My experience with a Goodreads Giveaway

I’ve just completed my first ‘Goodreads Giveaway’. My experience may be of interest to new indie authors who are looking for ways of marketing their books.

Goodreads.com is an Amazon-related site for both readers and writers. Giveaways, which are only for printed books and not for ebooks, work like a lottery. The author undertakes to send out a certain number of copies, interested readers apply to receive one, and the winners are selected by Goodreads. It is up to the author to choose how many copies to offer, how long to run the promotion, and which countries of the world to include.

I did a week-long promotion, offering five copies of my novella Carmen’s Roses to readers in the US or UK. I was pleased to find that about 500 people entered the draw, and about 250 added my book to their ‘want to read’ shelf. My book is a print on demand title, published through CreateSpace. I sent out the books to the winners as ‘gifts’ from the Amazon website, because this was a faster and cheaper option than having them shipped to my home in New Zealand and then shipping them back to America. One of the winners has already posted a 5-star review, and seven paid copies of the book were ordered during the promotion period – hopefully there are more reviews and sales to come.

This venture has not made any financial profit so far, and I have realised in retrospect that I would probably have got just as many entries if I had offered just one copy instead of five. However, although I tend to be phobic about marketing, I found it quite interesting and enjoyable. It has provided some free advertising and, because I am able to view the profiles of the people who requested my book, given me access to demographic information which may be useful for targeting any future marketing campaigns.

I know that other authors have reported different outcomes from their free promotions – some much better than mine and others much worse. My own results have confirmed what is probably obvious, that the easiest way to reach a large readership is to offer free books, but that free promotions do not necessarily lead on to more paid sales. This is also what I have found when running free promotions of ebooks on Smashwords and on Amazon kdp. Although for reasons discussed in a previous post I am still reluctant to make all my work free, I have just started another Goodreads Giveaway of my novella, which is set in New Zealand, for local readers. This will obviously attract less interest, because New Zealand has only a small population and Goodreads is not so well known here, so anyone who enters should have a high chance of winning! For details, click here.

Judging a book by its cover

Although it may be true that ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’, it is often just a split-second glance at the cover image which decides a potential reader whether or not to look inside.

A good cover is one that immediately attracts attention of an appropriate kind. ‘A picture tells a thousand words’ but these may be different words for different people. This is illustrated by the so-called ‘Gestalt’ images which can be seen in two ways: a face or a vase, a young woman or an old witch. Elsewhere I’ve described a bad experience when I showed a picture of a trapeze artist during one of my talks; this was intended to represent courage and joy, but one member of the audience thought it was a woman hanging herself.

Does your chosen cover image accord with the content of the book, and convey the corresponding mood of adventure, mystery, romance or relaxation? Colours are important, and all colours have psychological qualities, which can be modified by the shades and combinations chosen. Red, orange and yellow are usually stimulating; green, pinks and blue are calming; violet and indigo are spiritual. Cultural background affects the interpretation, for example in my own European tradition the colour of mourning is black, but in various other parts of the world it is white, purple, yellow, blue or grey. 

The lettering on the book cover needs to be reasonably large and clear, otherwise the title and the name of the author will not be legible from the thumbnail image often used on computer screens.

The cover image for the ebook version of my recent book Persons not diseases on Smashwords was designed with professional help. I was pleased with it, but when it came to self-publishing the same book in paperback on Amazon CreateSpace – the first time I had used this system – uploading the existing image was beyond my limited computing skills, so I opted for making a brand new one with the easy-to-use templates provided. The two covers are completely different – personally I like them both, but would be interested in readers’ comments about which they prefer. You can view the Smashwords one here and the Amazon one here.