Print Friendly, PDF & Email

GoodReads giveaways, one of the most cost-effective book promotion tactics, are changing. Here’s everything you need to know about giving away books on GoodReads.



  • Jim is out sick today.
  • We don’t talk about a lot of news on this show.
  • Try to focus on evergreen topics
  • GoodReads is making a major change you need to know about.
  • Specifically, GoodReads is changing how giveaways work.

I’m Thomas Umstattd Jr., and James L. Rubart, who normally joins me on the show, is out sick today, so I am going solo. So we’re hoping that Jim feels better.

But what we’re going to talk about today —or what I’m going to talk about– is Goodreads giveaways. There’s been a huge change in how Goodreads works. Now generally we try to focus on evergreen topics on the show. We don’t like to cover current news. There’s some really good podcasts that do that, like the Sell More Books Show is mostly covering brand new news. So we like to cover marketing principles that don’t change quickly. But with Goodreads, this change is so important I feel like we’ve got to cover it.



  • Back in episodes 12 and 14 we talked about how to use GoodReads to market your book.
  • One of the most effective techniques back then was to give books away for free.
  • GoodReads makes is easy to host a giveaway and you get lots of benefits from the publicity.
  • Wasn’t free, you had to ship a physical book, which typically cost $5-$10 per book for printing and shipping. So if you give away 10 books it is $50 to $100 to host a giveaway.
  • We recommend giving away one book at a time which was a great deal in terms of cost per impression. The cost of the giveaway was no more than $10 and you got a lot of attention for that $10.

So a little bit of background. Back in Episodes 12 and 14 we talk about how to use Goodreads to market your book. We had Randy Ingermanson on, and one of the techniques that we talked about was giving away your book for free.

Randy did some experiments, and we found that giving away just one book over and over again was quite effective. So it wasn’t free to give away a book; you had to send a physical book to the winner of the contest that Goodreads hosted for you. But that would cost five to ten dollars per book depending on how much your printing and shipping was to that person. If you gave away 10 books, it was a bit pricey, it’s fifty to a hundred bucks, but if you gave away just one book, which we found was the best bang for the buck, it was only 10 bucks to host a giveaway. So it was a pretty good deal if you are marketing your book on a budget.

The problem:

The problem though was that it was such a good technique, everyone started doing it. So people didn’t just hear about it from the Novel Marketing podcast, they also heard about it other places.

And it’s gotten so crowded. I checked yesterday: there are 3000 books being given away. 3000 different titles in the giveaway section, which is too many for readers to browse. So it’s a little bit overwhelming and the result is that it’s not as effective as it used to be.

What is Changing:


  • Indie Authors in KDP will be able to give away ebook copies for the first time.
  • Traditional publishers got this a while back and there was a lot of complaining that this was not fair.
  • Hosting contests will no longer be free. It will cost $119 and $599 for the premium package.
  • The giveaways will be bit more powerful:
    • Everyone who enters your giveaway automatically adds the book to their Want-to-Read list, promoting your book via updates in their friends’ updates feeds, and building an audience for your title. (This is currently optional)
    • The author’s followers and anyone who has already added the book to their Want-to-Read list get a notification, letting them know there’s a giveaway starting. This helps generate even more entries, creating more stories in the Goodreads updates feed. (Doing repeat giveaways can create an escalating amount of promotion for you)
    • About eight weeks after your Giveaway ends, winners receive an email from Goodreads to remind them to rate and review your book.  (I believe they already do this, but it will have a much bigger impact when you’ve just given away 100 ebooks)
    • The new Premium Package puts you on the GoodReads homepage.


So Goodreads is changing the way giveaways work. And they’re doing it in a pretty fundamental way.

The first thing they’re doing is that indie authors and KDP will be able to give away ebooks for the first time. So traditional publishers were able to do this a while back and there was a lot of complaining that this was not fair. So Goodreads, though, wanted to protect its system from being flooded with too many ebooks. Again, books were getting lost in the noise.

And so now they’re allowing indies to give away ebooks. But the catch– and this is a pretty big catch—is that it’s now going to cost money to host a contest. So if you want to host a giveaway, it’s now going to cost 119 dollars for a basic contest and 599 dollars for the premium package. Now some other things that they’re changing: they’re making the giveaways a little bit more powerful. So everyone who enters a giveaway is going to have the book automatically added to their “want-to-read” list, which will then trigger an update to all of their friends that they’ve added your book to their “to read” list. This is currently an optional feature. It’s now no longer going to be optional. If you want to enter into a contest, the book will automatically be added to your “want to read” list. So this should make giveaways a little bit more effective in getting the word out about your book.

