Goodreads Giveaway Tutorial Update 2016

goodreads logoIf you’ve been avoiding Goodreads giveaways, you might be missing out on one of the best opportunities to reach new readers. I hear the arguments about why more authors are taking a pass, though. Books are expensive. Postage is expensive. Fewer winners are reviewing. And everyone wants something for nothing, right?

Well…yes. But I’m still a fan, for several reasons. If I have a new book coming out, a giveaway can help generate interest. In 2011, almost nine hundred Goodreads members signed up to receive one of eight ARCs (advanced reader copies) of my first published book, The Joke’s on Me. That’s nine hundred readers who hadn’t known about me or my work prior to the event. This boiled down to eighty-some readers who decided to add me to their “to-read” shelf. Okay, not great, but not too shabby for a completely unknown author. And of my eight winners, six gave me a written review or a rating. (Giveaway winners are encouraged, but not required, to reciprocate with reviews.)

Since then, I’ve done giveaways with each of my six print books, ranging from five hundred to nine hundred entries each time. And each time someone enters a giveaway, he or she is given an option to list a book as a “to-read.” That’s a lot of potential readers, or at least a lot of new people who know I exist. I’ve also used it to “relaunch” older titles, particularly when I’ve redesigned a cover. To me, the concept of a Goodreads giveaway is bigger than the reviews — it’s about reaching new readers.

Ready to give it a try? Let’s go!

1. Sign up for Goodreads at if you’re not already a member. It’s free, and mostly straightforward. Here’s a great article Melinda Clayton wrote about the basics of Goodreads.

2. Build yourself an author page. Populate it with your books and, if you’d like, your blog.

3. Schedule your giveaway. Go to or your Goodreads page for your book, and click on “list a giveaway” from the list on the right side of the page. Goodreads author tools ScreenShot1Some important tips on the form:

Start date/End date: Your start date must be, at minimum, a week after you submit your giveaway. This is a new policy. I’m not sure why Goodreads changed this; I asked and the answer wasn’t all that clear. Your actual mileage may vary when it comes to the end date you choose. Goodreads recommends a month, but I’ve found that two weeks is a decent run. It’s enough time to get the word out but not so long that it feels like I’m constantly badgering people about it.Goodreads giveaway details ScreenShot2

Eligible Countries: I live in the US. I can ship books to winners in the US using the less-expensive media rate. But there are a lot of readers in Canada, and I don’t like to disappoint them by leaving them out, so I will pony up the extra postage to include my north-of-the-border neighbors. When I’m feeling more flush, I’ll add the UK, Australia, and India. If you want that worldwide domination we all strive for, it’s a good idea to open up your giveaway to as many countries as you can.

Number of copies: I’ve varied the number of copies, but generally, the more copies you offer, the more entrants you will get. Of course, those books might also end up on eBay, but that’s the price you pay. Hey, maybe someone else will buy them and love them.

Description: This form field allows for 1500 characters. Readers looking at your giveaway box will get a “more” link not very far into the text, so I like to keep my pitch short. Basically I use a tag line for the book and something like “Enter for a chance to win one of X signed copies of…”Goodreads giveaway description ScreenShot3

Terms and Conditions: This is a big one, and now Goodreads requires that you click on the link before you hit “agree.” (I guess so they can claim that at least they waved it under your nose. Then if you violate any part of it, it’s on you.) When readers sign up for a giveaway, Goodreads assures them that their personal information won’t be used egregiously. That extends to author contact. Authors are expected to refrain from contacting their giveaway winners (beyond sending the book, of course) or contacting those who signed up and didn’t win. This contradicts advice that some book marketing bloggers are giving out. So please avoid spamming the nice readers who sign up to win your book, unless you want to risk landing on the “author behaving badly” list or get bounced from Goodreads. Here’s that specific part of the Terms and Conditions, swiped right from the Goodreads website: Goodreads terms and conditions ScreenShot5

4. Verify your giveaway. Goodreads will send you an email with your giveaway details. Click if okay; edit if it’s not, but revising your submission might delay the approval process. (They say it normally takes two or three days, but mine was approved overnight.)

5. Watch the entries pile up. To help get eyeballs on your promotion, Goodreads offers a widget tool you can post on your Internet whatnots. Tell your friends and fans, too. Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen a fairly consistent pattern in entries: more will surge in at the beginning and at the end.Goodreads Book Giveaway ScreenShot4

6. When you get the email from Goodreads with your winners, send your book(s) out.

Good luck, have fun, and remember to send your books!

Note: If you want more information about the Goodreads Author Program, please visit their Author Program page here.

Author: Laurie Boris

Laurie Boris is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and former graphic designer. She has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of four novels. She lives in New York’s lovely Hudson Valley. Learn more about Laurie at her website and her Amazon author page.

25 thoughts on “Goodreads Giveaway Tutorial Update 2016”

  1. Do you send signed copies of your book from home or do you ship them direct from Createspace? Particularly, if you send international. Createspace has much better rates with tracking.

    1. You can do either. I prefer to send signed copies, so when I’m ordering books from CreateSpace to have on hand for events and reviewers and such, I’ll tack on a few extra for giveaways.

