month from the very first day an author publishes. (Available on one’s KDP desktop.) Since most of my early sales were on Amazon, I was able to reverse engineer my records, now that I want the spreadsheets. I wish I’d kept them from the very beginning myself, because I’d like to be able to see some of those early B&N sales, but it isn’t really a critical gap in my information.

      • Thanks – your continued support has been one of the very bright spots in my writing life. Knowing you’re out there ahead of me (so I can steal your ideas as necessary) is a great gift from God.

        And the information about the KDP desktop records is one I shall pursue – I’ve sold four paper copies (according to Bookscan) since the beginning of time (Dec. 15, 2015) through Amazon, so that’s not likely to affect those records much.

        I’m in maintenance mode on the promotions right now – i.e., whatever happens organically or on its own will have to do.

        I have stuff I need to do – but the writing comes first, and most days that’s all the energy I have.

        I have acquired an assistant – a vastly overqualified friend who is helping dejunk the house in preparation for possible downsizing – and she’s COMPUTER LITERATE! Not only literate, but fast and good – we transferred my domain to the site, and now I don’t have to figure out how to use the other host company! I know how to use WordPress more or less, and now I won’t even have ads (I think).

        She did in ten minutes what I was dreading (and wouldn’t have been a good use of my time, since anything I will never do again isn’t a useful skill). I checked today – it’s done.

        I’m going to use her for the computer skills to help me navigate a few things I need to do – not because I can’t figure them out, but because they are in the same category of ‘not best use of my time.’ A literal gift from God.

        I’ll get there – my job is the part only I can do: writing Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD.

        • Your assistant sounds wonderful. I’m so glad she is removing the not-the-best-use-of-your-time tasks from your shoulders. Yay!

          I’m also delighted to hear that you intend to make NETHERWORLD your focus. You know there are quite a few of us waiting eagerly (but patiently) to read it. 😀

    • I was appalled when I learned how much the price of international postage had risen, especially since I regard any English speaker as a potential member of my audience. And there are English speakers all over the world!

      Goodreads has recently added ebook giveaways to its repertoire, although they charge the person sponsoring the giveaway (author, editor, or publisher) a fee of $100. That’s too pricey for me. The reason I am considering 1-copy giveaways of my paperbacks is because I can do them for $6 – $13.

      • I’m waiting to hear the details for indies. I think you will be able to give away a large number of ebooks for the setup fee.

        Of course a large number of people (~100?) would have to ask for your ebook to make it worth it.

        The world is changing. When I promise to write a review, I either write it, or communicate with the author and explain why I can’t – usually because I don’t like it enough to give it a good review. Life is too short to make the effort to give out bad reviews – there are plenty of people who already do that.

        • I’ve done ebook freebies using Amazon Select for 6 of my titles. As I recall, each racked up between 200 and 500 downloads. The thing is, free is so commonplace these days that many people never get around to reading all those free books sitting on their ereaders. I’m not convinced that Goodreads giveaways for ebooks would be any different. IMO and YMMV. 😀

  2. Your documented results are wonderful, and a similar outcome to my feel for GoodReads. Not worth the time and money. 🙂

    I chased reader reviews very early on but no one was interested because either they did not read SciFi or had too many stories waiting to be read. I gave up on reader reviews, and just kept writing and publishing.

    There was a tipping point sometime after publishing my 15th story, and suddenly my sales began to increase. Note I am wide, never been in KDP Select.
    One story / series would take off in iBooks, another story or series started selling via B&N or Kobo, and another via Smashwords. Yes, I get sales (occasionally) on Smashwords site. 🙂

    I decided that I had moved from drip to trickle.

    And started a Fantasy series which is too new (this year) to see a great take up yet. Still working on it, so hope for more sales when I write and publish books 4 & 5 of the series.. 🙂

    Oh, I export each spreadsheet to an Access database so I can use pivot tables to check for seasonal changes/sales, etc. All fun and games. 🙂

    • It sounds like you might well have moved up from “trickle” to “stream.” Big congrats! Are most of your titles novels? I think the longer works tend to sell in greater numbers. Of my 19 titles, 5 are shorts, 7 are novellas, and only 4 are novels. (One anthology, one collection, and one omnibus comprise the other 3.) I figure I need a few more novels out there before I’ll hit the “stream” stage. 😉

  3. Rough sizes are :
    Broken series (95K, 95K, 79K, 6K, 15K)
    Galaxy Freight Series 6 (10-20K) + Omni
    Sensing Danger series (29K, 31K, 42K) Note: first free
    stand alones (20K, 30K, 56K)
    Fantasy series (42K, 48K, 57K, 3K)
    Non-Fiction (1 only)
    I only have 13 in print, sales are slow for fiction, but the nonfiction is selling a few print copies
    I have hardly any reader reviews, but hope to get some from the free first in series story.

