Marketing after a Goodreads Giveaway

4.25"x2.75" Post Card TemplateI have just completed my second Goodreads giveaway. Nearly four hundred Goodreads members entered to win a signed copy of A Gourmet Demise: Murder in South Tampa. My first Goodreads giveaway for My Gentleman Vampire: The Undead Have Style netted nearly nine hundred entrants. I know what you’re thinking. I must have sold tons of books immediately following the contest. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

When a person enters your giveaway you can see all of their profile information. Books read, reviews, friends, the niche groups they belong to, et cetera. The information is transparent and yet protected by specific rules of author/reader interaction. The frustration from this  stipulation is like watching a friend eat a luscious hot fudge sundae in front of you. I am relentless when it comes to lost data. During my post-giveaway review I thought, what can I extract and utilize from this information within the rules and regulations listed under the author guidelines?

In order to offer a giveaway you must be an official Goodreads Author, and have a print version of your book. To set up your Goodreads author page please read this excellent post. You fill out a giveaway form and submit it, detailing the actual offer. For example, I offered two signed copies of my book to readers in the United States, and I let the contest run for one week.

When the time is up you are contacted by Goodreads and they give you the addresses of the people who have won the books. This part of the program is simple. You mail the books and wait for… nothing. The recipients of the books are supposed to provide a review, and often do not.

I understand what branding is, and I understand a wasted marketing opportunity. My problem with this program is that there is a ton of data that authors are not permitted to use in any way, shape, or form.

All those readers who hoped to win a copy of your fabulous book? You can’t thank them for entering. You can’t contact them. You can’t even contact the people who won. If one of the entrants contacts you, you may respond. Otherwise, hands off. Let all those potential fans drift onto the next freebie. Yes, they can mark your book ‘to be read’ and it gains visibility by showing up on their profile, which is a great result. I don’t want the promotional opportunity to end there, and neither should you.

I didn’t know the ‘no contact’ rule at first. I was raised with good manners, and I am accustomed to writing thank-you notes. Without realizing I was breaking a rule, I messaged three people who seemed to have murder mysteries as an interest. A reminder popped up about adhering to author guidelines, and that is when I saw the exact rule.  I was mortified. I am not a spammer.

I spoke with a few other writers and they expressed the same emotions that I was feeling. I was embarrassed by my faux pas, and thoroughly frustrated by the lost potential to connect with people who had expressed an interest in my book. I had stopped my monthly newsletter while finishing Gourmet, and I hoped to start it up again. Several people had asked me why I was no longer sending it. Wouldn’t it be great to add another fifty or one hundred mystery readers to this monthly e-mail?

The fact is Goodreads is a reader site, and although authors are welcomed and accorded privileges like having a blog on their profile page, we are not the core marketing audience. A story I heard was that a few overly aggressive authors spammed the daylights out of their connections and the entrants of their giveaway, and that is why certain rules have been instituted. As usual, a few idiots spoil it for those of us who want to market in a professional manner. You know them—the random connect request followed by the “buy my book” spam. I wish I had a button on my computer to send a low dosage shock through the Internet. Behavior modification is what is needed with these dopes.

I think Goodreads has taken its desire to protect its readers too far. I have made a few wonderful connections with book bloggers. They are thrilled to connect with authors. Perhaps it is the way we approached each other; professionally, and with mutual respect. In fact, the three people I contacted after the Gourmet giveaway were excited to hear from me and we are now connected. There was no issue with my mistake, even though now that I fully understand the rules I will not message any of my entrants.

I would like to be more active on Goodreads, but like all of you my marketing time has to be balanced with writing and the rest of my life. My suggestion to Goodreads is simple, and is one that I believe will serve both the reader and author community. My small suggestion will sell more books, and allow a professional connection between reader and author. It will assist in discoverability, allowing readers to take a chance on literature that they may have been hesitant to try. It will run the entrants of a giveaway through a marketing sieve, clearing away the bargain shoppers from the lovers of a particular genre.

