I really admire the folks at Goodreads, not just for their site, but also for the data they share with the industry, including tips for authors. (If you’re not familiar with Goodreads, imagine a Facebook for people who love to read books.)
The recent Goodreads author newsletter offered a number of gems helpful for any author with an upcoming release. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to archive their author newsletters online, so I’ll have to summarize what they said.
(And if the Goodreads people are reading this: Please, please, please archive your newsletters with this information. I’d be tweeting and sharing it if you did.)
1. Reviews are essential.
No surprise there, right? The same is true of Amazon. According to Goodreads, reviews on their site help your book stand out in two ways.
- They help new readers discover your book. The more people review your book, the more visible it will be. Goodreads reviews also appear on sites like Powell’s, Google Books, and the Sony Ebook Store.
- They help readers take a chance on an unknown book. Goodreads says, “Books with no written reviews are added, on average, by 7 people, while books with just five written reviews are added by more than 40 people.”
2. Giveaways are a powerful promotional tool.
According to Goodreads, here are the top techniques behind successful advance giveaways.
- Give away as many copies as possible. This goes straight back to Point No. 1. Goodreads says, “If your goal is to get reviews, it makes sense to give away a lot of books. Nearly 60 percent of giveaway winners review the books they win, so the more books you offer, the more reviews you are likely to get.”
- Run your giveaway for two weeks to a month. Goodreads says, “Giveaways less than two weeks run the risk of not getting enough entries, while a four-week giveaway will generate more entries. We recommend that you offer giveaways for one month.”
- You can run a second giveaway. Goodreads says, “We recommend two giveaways: one about three months before publication to build prerelease buzz and reviews, and a second to increase awareness when your book hits stores. Both will result in a lot of people adding your book to their to-read shelves.”
Goodreads also mentioned that when Diana Gabaldon used their “giveaway widget” for a recent giveaway, it attracted more than 5,000 entries. Plus interest in her other titles spiked at the same time. Goodreads also encourages the use of ads to spike giveaway entries. (Giveaways with ads get more than 50% than average response.)
Keep in mind—what’s true on Goodreads is probably true for campaigns you might be running on your own site. But if you’re not already active on Goodreads, you should give it a shot. (Go visit my author page to get started and get a feel for what it’s like.)
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.