How to Host a Successful Goodreads Giveaway

Goodreads is a network dedicated to helping readers find new books.  It’s a crucial marketing platform for authors, yet its ultimate goal isn’t so much sales as visibility.

Members of the site add books to their “to-read” lists, which means those books are lingering somewhere in the back of their consciousness, ready to be picked up as soon as someone is looking for a new title to try.

One of the easiest ways to gain visibility on Goodreads is by hosting one (or many!) giveaways.  You can choose the duration and the number of books you give away, as well as how the giveaway is displayed, so you can experiment with the most effective numbers.

After hosting a recent giveaway, The Natural Order went from 10 “to-read” shelves to 794, and a couple people have randomly asked if they can download a free copy in exchange for a review.  Beforehand, no one noticed the book; now, I have several people adding it to their “to-read” shelf each day.

Here’s how I set up the giveaway: 

  • 3 weeks’ duration
  • 2 copies given away, both signed
  • This graphic included with the giveaway post:

goodreads giveaway image

I ended up with 1,779 people requesting my book.  From scanning the other books with giveaways beginning and ending around the same time as mine, I could see that mine was one of the highest-performing titles.  The highest ended at about 3,000 requests, the second two highest around 2,000, and the rest fell in the 500-1,500-request range.

Clearly I did something right!

Part of the success of this giveaway was the cover image.  It’s a striking image, something I know would intrigue me as a reader.

Secondly, I included the large graphic as a way to draw attention to the giveaway.  The standard giveaway posting is accompanied by a tiny icon featuring the book’s cover, but with some knowledge of basic programming, you can make your giveaway stand out by including a large image (and even a link to your own website).  Click here for instructions on how to include your image.

If you want to boost your book’s visibility with a giveaway, here are a few tips for making it as successful as possible:

  1. Use that promotional image!
  2. Make sure your book has a captivating cover.  If not, try using another piece of related (but more eye-catching) artwork for your promotional image.
  3. Don’t let the giveaway drag on too long.  As you can see from thisgoodreads giveaway results graph, the most visible days are the first and last, so you end up getting by far the most requests those days.  I had 99 people and 155 on the first and last days respectively add my book to their “to-read” shelf, compared to an average of 20 through the rest of the giveaway.
  4. Give away just one book!  It doesn’t make any difference whether you give 2 or 20; you’ll get the exact same visibility with less cost if you use just 1 copy.
  5. Don’t give away a signed copy!  I discovered to my detriment how expensive it is shipping books from New Zealand.  If I had promised unsigned copies, I could have ordered them from Createspace for about $8 per copy (including shipping).  This way I ended up paying nearly $25 per copy.  Yikes!
  6. Make sure your blurb is short and riveting.  I actually didn’t include a blurb this time, thinking it would make the giveaway look too crowded, but as a reader I would definitely go for a book with a captivating blurb over one without any description.

I’ll be trying another giveaway before long, this time following my own advice, and I’ll report back on how round 2 goes!


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