Goodreads should include another standard option to a giveaway, and that is a discount coupon. An entrant would be able to check a box that confirms their interest in receiving a coupon to purchase a copy of the book at a discount should they not win the contest. The manner of delivering the coupon code could be direct communication from the reader to the author, or it could be a special box that the author fills out with the code and the dates it will run. This will not only address the author’s difficulty in following up with the readers, but will perhaps force Amazon to create a system like the Smashwords coupon generator.

I would like to hear your stories with any data you have on a Goodreads giveaway. By sharing our experiences, and perhaps lobbying for a post-giveaway coupon, we can all move toward our ultimate goal: to utilize marketing data and reach the readers of our genre.

Author: L. A. Lewandowski

Lois Lewandowski graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Political Science and French Literature. A passion for life lived well is reflected in her novels, Born to Die-The Montauk Murders, A Gourmet Demise, and My Gentleman Vampire, giving readers a glimpse into the world of the beau monde. Lois lives in Tampa, Florida. Learn more at her lifestyle blog, and her Amazon author page.

44 thoughts on “Marketing after a Goodreads Giveaway”

  1. Lois,

    What about this idea — on the description of the book that you post for the auction you actually list the opportunity you outline, like — for those who enter the contest but do not win,, go to this link ***** for an opportunity to get a coupon for a discount on the book… If for some reason goodreads does not allow this explicit language… then something like — if you don’t win this giveaway, go to this link to discover how you can get a discount on this book…

  2. It seems we are always battling the odds, Lois. I understand the Goodreads stance – I would make it a high dosage shock (not quite fatal) personally for some of those annoying spammers – but there must be a happy medium.

    Nice article, Lois.

    1. Hi TD,
      I don’t want to seriously injure anyone, so I thought a low dosage shock treatment would be the way to go. 🙂
      I gave myself some additional homework after the giveaway and followed a few of the people who signed up for my book. One is a serial contest woman – she signs up for ten books a day. She does read the mystery genre. I think there are many readers on GR who enter tons of contests, and I want to find the mystery fans who’ll actually pay for a book.
      Have a great day.

    1. Good morning,
      My plan is to see how many writers comment here in support of a coupon or other perk for the readers who enter a specific GR giveaway. If I get a positive response I will forward this post to GR and ask them to tell us what language we may use. Maybe we’ll get lucky.
      Thanks for your comment, Anne.

  3. I like that idea, Lois. Oh – and the policy to not contact entrants wasn’t always there. The first time I did a giveaway I emailed the winners directly to thank them and let them know the book was on its way. From that, I developed a nice friendship with one of the winners.

    Like you said, a few spoiled it for the bunch. What happened (according to a post in the feedback forum quite a while back) was that at least one author used the personal information provided to “spam” the winner at the winner’s home address, a massive breach of trust.

    Now I thank entrants and readers on my Goodreads blog, which does tend to pick up more traffic during a giveaway (meaning that hopefully the entrants see my thank you post).

  4. I’ve been very hands-off with both my winners and my didn’t-winners 😉 when I’ve done a Goodreads giveaway. You’re right — it does feel like a lost marketing opportunity. I like your coupon idea, Lois. I might have to try that with my next contest and see whether it will fly. 🙂

    1. Lynne,
      What I’ve noticed is that the specific language seems to be key. If they would simply tell us what we can offer to the “losers” of our giveaways it would help a lot.
      Good luck with your next contest.

  5. Thank you for this cyber-pat-on-the-back, “I’m right there with ‘ya” article 🙂
    How FRUSTRATING are those Giveaways? I like your idea- hope it catches on. I’ve done several Giveaways and had successful numbers, as far as people adding the book to their lists, but no reviews. One time, I gave away ten books, TEN!- and well, can you hear the crickets? I like your idea, as well as Richard Finney’s. Let’s keep our fingers crossed…

    1. Hi Mirta,
      The excitement of a giveaway is like a roller coaster. Seeing all those people add your book and then getting no feedback is cruel.
      I love your board on Pinterest where you have historical aspects of Jewish culture. That is your board, right? It is very interesting. It would be nice to tie that into a giveaway as well. 🙂

  6. LibraryThing’s not much better. I did an ebook giveaway on LibraryThing, gave away forty copies, and received one review. It may not have cost me any sales (since I sincerely doubt any of the forty would have paid money for my book), but the giveaway is basically sold as something it isn’t — books given away in return for reviews. It’s not. It’s just a giveaway. Maybe I was naïve, but I won’t be doing that again.