Another change they are making is that authors’ followers, and anyone who’s already added the book to their “want to read” list, will get a notification telling them that there’s a giveaway started on this book that they’ve added to their want-to-read list.

This helps generate even more entries and creates more stories in the Goodreads Update feed. So this can actually create a kind of escalating amount of promotion. So if you do a giveaway and let’s say 200 people add your book to their want-to-read list on Goodreads. If you do a second giveaway later, all 200 of those people are going to get notified to enter, which will create this snowball of attention. At least that’s the theory. We’ll see if it works or not. And then finally eight weeks after your giveaway ends, winners will receive an email from Goodreads and remind them to rate and review your book. Now, I believe Goodreads already does this. But this will have a much bigger impact if you’re giving away 100 ebooks than when it did if you’re giving away just one print book.

So now you can use Goodreads giveaways as a way of building reviews for your book, which it was not a particularly effective way of doing that in the past. Spending five to ten dollars to send someone a free book, hoping they’ll review it, is not a great way to get reviews. It’s not terrible if you’re desperate for reviews, but this will be a much better way. You spend 100 bucks or 119 dollars, you give away 100 ebooks, and you’re most likely going to get 10 or 20 reviews from that, perhaps more. We won’t know the numbers and how effective this new system will be until it’s been implemented and people start to use it. Now the premium package that Goodreads has –this is the 600 dollar level— puts you on the Goodreads home page.

So they claim that they get millions of visitors. You’ll be sharing some space on the home page with all the other people buying the premium package. I have no idea if this is worth it or not but you know, we’ll see. A kind of wait and see.

What this means for authors:


  • The Good:
    • Will save you money if you give away 100 ebooks as opposed to 100 paper books.
    • Your giveaways will make more “noise” on GoodReads.
    • Less crowded market. Giveaways will potentially be more effective.
    • This could be the next book bub in terms of effectiveness. There is no way to find out till after the new plan goes live.
  • The Bad:
    • Giveaways will be more expensive.
  • The Ugly:
    • Not a lot of warning to this new plan.

So here’s what I think this means for authors. I’ve got the good the bad and the ugly. A lot of what I’ve been hearing has been super negative. People being like, “oh I can’t believe they’re charging for this” — but it was never free! It always cost you money to ship a book to somebody.

And I think there is some good here.

So the good is that it will save you money if you’re giving away 100 books. So if you’re giving away 100 paper books, that’s five hundred, to a thousand dollars that it costs you to do that giveaway. Now you can give away 100 ebooks for 119 dollars. So in some instances, it actually could save you money, depending on how you are conducting a giveaway.

One hundred books is the max that you can give away at one of these Goodreads giveaways. Your giveaways are also going to create more noise on Goodreads, more notifications for your readers. And this makes them more powerful. So instead of people having to dig through the giveaways section in Goodreads, which is a kind of difficult to use Website—only the truly passionate readers use it, which again, if you’re an author, that’s who you want to reach, the truly passionate readers–now it’s going to create more notifications on people’s timelines.

I think this potentially is going to be quite good for getting attention to your book. And in a really great way. Because if I see your book has been added to the want-to-read list by a bunch of my friends, that makes me also want to read your book, because I want to read what my friends are reading. Also, it’s going to make for a less crowded market. Since it’s free right now or very cheap to give away your book, you know, there’s just so many people doing it. It’s hard. They’ve created this massive haystack.

All of the people who are like “I’m never going to do this. How dare you charge me” –they’re now no longer going to be able to be shouting in the room. And everyone left is going to have the same number of readers. So remember, this change does not change the number of people who are entering giveaways. There’s going to be more people entering giveaways for fewer numbers of books.

Now what this could result in–and again there’s no way to know until they’ve implemented it–but this could be the next BookBub in terms of effectiveness. It’s a lot cheaper than a BookBub. Paying 119 dollars is cheaper than paying, you know, 300 or 600 dollars to BookBub and potentially reaching just as many people and helping you sell as many books. Although I don’t know. And let’s say it’s only one third as effective— well, paying 100 dollars for something that’s one third as effective as something 300 dollars, those are the same amount of effectiveness in terms of readers. There’s nothing wrong with spending money on marketing. You just want to spend money on something that works. And looking this over– and I’ve spent some time kind of looking at the changes they made–they’re making all of these changes look like things that will make it work.

And I really like the ability to give away lots of ebooks.

