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Contrary to what many Authors believe, book giveaways aren’t about increasing book sales. They’re about increasing awareness of your book and helping you get it in front of the right audience.

A book giveaway is a great opportunity for Authors to get their book in front of a lot of people—and more importantly, the right people.

One of the best tools Authors have for running a book giveaway is Goodreads.

Goodreads is a social media site for book lovers. Members build “virtual bookshelves,” a.k.a., lists of their favorite books, books they’re currently reading, and books they want to read. They can also post reviews and connect with other readers.

Goodreads is a great tool for finding your ideal readers. And more specifically, a Goodreads giveaway is a useful book marketing tool for Authors that can raise awareness among those readers.

Here’s everything you need to know about running a successful Goodreads giveaway.

Why Give Away Free Books through a Goodreads Giveaway?

Many Authors get hung up on the idea of writing a bestseller. They fixate on how many copies they can sell and judge their book’s success based on those numbers.

But book sales aren’t the best metric for evaluating your book’s success.

Some of the most successful books we’ve worked on didn’t sell many copies. But the copies they did sell were to exactly the right people. For example:

  • Nick Sonnenberg landed a six-figure consulting gig when he swapped books with a fellow Author.
  • Bryan Miles’ book generated over a million dollars in new revenue for his company (simply by targeting the right readers).
  • Tofe Evans created a worldwide speaking career after telling himself, “The book just has to get one person.”

When your book speaks to the right people—and meets their needs—those people will seek you out and hire you.

That’s why Authors are more likely to achieve their goals and make money when they stop focusing on becoming a bestselling author and start focusing on connecting with their target audience.

The Goodreads giveaway program is an effective way to get you and your book in front of a specific set of readers.

A Goodreads giveaway is exactly what it sounds like:

  1. Authors offer to give away a certain number of copies of their book on Goodreads.
  2. Readers sign up on the Goodreads website.
  3. Once the giveaway ends, the winners are chosen at random.

Goodreads is a great giveaway platform because members can browse and enter Goodreads giveaways for topics they’re actually interested in.

For example, if you’ve written a nonfiction book about growing a social media following, you’ll probably only get entries from people interested in that topic. That’s a good way to target potential readers.

But there are a few other upsides to a Goodreads giveaway as well. For one, the winners will hopefully like your book enough to publish a good book review.

On the other hand, the people who didn’t win will still be aware that your book exists. They might go buy it, put it on their to-read list, or tell a friend about it. All of those are benefits.

Creating buzz about your book is all about getting to the right person.

The more people you reach within your target audience, the higher your chance of finding that “just right” reader: the ideal client, the CEO that hires you for a speaking engagement, or the podcast host who helps launch your brand.

How to Run a Goodreads Giveaway

Step 1. Set up Your Author Profile

If you’re not on Goodreads yet, your first step is to set up your Author profile.

Here are the basic steps you’ll need to follow if you want to become a Goodreads Author:

  1. Create a Goodreads account
  2. Find the book(s) you’ve written
  3. From the book’s page, click on your name
  4. “Claim” your Author profile
  5. Watch for the confirmation email that signals you’ve been upgraded to an Author account
  6. Customize your Author page

You can find more detailed descriptions of each step in our post on Goodreads Author profiles.

Step 2. Choose Your Book Format

From your Goodreads Author dashboard, scroll down until you see the section titled, “Your Giveaways.”

Click on the link that says, “Listing a giveaway.”

You’ll be led to a page where you can create a new Goodreads giveaway.

You have 2 options. You can either give away print books or a Kindle version of your book.

Each option has its pros and cons:

Print Book Giveaways

With a print book giveaway, the Author is responsible for mailing books directly to the winners.

This option is ideal for giving away a small number of copies to readers.

Free physical books feel more special than free ebooks, so readers are more likely to value the book.

Plus, sending a print book directly to a winner gives you a chance to make a more significant impact. You could handwrite a note of appreciation or include promotional materials, like a bookmark or workbook.

Unfortunately, Authors have to pay for printing and shipping. That means Authors typically give away fewer copies with this method.

Depending on your budget, you might also need to limit your giveaway to US residents to avoid higher shipping costs.