    1. Good morning,
      I think I’ve looked at the LibraryThing’s site once. I can’t manage all the social media and write.
      Sorry about your lack of feedback. Did you contact LT and let them know that you didn’t get reviews? They should follow up with those readers who took a freebie.
      Thanks for stopping by.

      1. I started using LibraryThing in lieu of Goodreads because I couldn’t figure Goodreads out [wry g]. Also because I found GR extremely unwelcoming; even participating as a reader, not a writer, I got jumped on several times when moderators interpreted what I wrote in comments as breaking rules when I was being very careful not to.

        I wasn’t aware that contacting LT about a lack of reviews was an option (I suspect it is not something they’ll do anything about because they’d be spending all their time badgering readers which would not be in their best interest). I did send a second email out reminding my contest winners about reviews, but that did no good, either.

  7. I have done nothing with Goodreads. Just haven’t been able to figure it out.
    My impression is, they went’ tp pains to make it for readers, rather than for writers, and succeeded. And actually, I have no problem with that. It just doesn’t do many any good when it comes to pimpin myself there.

    1. Hi Lin,

      I like having an author blog on GR, and to have my books appear on another busy site. I find GR a bit difficult to navigate, and I tried to join a couple of reading groups. They seemed to be run by a tight circle of friends, and the first e-book that was recommended was $9.99. I know you agree with me on these price points. I never heard of the author and she was with a small maybe vanity publisher. I’ll pay $4.99 for an e-book.

      I think the site is designed for readers, and I don’t have a problem with that either. But, it would be an added bonus for the reader who truly loves a genre to receive an incentive to follow up on a giveaway and get a book discount.
      Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  8. I would love to learn how to be more proactive on GoodReads. But! I can’t even get those folks to correct Book covers or revised editions. It gets my back list mixed up with my ebooks. Amazon owns GRs but the helpful service just isn’t there as it with Amazon. It’s as if GRs is a step child. As for reviews, I put that little gem that both Crosbie and Gaughran suggest at the end of my books–a gentle plea for a short review and that has kept reviews straggling in. I’ve only been an indie author since June of 2013, so learning how to get visible and get my books noticed is a huge learning curve. It’s been stop and get stuck! As far as momentum. Goodreads has not been on my radar, really. I’m like Linton. I can’t figure it out.

    1. Hi Jackie,
      I had one or two problems on GR that required a librarian’s assistance, and they fixed them quickly. What they won’t fix for me is a mistake I made by reviewing my own first book on a non author profile page. I asked them to take it down and they said they encourage all authors to review their own books. ???

      The two marketing books you mention are both excellent, and it is great that you’re getting reviews. I just started Joanna Penn’s How to Market a Book. I’m looking for a few new ideas.

      IU is a good place to get visibility. And, we all know that the next book sells the ones that preceded it.
      Good luck and stay in touch.

  9. Same here, Lois. I run 5 Giveaways for my books, all very successful from Goodreads standards with over 1000 subscribers each time. In my first giveaway description I had put the wording that if people were interested in the novels—and didn’t win—they could have received a 50% discount coupon from Smashwords. Goodreads forced me to remove the offer before accepting the discount.

    In the second one I entered the information about the possibility to enter my mailing list for new releases with all the caveats of ‘no-spamming’, etc, but also in that case Goodreads forced me to remove all mentions to my personal website and mailing list.

    The only thing a Giveaway does is giving your books more visibility in goodreads and—maybe—be entered in the TBR list.

    I haven’t seen any effect whatsoever on sales following a Giveaway, or too minimal to be noticeable, though I got a few good reviews, 2 5 stars and 4 4 stars from the winners.