I think that this is potentially very powerful for getting lots of people reading your book. And you can almost use this as like a permafree. You know, you make it free on Amazon. The problem with making a book free on Amazon is that you tend to get people who will add it to their Kindle but won’t get around to reading it. The fact that somebody won a contest psychologically makes it more valuable to them, more likely for them to read it, and more likely for them to review it, all of which are really good for you, especially because it’s really hard to give a negative review for a free book.

So that’s the good about this change.

The bad news that it’s going to be more expensive. There’s just no way around it. And the old strategy of giving away just one book is now no longer a financially viable strategy. It doesn’t really make sense to me to spend a hundred dollars to give away one paper copy of your book. You might as well give away 10 paper copies of your book. You get ten times the reviews that you would have if you just gave away one, although really I think if I were to do this, and I’m very much leaning towards doing it just as an experiment— I give away a hundred ebooks. That seems like a great way to get my book in people’s hands and get people talking about it and reviewing it. I feel like that’s potentially very powerful.

The ugly is that they haven’t given us a lot of notice. So they announced this about a week or two ago and that change is taking effect on January 9th, 2018. Now the upshot is that you can still do a free giveaway on Goodreads right now. Their free giveaway system is not gone. So there’s still a chance to do that great strategy we recommended, of giving away one book and being featured.

My Recommendation:


  • Host a giveaway for free between now and January 9, 2018.
  • The paid giveaways will be discounted in January.
  • If you run one, let us know how it went. We might even talk about it on a future episode.

You can go and enter that haystack with the other 3000 authors. And I encourage you all to do that. This is your last chance to do it for free. There’s very little cost to you. It will cost you five or ten bucks. And you don’t have to sell that many copies of your book for this to be worth it. It might even be worth it if you’re traditionally published, especially if you sold through your advance—although again, I’m sorry for you traditionally published folks that we talked about in the last episode.

Marketing’s a lot harder for you because you don’t have the money and you don’t have the data to make it as effective. One of the things we saw in the survey is you want us to talk less about traditional publishing. Something like 80 percent of the people who filled out our survey said “talk less about traditional publishing.” So we’re going to try to talk less about traditional publishing and more about indie publishing. We realize that that is what most of you are passionate about or at least the folks who took the survey.

GoodReads Marketing Techniques That Are Still Free:


  • Joining the Goodreads Author program
  • Connecting Your Blog
  • Claiming your profile
  • Creating lists on listopia and adding books to lists.
  • Lead a Q&A Discussion Group About Your Book.
  • Connect Goodreads to MyBookTable

Now there are some things that you can do on Goodreads that are still free. Goodreads is one of the few social networks I really think is worth it for authors, partly because it’s not very time-consuming. A lot of things I’m about to talk about, you do, and you’re done. You don’t have to continue spending money or time. Time is money: doing it over and over again.

So the first is to join the Goodreads author program. This is free. It takes perhaps an hour. You get a verified author account and it puts a little badge next to all of your books that says “Goodreads author” and that’s a nice thing that gives you a little boost. And there’s no reason not to get signed up for that and get your account to 100 percent complete. The next thing I recommend that you do is to connect your blog with Goodreads. If you’re blogging even occasionally, this is unbelievably powerful because Goodreads, once a week, sends an email to all of their users with the blog posts from the authors that they follow.

So for some of the authors this is the only way I can hear from them. They don’t have newsletters, but they’ve connected their blogs to Goodreads, so I get an email. For me it’s on Sunday, and it’s like “here are blog posts from authors you follow.” It’s like “oh Brandon Sanderson said this, and Mary DeMuth said that” and it’s very powerful and it’s automatic. Once you’ve connected your blog to Goodreads you never have to touch it again.

Also claiming your profile, which is, again, part of the Goodreads author program. Just do it once and then you’re done. And it allows you to interact with your readers a little bit better–although, be careful: you’re not going to convince somebody who left you a one-star review to increase their star rating. There Be Dragons down this path! Just let people vent and focus on the positive reviews.

Another thing you can do for free is you can put your book on lists on Listopia, you can add books to lists. I really love the Listopia feature of Goodreads. As a reader, I use the listopia feature quite a bit, both for listing books that I have read and for looking at lists that other people have created and for discovering new books to read. Because there’s so many cool lists here. So, I created a list of best business books about failure. It’s a topic that I’m really passionate about. It’s not one very many other people are passionate about, but I try to read every “here’s what I did wrong in business” book that I can find.