Plus, print books also come with the added hassle of advance ordering.

You can order Author copies through your KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) account, and either have them sent directly to the readers or have them sent to you first.

Either option works, but if you choose the latter, make sure you have the books in advance so you don’t keep your winners waiting.

Kindle Giveaways

With a Kindle book giveaway, you can give away up to 100 copies (without the added cost of books and shipping).

Amazon sends Kindle books directly to the winners, which means less hassle for Authors. Plus, winners can start reading your book right away.

The Kindle option means that your book will potentially gain more entrants—and more exposure—since you can give away more copies. Many entrants also like the fact that ebook giveaways don’t require them to provide a physical address.

But because Amazon owns Goodreads, this option is only open to publishers and self-published Authors who use KDP.

If your book is in a non-Kindle format (like epub) or is published through another platform, you can’t run a digital Goodreads giveaway.

You also can’t personalize the giveaway with swag or handwritten notes like you can with a print book giveaway.

A final downside is that people are more likely to download a free Kindle book and forget about it. There’s a higher likelihood that winners will actually read print books.

Still, the important part of any giveaway is making sure people know your book exists. It doesn’t really matter who wins. At the end of the day, either giveaway option can be a great way to attract new readers.

Step 3. Choose a Package

A Goodreads membership is free, but there is a fee for running a book giveaway.

Authors have 2 package options:

  • Standard Package ($119)
  • Premium Package ($599)

I recommend going with the standard package. It includes the following features:

  • Your giveaway is featured in your friends’ news feeds when someone enters. This helps spread word of mouth about your book.
  • Goodreads sends an email about the giveaway to your followers and to readers who have added your book to their “Want to Read” list.
  • Goodreads will remind the winners to write a book review. Positive reviews can help build buzz even after the giveaway is over.
  • Entrants are required to add the book to their “Want to Read” list. That helps it stay top of mind, even if they don’t win.

The only added benefits that come with a premium package are:

  • A premium listing on the giveaways section of Goodreads
  • A personalized email sent to everyone who doesn’t win

In my opinion, those 2 features aren’t worth the additional $380 price tag.

Step 4. Choose Your Timeframe

Next, you need to choose the start and end dates for your giveaway.

There are a few restrictions. For example, you can’t start the giveaway less than 3 days from the time you submit the giveaway form. You also can’t set a date more than 6 months in the future.

Wait until you’re almost ready to start the giveaway before filling out the form. If you set it too far in advance, you may forget to promote it.

Also, your giveaway can last anywhere between 1 week and 30 days.

I recommend starting your giveaway 3 days after you submit the form and running it for 3 weeks.

3 weeks is optimal because it’s a long enough window for people to see the giveaway, but it’s not so long that it drops from their memory.

If you want people to be excited about winning, don’t let them forget they entered in the first place.

Step 5. Choose the Number of Books

If you’re running a print book giveaway, I recommend offering 10 print copies.

This optimizes the amount of interest you’ll get for the costs you’ll incur.

If you only offer 1 book, people won’t feel like they can win. But if you offer more than 10, the printing and shipping will outweigh the benefits of the exposure you’ll get.

For the Kindle option, give away as many as you like, up to the maximum 100 copies. The idea is to get your book in front of a lot of people, so take advantage!

Step 6. Know What to Expect

Goodreads does a good job of promoting your giveaway, so you don’t have to do a lot of extra work. After all, that’s what you’re paying for.

Your job is to have a great book cover and a description that draws people in. The better these are, the better your results will be.

You can keep tabs on the latest giveaway info—including how many people have entered—through your Author dashboard.

Scroll down to “Your Giveaways,” and click on “All of your giveaways.” This will take you to your personal giveaways page.

For print book giveaways, Scribe books typically see a median of 800 entries over the course of 3 weeks. That means the book was seen with interest by 800-1000 people, who added it to their “Want to Read” list.

That’s a lot of exposure.

Goodreads readers will find the giveaway organically, but you can also do your part to spread the word. If you want, circulate news of the giveaway through your social media channels and ask your contacts to do the same.

But keep in mind, you’re not trying to attract as many people as possible. You’re trying to get your book in front of the right people.