    • Thank you for sharing the details. That is very interesting information! By my count, you’ve got 23 titles, most of them in series, two of the series comprised of novellas, and two comprised of novels. Most indies speak of series as performing well.

      I envision my WIP as the first of a series, although it also forms an installment in my Lodestone Tales. (The thing about the Lodestone Tales is that they follow the lodestones through history, rather than following a character or group of characters. I think readers prefer series anchored by characters. 😀 ) I do have 4 sequels to Sarvet’s Wanderyar planned, all of which will follow Sarvet herself.

      • You might be correct that readers follow characters, not items like lodestones, because a few of my readers ask how my characters are going and what they hope the characters will do in the next story.. 🙂

        I also think my sales increased right after I used DWS blurb writing techniques. I still have to change the blurbs on a few of the older stories. 🙂 And possibly the covers. 🙂

        • I think it is always the characters who draw readers into a story. And my Lodestone Tales are very much about the people who tangle with those ancient artifacts. But each story has a different set of characters. 😀

          Dean’s blurb writing techniques are awesome! My blurbs have improved greatly from his teaching, but I’m still nowhere near as good at the marketing copy as he is. His blurbs make me want to read his stories. Every. Single. Time. My blurbs? Well, clearly they appeal to some readers, thank goodness!

  4. This is great information! Thank you. I’m thinking free is not the way to go for my books, either in eform or otherwise. On the otherwise front, none of mine are in print, so the question is moot.

    • I agree that giving away free ebooks is not an effective tactic. It may have been in the past, but I suspect we simply heard from the outliers for whom it worked and not from the rest for whom it did not.

      I do want to try 1-copy paperback giveaways, especially as part of the launch for a new release.

  5. Just a comment about free: I have NEVER made Pride’s Children free, and never will.

    Therefore, when anyone offers a free download of the ebook for PC, I know for sure, immediately, that they are a pirate site – and Blast them.

    I don’t know if it’s working (I use a beta version of Blasty – they are looking for more beta users), but at least I don’t have to slow down and read every infringing site to see if it’s really a problem. Since I’ve done this over 400 times already (they multiply like flies on…), it’s handy to have a shortcut.

    • I think free promos on Amazon worked in 2011 – 2012 to let readers know about a new book. For some authors. Not so much any more. I think the free ebooks go to hoarders who never actually open and read. I’m still assessing the 2-copy giveaway of paper editions on Goodreads.

      400 pirate sites Blasted! Wow! I don’t worry about pirates giving away free copies of my books – I figure it acts as advertising. But if I ever discover a pirate selling my book illicitly, that’s an entirely different matter!

  6. Thought I’d share some thoughts from someone who regularly browses and enters various Goodreads Giveaways. (I write, too. Short story forthcoming in the December 2016 issue of ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE.)

    I usually get to bed after midnight, so one of the last things I do is refresh the “Recently Listed” Giveaways page and browse the new listings. I usually find two or three books that look interesting enough to enter their Giveaway.

    How often do I win something? On average, about 1 in 120 entries. Approximately one book every two months.

    How often do I review a Giveaway book? *sigh* Not as often as I intend to. I keep my Giveaway winnings in a separate TBR stack from purchased books; some of them have been in that stack for several years. *hangs head* But I’ve reviewed a number of them on my blog and for Goodreads.

    I don’t enter Giveaways just for the free books. I find browsing the daily entries is a good way to get a sense of what’s happening in the indie/self-pub world and what the trends are.

    Things that turn me off from entering a Giveaway:

    — Poor covers. Sometimes “poor cover” means “looks like every other book in the world in that genre”.
    — Information-free blurbs. “I’m giving away a copy of my book!” tells me absolutely nothing about the book itself.
    — Blurbs with grammatical errors.
    — Authors telling me how great their writing is, without convincing me how great the STORY might be.
    — If the words “vampire”, “werewolf”, “shapeshifter” or “zombie” (note: very incomplete list) appear in your blurb, you’ve made the book a hard sell to me, even for free. The indie world is so overflowing with them, you better make damn sure your blurb makes your vampire (etc.) book seem DIFFERENT, seem SPECIAL, seem QUIRKY. That doesn’t happen often.
    — Some writers offer the same books in different Giveaways month after month after month after month. Eventually they just become “clutter” on the computer screen.

