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Goodreads e-book giveaways

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The major organized programs for helping authors give away copies of their books – as a way to promote them – until now have limited their options to print books. Giveaways in the well-established Goodreads and Amazon programs have not allowed eBook giveaways, frustrating authors who write only in that format.

This is changing. As of this month, Goodreads is expanding their giveaway program to include eBook as well as print books.

Author Anna DeStefano has become one of the first to explore the new eBook giveaway option – and report success with it.

As author of a score of romance and supernatural novels, she has participated in several past print book giveaway programs, especially those run by the readers’ and writers’ site Goodreads. Like others, she has found the programs a useful way to gain more attention for her books, to gain more readers quickly and to drive sales.

But DeStefano told BookWorks, “My impression is that over the last few years print giveaways have had less and less overall effect, unless you advertise them heavily. So many authors are doing them now, it’s easy to get lost in the glut of content.”

In that context, the addition of eBooks to the giveaway programs may bring some fresh attention and interest to this piece of marketing.

Why or Why Not to Give Your Books Away

The whole approach may seem odd if you’re a writer who after all is trying to sell books, not simply disperse them.

Still, as a May 5 article in Publishers Weekly said, “Speaking to the power of giveaway programs, in a Goodreads case study, Kate Stark, marketing v-p at Riverhead Books, said that the Goodreads site as well as its giveaways promotions, “played a major role” in the success of bestselling novel Girl on the Train. (The house used multiple giveaways for Girl on the Train).”

Goodreads itself has noted “The primary benefit of running a giveaway on Goodreads is generating excitement for your book. Many giveaway winners review the books they win, meaning that you can build word-of-mouth buzz early in your book’s life. The ability to offer up to 100 copies of a book will greatly increase your chances of receiving a good number of reviews.”

The Old Rules for Giveaways

Since July 2015 Amazon.com has operated a print book giveaway promotion, in which authors pay for printing and shipping – tasks undertaken by Amazon – copies of their print books to randomly-chosen winners of a giveaway contest. That followed a longer-standing book giveaway program at Goodreads, which Amazon owns. The Goodreads contests are similar to Amazon’s but less costly to the author per book, because the author personally is directly responsible for supplying and shipping the books, and usually can keep those costs down.

Goodreads has not allowed giveaway of eBooks, however, until this spring, when it launched a “beta” – experimental – program allowing for digital giveaways. Initially it is limited to Amazon’s own new publishing imprints, but is expected to be opened more broadly soon. (Goodreads hasn’t disclosed exactly when.) The links to both Kindle and to Amazon’s own publishing operations provide ongoing evidence of a tightening relationship between Amazon and Goodreads, which was bought by Amazon in 2013.

The Goodreads Digital System

Under the new Goodreads system, authors can give away as many as 100 digital copies of their book, for a flat $119 fee. It is available for now only in the United States. Goodreads manages the listing and the delivery to the winners. “Prerelease books are listed for giveaway by publishers and authors, and members can enter to win. Winners are picked randomly at the end of the giveaway,” Goodreads says on its giveaway page.

Explaining the $119 fee, Goodreads said, “With a Kindle ebook giveaway, we give you the opportunity to offer a large number of free books, reaching even more readers. We also save you on both costs and hassle. No more printing books, hauling them down to the post office, filling out address labels, and paying to ship them off to winners (which can cost hundreds of dollars for a 100-copy giveaway). No more delays in getting your books in winners’ hands. The readers who win your Kindle ebook giveaway will get their Kindle ebook instantly and will be able to start reading right away, which means you can get readers talking about your title faster than ever.”

In other words, it’s a convenience fee.

The eight books in the current eBook giveaway roster all are fiction, though that may change as the roster expands.

The Results

As a new program, the digital giveaways may provide a new jolt to book promotion. After DeStefano tried it for her new novel, His Darling Bride (published on Amazon’s Montlake Romance imprint), she said “the early response for His Darling Bride’s digital giveaway has been very positive. Much more effective already (this contest was put up on May 5) than the entire print giveaway my publisher sponsored (for 20 books) which ran for a month.”

She was less certain why the response was strong, but speculated that since “there are fewer titles/releases available in the digital giveaway program at this time, GoodReads is promoting it as a new opportunity, and a smaller pool of contests are running for readers to participate in. “

So far the giveaways have generated significant activity. Broken Angels by Gemma Liviero, for example, will be giving away 50 copies (after May 26, when the giveaway ends), and 3,773 people as of May 9 had sent in requests. All of the other beta books for May also generated at least 1,000 requests.

Keep in mind that while the Goodreads and Amazon giveways are the big options, there are others, and some of these are lower in cost. Authors can run giveaways on their own web sites, possibly with the help of a technical provider like Rafflecopter. Twitter has the hashtag #bookgiveaway, where loads of giveaways directly from authors are listed.

Either way, the world of book giveaways and the world of digitals is coming together, and at least some writers are starting to take advantage of it.

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