With 18M members and growing, authors ignore Goodreads at the peril of their own books. At this year’s BookExpo America, Patrick Brown, Director of Author Marketing for Goodreads, offered advice on how to make this accessible and fun platform work for you. Here are some of his best insights and tips, combined with a few of my own, to help you sell more books using Goodreads.
(FYI, you’d need at least $5,000 per month to work directly with Goodreads’ author marketing team, but Brown suggested those authors wishing to hire pro help should look into Author Buzz as a good alternative for smaller budgets.)
Know Your Goal
As with any effective marketing campaign, you must know your goal before you can plan a good strategy for achieving it, let alone measure your results. When marketing a book on Goodreads, your primary goal isn’t to sell books, since members don’t purchase books directly on this platform. Instead, your primary goal is discoverability.
Brown suggested that the key to a successful Goodreads campaign is to accumulate reviews, especially early in a book’s life. Why? Because the more reviews you get, the more you:
- help readers discover your book (they will see their friends adding it to their shelves, noting they’ve read it, and posting reviews in the News Feed or notifications—this is “social discoverability”)
- get people to read your book (as with any review-driven service, good reviews encourage potential readers to take a chance on your book, esp. important if you’re a new author)
- encourage visibility, and thus discoverability, for your book beyond Goodreads (the platform integrates with several social media engines such as your blog, Facebook, and Twitter, so Goodreads activity regarding your book becomes visible to readers’ Friends and Followers as well). As Brown says, “What happens on Goodreads doesn’t stay on Goodreads, and that’s a good thing!”
Kickstart Your Discoverability Process with Giveaways
Everybody likes to win free stuff, and readers are no exception. Authors who have tested the Goodreads Giveaways program seem overwhelmingly pleased with their results, if a quick Internet search is to be believed. And it’s free for you, too! So why not run your own giveaway?
One drawback is that the program only accepts print books right now, though it is exploring ways to include digital titles as well. For those of you self-publishing, the exposure a giveaway provides could be worth the money spent on inexpensive POD editions. (With POD thresholds so low, why wouldn’t you make a print version available? The ebook market grows every day, but still less than 5% of U.S. book buyers are reading digital books exclusively according to a recent study by Bookboon)
Brown strongly encourages authors to run their giveaways pre-pub and at publication for a powerful one-two punch. The trick here is that during pre-pub giveaways, the people who added your book to their “to-read” shelf will automatically receive an email from Goodreads announcing the book’s publication.
The more books you give away, the more your to-read adds multiply. But don’t just give away a bunch of books at once, suggests Emlyn Chand of Novel Publicity & Co. (read her full post on Goodreads giveaways for more great tips and insights) Instead, give away one at a time but run multiple giveaways to boost the overall number of readers exposed to your book.
Best Practices for Giveaways
One of the secrets to a successful Goodreads Giveaway is to carefully build anticipation and awareness. For Tracey Graves’ novel Covet, Brown’s team offered an early cover reveal with the announcement that if 1,000 people added the book to their to-read shelves in one week, the publisher would release the first three chapters of the novel. This promise prompted 829 people to add the book to their to-read shelves in just one day, and three months prior to publication 5,500+ people had added it thanks to the revealed chapters, with more doing so every day.
In an example of an on-pub giveaway effort, Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life garnered 1,500 adds to members’ to-read shelves after seeing their friends do it (social discoverability) while another 1,350 added it after receiving recommendations from friends or seeing their friends rate the book (and much of these early recommenders and reviewers either won free copies of the book or heard about it through the giveaway).
Study other giveaways to learn what’s working and what you might want to adapt to suit your needs. You can peek under the hood of any book by clicking on “stats” over on the right-hand side of any book’s profile page.
Other Tips for a Great Giveaway
- make sure your author profile is fully fleshed out with engaging copy
- start early (Brown recommends 3-6 months pre-pub)
- give it time (Brown recommends at least one month, though Emlyn Chand makes a good case for much shorter giveaways in her post on the subject)
- offer more books to get more reviews (approx 50% of readers will follow through with posted reviews)
- run multiple giveaways (as noted previously, consider running at least two, one pre-pub and another at launch, and consider running a new giveaway for each free copy rather than offering multiple copies during one giveaway)
- mobilize your existing fan base to help promote giveaways (Goodreads offers special widgets you can put on your blog and other profiles to help get the word out)
- take advantage of the helpful tips and tools offered through the Goodreads Author Program
For more information check out:
Have you tried running a Goodreads Giveaway? What did, or didn’t, work for your book?
Note: This is the second installment in my series, BEA 2013: What I Learned and Why You Should Go. To read the introduction and other posts in this series, click here.
Founder of The Writer’s Ally, Ally E. Machate is a bestselling book collaborator, award-winning editor, and expert publishing consultant who loves using her insider knowledge and experience with the publishing industry to lead serious authors toward success. She and her team live to help make great books happen, whether that means showing a writer how to improve a manuscript, get an agent, or self-publish; or coaching an author on growing her platform to sell more books. Since 1999, she has supported hundreds of authors on their publishing journey and takes pride in serving as their books’ best ally.