    I have to agree that an indie author offering more than one or two copies, or running the Giveaway for more than one or two weeks, doesn’t gain much. If people haven’t noticed your offering in two weeks, running it longer won’t gain you much. Most entries will be in the first few days and last few days of the entry period.

    So, my top-of-the-head thoughts. Best of luck in a tough business.

    • Thanks for the detailed view into the entrant’s side of a giveaway. I’m sure your remarks will be helpful to many of the authors reading this post. 😀 I’m relieved to see that I’ve avoided the faux pas that you list!

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  8. “If people haven’t noticed your offering in two weeks, running it longer won’t gain you much. Most entries will be in the first few days and last few days of the entry period.”

    Very good point about noticing an offering quickly if interested in the genre. 🙂

    Think I will pull my listed instafreebie and price it again on all sites.
    And put the price of my latest novella up from $0.99 to $2.99.
    and let my reading list know about the changes. 🙂

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  11. I’ve done many giveaways for many types of books and they never affect sales. It seems counterintuitive, but most people find books through the Amazon search, so I guess it makes sense. My highest rated books sell the least and my best selling ones have the lowest ratings. Such a weird time to be in self publishing.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Danny. Interesting, indeed, that your bestselling books have the lowest ratings. I tend to think that you know you’ve reached a wider audience than usual, when you get a few low-star reviews/ratings. It means that enough people have seen and purchased that book that a few realize after they’ve read it that it is not to their taste.

  12. Thanks so much for taking the time to describe your marketing efforts in such detail. I’m in the testing phase of marketing two of my books and am going to do a one or two book Goodreads giveaway, as you suggest. Have been running a few test ads on Facebook in order to increase exposure and see what kind of ad works best. Ran one ad on Twitter–results weren’t great. Thanks again for all your help. Best, Rick

    • Good luck with your giveaways! I’ve done a series of one-book giveaways over the past year, and the results are no different from those generated by my two-book giveaways, FYI.

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  14. Thank you for putting all this excellent information out there! Everyone’s experience is different, but it’s really a kindness to let people know how things worked for you.

    I love your Kay Nielsen illustrations!

    • Ellen, I’m so glad you love Kay Nielsen’s work. He deserved more appreciation while he was alive. That’s true of many artists, alas.

      I suspect my experience with GoodReads giveaways may be rather outdated by now. They helped me break out in 2013, but the effect of a giveaway in 2018 is likely to be quite different. Additionally, GoodReads now charges for paperback giveaways (as well as for ebook giveaways), which means that it is more expensive to experiment with one.

  15. Oh well the cost of staging a giveaway on Goodreads is c. £80 I placed my book with five giveaways to USA and Canada, so that will be another £35 postage and. of course, I have to buy the books, say another £25 with postage on the 3rd of the month. So far 540 people have entered the competition, but also not a single copy has been sold on Amazon. On average, if I did sell any books, I would only make about £1 each on them. So I would have to sell at least 40 to break even ! I don’t think it is really worth it, of course it looks good in the ratings but basically you are buying your own book, so it would be cheaper to buy them at the author price and sell them to dealers in second hand books, and you would not lose quite so much money on it. Amazon itself is a pretty dead loss, you cannot elevate your book unless you have sales, and without sales your book sinks into the abyss of over two million books and nobody is going to drill down through 2 million to find your title. Moreover, when I last checked the best sellers Amazon George Orwell’s 1984 was up in the top 10, which was probably just one school or one library renewing its stock. To illustrate just how few books are selling on Amazon, I recently purchased 5 author copies. At the time I was sitting nearly 2,000,000 down the reading list of books. That mere 5 copies lifted my status to 47,000 on the reading list of books. Or to put it another way 1,500,000 had sold less than 5 copies recently.

    • I stopped doing GoodReads giveaways when GoodReads began charging a hefty fee for the service. As you say, the author doing the giveaway must purchase the books to be offered, as will as paying all shipping costs. It can add up to quite a large total, and if one adds the GoodReads fee on top of that…well, I decided that the price tag was too high for me.

      I do think that the first giveaway that I held in 2013 brought my stories to the attention of many readers who otherwise would never have even seen my books. Before that givaway, my books were purchased largely by family and friends. After that giveaway, a lot of people who had never met me and didn’t know I existed bought and read my books. But I doubt if the giveaways after the first really added to my audience.

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