  2. Good review. I agree, this is a useful part of launching any book. I think it’s good that they made it start a week later, because my first attempt or two I would set it to start right away, but the review process could take a while. So it just wasn’t what I expected. This lets you get your marketing ducks in a row. My advice is to ignore anything GR might say about giving away ten books. That really raises the cost of doing this, and I don’t think it affects your results very much. Also, I think that offering a signed copy can raise a little more interest, though it’s hard to know without a split test.

    1. Thanks, Sandra. Coincidentally, the giveaway I set up for this tutorial just ended. I offered four signed copies to US, Canada, Great Britain, India, Australia, and I think six other countries. I had 1066 entries and nearly all marked it as a “to-read.” More books does increase the entrants, I’ve seen that, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near exponential. Two copies of the same book offered when it launched resulted in about 800 entries.

      1. That is impressive, but it could also be that you’re only becoming better known as time goes by. Do you know what percentage came from the other countries? I’ve been scared to do that. (I found that just mailing a book to a friend in Canada was surprisingly expensive.)

        1. I don’t see a way right now to do that any way but manually, Sandra. But maybe I’ll drop a line to their support team to ask. That could be interesting.

    1. It’s not the most intuitive of sites, Yvonne, and (speaking from my own experience) I haven’t found their customer service all that responsive. But I’ve learned from squirreling around on the site (and asking other users) where things are. The actual giveaway part isn’t that difficult, although it has a lot of variables that aren’t well explained.

  3. Good reminder, thanks! I haven’t done a giveaway in a while, and this was a good nudge to get it done, especially since I’ve got a new book out in January. It definitely gets the book out in front of a lot of eyes.

  4. I just finished my second giveaway. Learned a lesson from the first one, when I had to post the winning entry to England.
    I didn’t know about the Giveaway widget. Thanks. Another lesson 🙂

  5. Great tutorial, thanks!

    I’m still on the fence over the effectiveness of GR giveaways. As I reported in my guest post last month, 2015 was not a good year for me on GR. I conducted five giveaways, garnered hundreds of “to-read” adds, and yet ZERO reviews, ZERO ratings, and no sales activity can be linked to these giveaways. Also, one autographed copy showed up on eBay a few days after I sent it to the winner (who apparently made a side-business out of entering giveaways and reselling all the books. GR quickly banned this member).

    I completed my first 2016 GR giveaway last month. It was my third best in terms of entries, and I obtained many to-adds, but there’s been no other activity as of yet (probably still too soon to call this one).

    Overall, while I really want to extol GR giveaways, my data shows another story. Just the other day a fellow indie author scoffed at the GR giveaway program, claiming it’s just a bunch of people who want free stuff and that we might as well just throw the books out a window. It was frustrating that I couldn’t disagree with her.

    I might try conducting another giveaway soon, just to be sure (and probably because I might be in denial).

    1. Hi, Bruce,
      Thanks for reading! I read your guest post, and it did start me thinking about reviews, and how the number of them from the giveaways has gone down, but I’m not ready to give up yet. These are books I would have ponied up for reviewers (and maybe the occasional random leave-behind) anyway, so it doesn’t bother me that much to let them go without expectations. Considering that the only cost for the giveaway is the book and the postage (with the potential for a lot of exposure), I will probably keep doing them. But, as they say, your actual mileage may vary. Best of luck if you try again!

  6. I tried it once and gave away three signed copies. None of the winners wrote a review, but about 400 people put it on their TBRs. I didn’t think to look on eBay. I may try it again sometime.

    OTOH, I was shocked to recently win a giveaway book, and I promptly read and reviewed it. It was the sequel of a highly anticipated best-seller, so it wasn’t like I was going to hurt the author if I hadn’t reviewed the book, but still. It’s just the right thing to do.

    I do wonder about something I’m seeing lately on GR giveaways, and that’s the back-to-back giveaways that go on and on for months. I’ll get notices in email that a book on my TBR has been listed as a giveaway, so I enter it. I don’t win, but soon thereafter I get another email for a new giveaway on the same book. Repeat. Repeat… This delays my purchase of the book because I keep thinking that I *might* win the thing. I don’t know what this accomplishes for the author, but I can’t be the only one not buying the book.

    1. Candace, I’ve seen a few authors doing this recently. I read a blog post from one of them about using short back-to-back giveaways as a tactic for getting on more readers’ “to-read” lists. If it works for her, great, but I’m wondering if it might not set up a bit of a fatigue factor for readers.

  7. One thing I’ve never seen, and I’ve always wondered about: How do I choose who should get the copies? Do I just pick random winners, do I have a contest or game of some sort? Are there rules about this?

    1. Hi, Stephen. Goodreads does that for you. You select the countries, you choose the end date, and when it’s over, Goodreads emails you a list of the winners.

  8. Thanks for the overview of the process.

    When I run a giveaway, I make it for the shortest time possible. Goodreads has 4 lists for giveaways that people can check, including Ending Soon and Recently Listed. If I’m not on either of those lists I don’t really get any sign ups, so I may as well maximize my exposure by getting on those two lists with a short giveaway.

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