In order to promote your self-published book, you need to find ways to give it away for free.
Of course this is not a goal in and of itself. In the long run, you’d like to make money from your book. Also, free stuff often comes with the stigma of “cheap,” and we need to be careful about cheapening our work.
The trick is to give away our book for free when we can achieve one of two things:
Increase the visibility of our book so much by making it free (or discounting it heavily) that when it returns to regular price, more people will buy it than before.
Entice the people who get it for free to write reviews so that more people will be convinced it’s a great book for them to read, i.e. buy.
Both can be achieved with book promotions. I’ve touched on them a little bit in Amazon KDP Select – Yes or No? already, and I’ll address ebook promotion sites such as BookBub and Ereader News Today in another blog post.
Why a Goodreads Giveaway makes sense
But today I’d like to discuss a book promotion site with a slightly different flavor. I’m talking about Goodreads. I hope that you’ve established your author profile on Goodreads already, and perhaps you’ve already collected some ratings and reviews for you book.
One way to speed up the process is to launch a Goodreads Giveaway. You can do this anytime, but I’d say you should do it as soon as possible after publication. Or even before publication to increase the hype and gain some advanced reader reviews.
Basically, a Goodreads Giveaway allows you to enter your book information to be listed on a special Goodreads page that readers love to visit. In that sense, it’s free advertising. How else, otherwise, will readers find your book in a vast ocean of other books listed on the site?
Readers love to visit that page because they can win free books. Including yours, if you enter it. You can specify exactly how many copies you are giving away (they have to be real paperbacks, not ebooks), signed if you wish, and you agree that you will mail those editions to the winners (picked randomly by Goodreads after the end of the giveaway) without any solicitation. I know this last part is so disappointing – wouldn’t it be great to ask those people to please, oh please, leave a review for their free book? But you must not do it, it’s against the rules, and you’re agreeing to the rules when you enter the giveaway.
How to enter a Goodreads Giveaway
This is the screen you will see when you enter a giveaway:
At the very top, you pick your start and end date. No matter what Goodreads advises you to do, listen to me: Make the giveaway as short as you possibly can. I think Goodreads now has a minimum 1 week policy, so that’s what you should do.
Why? Because of the way Goodreads users can browse the giveaway listings. “Most popular” and “most requested” probably won’t apply to your book or you wouldn’t read this blog post from a lowly indie author. But “recently listed” and “ending soon” are more promising. When you first list your book and when your giveaway is ending soon are the only two times that matter in terms of people discovering your book, so why prolong the thing? Rather, run several short giveaways in a row.
Next, pick the countries. As blogger Catherine Ryan Howard – whose self-publishing advice I’ve been following ever since I typed the first word of my book – will have you know, do not even think about restricting your giveaway to the United States. You are holding the worldwide rights, and your potential readers are everywhere in the world – let them have a chance and spring for the slightly more expensive postage.
How many books should I give away?
Next, decide on the number of copies. I think 3-5 will do nicely, even though you could get away with a single one. Yes, more books might result in more reviews, but don’t hold your breath. The rate of reviews gained is very low, from my experience. Mainly you just want to have a chance to be listed and for Goodreads users to put your book on their to-read shelf, the box for which Goodreads automatically checks when they enter the giveaway. Even if it looks a bit cheap, a single copy is really all you need.
Next, enter the description for your title. This is where you need to put some thought into it to make it pop without making it look spammy. A brief but compelling blurb might work, but you might even do better by including excerpts from reviews, any awards you might have won, and the words “Autographed copy” (if that is indeed what you’re giving away).
There are some more fields you need to fill in, like your books’ genre. Answer the remaining questions, agree to the terms and conditions and voila! Your book is now listed.
And here is what a Goodreads Giveaway listing will look like:
What happens next?
At first: Nothing. Seriously. You can check back in to see how many people have entered your giveaway, and if I were you, I’d go ahead and post links to it to all your friends and acquaintances and Twitter and Facebook. The more people enter the giveaway, the higher chance you have to also be listed in “most requested,” giving your book additional visibility through your friends’ and acquaintances Goodreads profiles. Anything helps.
You could also couple your giveaway with a Goodreads ad campaign. I haven’t done any of those but here is an article explaining it really well. Note though that this will cost you money, whereas the basic giveaway listing is free of charge.
And you can play around running several giveaway campaigns with different parameters to figure out which setup gives you the best return. Or you could read the analysis of an author who has done just that and tabulated the results for you.
After your giveaway ends, you will receive an email from Goodreads telling you who won, and where to mail their copies. Again, do not feel tempted to put any kind of solicitation into those packages. Although if you have a snazzy bookmark you’ve made for your book – something that has been on my to-do list forever! – I don’t think there is a rule against including that, or even a personal note wishing your winner happy reading. You have 2-3 weeks to mail those copies, and that’s that.
Oh, and if you’re not giving away any signed copies, you can conventiently ship them directly from Amazon (either through your CreateSpace dashboard or by purchasing them outright; I’m not sure which is cheaper – CreateSpace allows you to buy them at cost but charges shipping, whereas with Amazon Prime you will get to ship them for free, at least within the U.S.)
This might be all that ever happens with a giveaway. You might eventually get a couple of new reviews, both on Goodreads and on Amazon, and you might gain a few new readers who’ve been made aware of your book.
Or you might totally luck out and win the grand prize or prizes and receive your very first fan mail.