    Amazingly, I have more reviews on Goodreads (over 200 in total) than on Amazon and a majority of 4 and 5 stars. The ones that disliked the story on both sites can be counted on the fingers of two hands.

    1. Hi Massimo,

      I agree – the visibility is the tangible result for most authors.

      If you have that many reviews then you have figured out how to use GR. Numbers like that will intrigue readers. Does GR take down reviews like Amazon does? I have never heard anyone report that.

      Thanks for your comment.

  10. Hi Simon,

    Lucky you!

    I think the language is key. For example, I placed a review request at the end of my last book, and Smashwords sent back a ticket because I used the word Amazon. I removed it and everything loaded fine.

    GR could even ad a small box that the reader checks, or doesn’t, when entering the giveaway. After the fact there would be a coupon code sent to the reader privately.

    It occurs to me that one of the reasons that GR would not want to support a coupon is that it is easier to do this on SW. Amazon prefers for something to be gifted. I am surprised that Amazon hasn’t seen this as another opportunity to drive business. They usually are ahead of the game.

    Good luck on your future projects.

  11. A much needed post Lois – I’m sure very reassuring to many others (like myself), who have wondered whether these giveaways are really worthwhile given all the rules that Goodreads impose, that they are not alone!

    I’ve had one or two reviews from each of my giveaways – I’ve done three, offering 5 books each time, but I’m not sure I’ll do more unless the rules are changed. If you look at the profiles of the people who apply they often have thousands of books on their TBR list – that just makes no sense at all because they are probably never going to get round to reading yours even if they do put it on their list….unless they get if for free (and even then I often wonder how many people read the books they get for free). And their ‘friends’ are probably in the same position so seeing your novel pop up on someone else’s TBR feed is not likely to be that big a deal.

    I think in return for entering the giveaway, the reader should either be required to review the book if they win (and if they don’t, taken off the list for future giveaways) or be willing to accept one follow-up message from the author asking whether the reader wants to sign up for future newsletters, etc from the author. (And if the author sends more than that one message without permission from the reader, then they could be refused the chance to do further giveaways.)

    I’ve also done giveaways on Library Thing but haven’t had any reviews at all. I don’t understand how that site is supposed to work – even people who won the books don’t bother to add them to their lists of books.

  12. Hi Mel,

    I was frustrated that sales did not pop a bit after both my giveaways. When I voiced my angst to a few writers I realized I wasn’t alone.

    I like your ideas on the reviews. If authors stop doing the giveaways it will not be in GR’s or their member’s best interest.

    Some people like free. Maybe it is because they read a lot and can’t afford to support their habit. That is the good scenario. The other is that a giveaway on GR is not vetted properly and is a marketing tool that they use at the expense of hopeful authors.

    We’re not asking for a lot. We’ve offered our hard work, and should be given some small, professional way to follow the marketing opportunity. Authors who are willing to follow guidelines should not be penalized because of spammers.

    Thanks for your comments. 🙂

  13. I encountered a situation similar to yours. I did a giveaway for both versions of my poetry book ( 3 each) and got well over 300 entrants for each one. Out of the people who won the books, I have yet to get a review, although they contacted me saying thanking me for the books and that they had received them. This has been many months ago, and it puts a damper on my utilizing Goodreads in the future to do giveaways, or if I do another one, I won’t offer as many books.

    I really think it should be a requirement for someone who has won the book to provide a review of the book, even if it is to say “it’s not my type of book.” I’d rather hear than than to have given out the book but never know how the reader truly felt about it. Any book I receive via giveaway, it just feels natural to give feedback on it, not just as an author but also as a person who loves reading.

    Goodreads definitely needs to adjust this policy in reference to outreach. Like you, I wanted to thank all the others who had entered, but encountered the warning. It just makes it difficult for the author and reader to really connect, and it doesn’t help there are some authors who are just doing the marketing thing incorrectly: being so overzealous for looks at the work that it becomes borderline harassment.

