Back in Summer of 2016, when A Confession first came out, I was in full-on marketing and promotion mode. As a professional marketer for my “day job,” online marketing is pretty second-nature to me, but promoting a book (much less my own book) was a whole different game than the larger brand promotion I had been accustomed to. So, I did my research on ways to get in front of potential readers – including learning how important it is to just get the book into the hands of people and try to get some reviews so you can get some “social proof” that your book is worth paying for.
I’m a pretty heavy user of Goodreads, and as such, know it’s a place where lots of other readers like me like to hang out, manage their reading lists, share reviews, etc. Since a major rule in marketing is “go where your customers are” it seemed to me that running a promotion on Goodreads would be a wise choice.
I ran a “Goodreads Giveaway” of twenty signed copies of A Confession. During the campaign I was pretty happy with the results I was seeing. By the time it was over, 617 people had entered to win and about 250 people had added it to their “to read” list. Pretty great awareness, right? Especially since my only cost was the books, the stationery for the personal hand-typed notes I included to each winner, envelopes and postage.
The problem is, even two years later, not a single one of the winners has actually marked the book as “read” or left a review.” None of the people who marked it “to read” have read it either. My goal of getting the book out there worked. I did get it out there. But what I didn’t do was get it into the hands of people who would actually read it.
As a marketer, I mark this one a failed campaign. Sure, I learned along the way, and I can share that experience with you here … and all-in-all it wasn’t a huge investment, but I do wish that instead of buying and sending copies to people who it seems really didn’t want them I’d instead sent them to people who I know or reach out directly to me.
Here’s my theory on why it didn’t work:
Goodreads runs a LOT of these giveaways, a ton of people use Goodreads, and people generally like to get free stuff. The problem with free is since there’s no investment by the consumer there’s little reason to actually follow through and read the book. I’ve had similar experiences with free digital books. If it’s free, you might get a lot of “interest” but it’s mostly passive.
Now there’s always a chance that some of those people will read the book. They might even leave some reviews. There’s even a chance that one of the people I sent it to will be a person with a ton of Goodreads followers (what’s called an “influencer” in the marketing world) and leave a great review that catapults me to the top of the best-seller lists. But it’s pretty unlikely.
Do I Recommend a Goodreads Giveaway?
Short answer? No. Don’t bother with a Goodreads giveaway unless you already have a reader base, and you want to run a contest for them. Use it as a platform, but not to build awareness for new potential readers. It’s a great little system they have – very easy to use … but use it for a giveaway if you don’t feel like building a giveaway on your own.
I should also note that since I ran this giveaway, Goodreads has changed their giveaway system to no longer allow anyone to run a giveaway for free. You now must pay to run one. While it is entirely possible Goodreads giveaways are more successful now that there are less of them (due to the cost), based on my previous experiences with these giveaways in the past, I still cannot recommend them.
How Should You Run a Giveaway?
My recommendation is to run these on your own, through your social media, website, email or other channels you use to connect with readers. If you’re going to give your books away, give them to people who will appreciate them and read them.
Otherwise you’re just throwing money away targeting customers who are not very likely to be your target audience anyway.