Saturday, December 24, 2011

How to Run a Goodreads Giveaway: what I learned from running one (Part 2)

Goodreads is a reader/writer website for sharing information about published books: reviews are the centerpiece of the site that also includes forums, discussion groups, author profiles, lists, and contests.

In the first part of this focus on Goodreads giveaways, I covered my general experiences and also two links: one to an interview of GR giveaways Community Manager Patrick Brown and one for a blogger who listed the step-by-step instructions of how to set up a giveaway.

This second article on Goodread giveaways will focus on some finer points regarding the giveaways, specifically scheduling and etiquette. After reading the GR help section for the topic of "giveaways," and after several email exchanges with the GR giveaways community manager and with author/publishers who have used the program, here are the results of my research.

1. Does a book have to be newly published to be eligible for a giveaway at Goodreads?
From the giveaway "help" section: While most books in the giveaway program are new releases or haven't yet been released, we don't have a rule against books that were published in previous years. Feel free to do so! Just remember to leave the "release date" field blank or type in "January 1, 2011" as a placeholder. (The date may change to January 1, 2012 with the new year, according to the GMCM.)
2. Can a book be in a giveaway more than one time?
From the giveaway "help" section: Yes, you can list a giveaway for a certain title as many times as you like, as long as the giveaway dates don't overlap. One must end before the next starts.
 3. GR Community Manager Patrick Brown added in an email to me the following comment regarding multiple giveaways:
"Yes, a second giveaway is possible, and actually, I encourage it. Time your second giveaway to correspond with the publication date, and you should get a nice bump in awareness. In theory, there's no limit on how many giveaways you can run (as long as they are not running concurrently). In practice, I think two is ideal -- one pre-publication and another at publication."
  4. Can you contact individuals who signed up for the giveaway?
  • Regarding winners (from contest Terms and Conditions): You agree to not store the winners' mailing addresses and to never mail anything to the winners except the indicated book. 
  • Regarding individuals who entered the giveaway, listed on the giveaway page as "Current Entries" (from giveaways community manager email to me): "In general, we don't advise contacting people who haven't already contacted you. While you might think that entering a giveaway is sufficiently expressing interest in the book to hear about future giveaways, discounts, etc., we've found that this isn't the case. Some people will be interested enough in a book to enter to win it for free, but not interested enough to engage in any kind of dialog with the author (That might change after they read the book). These people are likely to flag you as a spammer if you message them, so we discourage it. Again, this doesn't apply to people who have reached out to you by friend request or message, etc."
  • Regarding individuals who entered the contest and also placed the book on their "to read" list (listed as "To Be Read" at the bottom of the book's page): I think the above comment relates to this, also. Be careful not to spam our innocent readers. However, one author used that list to send a short, conversational email to individuals, providing a link to the book for a free online version. She added that she could also have used a free coupon from Smashwords instead of a link to the online version. She received many positive comments and no negative remarks. However, she was offering an ebook version to someone who had already indicated the desire for a paper version of the book.
5. What is a risk-free way to use information gained from the contest about readers?
In my opinion, an absolute risk-free procedure is to simply research the individuals who have expressed an interest in your book--especially those who put it on their to-read list. Perhaps they are bloggers who review books--many are. Have they reviewed books like yours? What is their blog's policy for review submissions? What links do they have that are useful? This is information that is available to anyone on the internet--that's why people have webpages! Narrowing Goodreads' subscribers from 6.6 million to hundreds is quite a useful, time-effective action.
Goodreads is a massive site, and I have to admit I am just gaining some familiarity with it. My questions have been answered promptly and politely by various administrators, and I have felt comfortable asking those questions. The process has been friendly yet professional.

I think that's the key: When setting up a Goodreads giveaway (or interacting with any other part of the site), we should be professional and discriminative. We should use the site, not abuse it.

Copyright 2011 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


  1. Thanks, Tom. Good advice never goes away!

    1. Goodreads is a huge site with many activities for both readers and writers. I'm glad my comments helped.