    The discount coupon does sound like an alternative.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  14. Good afternoon,

    Based on the comments to my post it is clear that the giveaway program on GR is broken, or at the least highly inefficient. Poetry is so personal, and for you to not get feedback on your gift copies is thoughtless on the part of the winners of your poems.

    I hope when I forward this post to GR they look at it seriously, both from the author’s perspective and from their own need to tweak the rules of the program.

    Thank you for weighing in.

    1. I know for some, poetry is not their speed. Although I’m sad that this is happening to other people, I do take some comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one.

      I really do hope Goodreads takes this seriously. There are so many flaws that needs to be addressed–from reader feedback to the issues with ratings.

      Best of luck with this :). Please keep me posted.

  15. I have done several givaways and got about 40% reviews back. When I get the winners profiles, I friend them, and leave a message with that friend request congradulating them, and ask kindly for a rreview and how important they are.
    As for sales, zipo.

    1. Hi Spike,
      Well, technically contacting them is against the author guidelines. I have heard where another writer received a rather terse e-mail reminding them that they were not to initiate contact with the winners or other GR members who entered the contest.
      I’m glad you had a good result on the reviews.
      Thanks for sharing your experiences and data.

  16. Interesting post, Lois. Love the low-voltage shock thingy(!)

    I’ve done a few GR giveaways and received one or two reviews from each. I only offer 2-3 copies and usually keep it within the US in order to keep costs down. Sending the book via media mail is about $2, so I’m not out too much in postage. I include a handwritten note to the recipient congratulating them along with a business card. But, I understand your frustration at not being able to use the contacts for further marketing. (Maybe include a sign up email link with the note or bus. card?) I’d be happy to be able to offer discounts to the folks who don’t win.

    As for effectiveness, have I sold more books because of it? Who knows? I’m betting on the karma 😀

    1. Hi Dv,
      I think your professional and conservative approach is the best way to go until GR addresses the poor post-marketing opportunity.
      Karma and platform building go hand in hand, right? 🙂

  17. Hi Nicole,
    Today I am sending this post off to GR with the comments. I am also posting it to my author blog. It might be nice if the other authors who commented here could like it and perhaps repost it. Then these suggestions could pick up some steam, and GR might take this under advisement. Or fix it.
    Thanks for weighing in.

  18. I have yet to try a GR GiveAway. And judging from author’s experiences, I will think long and hard on whether that will happen.

    Lois, your idea of a discount coupon is the best, I think. In fact, I’ve searched for a way to offer discount coupons in various venues. And noticed those opportunities are almost nil.

    Seems a new paradigm to support marketing efforts by Indie Publishers needs to develop. May your initiative provide a healthy boost!

    Count me in!

    1. Hi Laure,
      A discount coupon seems like such an easy solution, doesn’t it?
      I forwarded this post to the folks over at GR, and I posted this to my blog. I’m hoping if people share this post and contact GR the powers that be may see this as a viable option.
      Discoverability is the new buzzword. If a reader has discovered a book during a contest they should be given every opportunity to follow-up with the author, and the author should have an additional marketing option. More books sold and read is good for everyone.
      Thanks for your comments.

  19. As a reader who enters a lot of Giveaways (and in turn receives a lot of Giveaways), I would be totally fine and open to this. I try to review every book that I get, but I know a lot of readers do not. I also have a lot of authors that contact me via the messaging service, but I usually don’t follow up with them on it. However, I think a way to opt in (or out) of receiving more information or special offers from the author would be totally appropriate.

  20. Hi JC,
    It is helpful to have the opinion of a reader who enters giveaways. It is also nice to know that you take your responsibility seriously by providing a review on the books you win.
    I did forward my post with all the comments to Goodreads administration. I suggested a coupon option, and they thanked me for taking the time to request the adjustment to the reader options. It would be great if you would send them the same request. The GR site is designed for readers, and your opinion will carry weight.
    I don’t recall if you entered my giveaway, but if you want a coupon for my most recent book I will be happy to provide one. Message me on GR if you wish.
    Thank you for your comment. 🙂

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