I think that success is a poor teacher and there’s a lot of lessons only failure can teach. And so I’m always looking for books that are about a famous business failure. And anytime I find one, I’ll add it to that list. And what has happened is a handful of other people who are also interested in business books about failure are adding books to that list. And I’ll discover their book and if there’s an audiobook version of it I will go and listen to it. I listened to an entire book about the Yugo car and why it failed, which, believe it or not, the reason that Yugos are no longer sold is that the American military bombed the Hugo factory during one of the wars in the 1990s.

Clinton ordered a bombing and one of the things they blew up was a Yugo factory. I had no idea. I found it super fascinating. Rest in Peace Yugo car. But anyway, I was able to find that through Listopia. You can add your book to Listopia for free. Don’t just spam Listopia with your book. That’s not good marketing and it’s not good courtesy. But if it’s relevant you might add it to a list or look for some other books on the list. Use Goodreads as a reader, don’t just use it as an author. So one of the pieces of advice.

Another thing you can do for free still is you can add a Q &A discussion group about your book. So you can interact if there’s a Q&A discussion going on. You can host one or you can interact with one that’s already going on about your book. That is still free.

So don’t freak out. Goodreads is charging for a small piece of Goodreads. My hope is that this is going to make them a lot of money that they then will put back into making Goodreads a better platform. Because Goodreads is like the worst social network for authors–except for all the others. The other ones are even worse! This needs to exist: a social network about books, about reading. Goodreads is the best. I want them to make it even better, and hopefully this will give them the money to do that.

The final thing that you can do for free with Goodreads is to connect it to your book pages through my MyBookTable. We added Goodreads integration to MyBookTable in a couple of really cool ways. Your readers or your website visitors can add your book to their “want to read” list on Goodreads with one click from your book page, which is very powerful and very cool. And again, it will pair nicely with this new giveaways program since everyone who’s got that on their “want to read” list will be notified. And if they enter the contest again all their friends will be notified. It could create a huge ripple. You can start building that right now. MyBookTable helps you do that.

The other thing that MyBookTable helps you do, is it integrates with Goodreads reviews. You can actually embed your Goodreads reviews of your book right on your book pages, which is a very powerful way to show reviews on your website. No one’s going to believe the reviews you copy and pasted from Amazon, because they’re going to assume that you cherry picked them. But if Goodreads is inserting their reviews onto your website, and there’s good ones and bad ones, and they’re mixed in, people then believe those reviews. And it can help you sell more books.

Interestingly, books with negative reviews, with 1-star reviews, outsell books without 1-star reviews. It’s really important to have at least one 1-star review to validate all of the 5-star reviews. If I see a book and it’s only got, let’s say, fifty 5-star reviews, my assumption is that all 50 of those people were in the launch team of the author.

I don’t put a lot of credibility in that.

But if there’s a few 1-star reviews mixed in, now I’m like “oh this is an author who’s got something, because most of the people are leaving 5-star views and only some people are leaving 1-star reviews.” And this has been proven out in the stats. This is one of the cases Amazon had to make back in the 90s, saying “yes, reviews really are good.” This was very controversial in the early days, to feature reviews of products, not just books, but any kind of product. And I’m a big believer in reviews and I’m a big believer that negative reviews can help–unless it’s mostly negative reviews. If your average rating on good on Amazon is two and a half stars or three stars, that will hurt your sales. But a few one-star reviews actually help you, it doesn’t hurt you.

And I remember being very excited when I got my first 1-star review on my book. I was like “yes, finally people will take me seriously!” So anyway, I hope this has been helpful for helping you understand how Goodreads works and how to use these new changes. Don’t freak out. Take advantage of this last window to do a free giveaway and if you do do a giveaway under the new system, if you pay for it, please let us know. Go to and send us a comment.

We would love to know how it works for you and if Jim or I do a giveaway in this early window we will report back to you on the results of that. Hopefully, Jim gets better. And this episode has been brought to you by MyBookTable which–the free version has Goodreads reviews integrated, and like we talked about, the paid Pro version allows you to integrate Amazon reviews which is a little bit more complicated to do. Amazon doesn’t make it as easy to get the reviews but it integrates with that as well as giving you many other features and you can get 10 percent off of MyBookTable with the coupon code novelmarketing, all one word. Find out more about that at

You’ve been listening to Thomas Umstattd Jr. and the ghost of James L. Rubart, who hopefully will be back as a living corporeal being next week, giving you novel ideas on how to promote yourself and your writing, offline, online, and everywhere in between. Thanks for listening.

Liked it? Take a second to support Thomas Umstattd Jr. on Patreon!

Want more help?

Get a weekly email with tips on building a platform, selling more books, and changing the world with writing worth talking about. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!