Indie Authors: Using Giveaways to Find New Readers and Sell More Books

By Toby Hudson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Toby Hudson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
A giveaway is a powerful tool that can help indie authors attract new readers. You can incentivize people to spread the word about your book through social media, sign up for your email list, and garner interest in your other books (which can lead to more sales).

There are at least four big tools authors can use for book giveaways:

Until this year, Goodreads only allowed authors to give away physical books. Because of costs, this limited the number of books to give away. But now, probably because Amazon owns Goodreads, Goodreads has a beta program that allows authors to give away up to 100 copies of a Kindle ebook. Giveaways can last up to one month. According to Publisher’s Weekly, the beta is currently only open to authors and publishers in the U.S. It also costs $119 to run an ebook giveaway.

However, Amazon’s giveaway service is free to use. According to Amazon, Amazon Giveaway “supports securing your prizes, enforcing entry requirements like follow or watch a brief video, hosting your giveaway, determining winners instantly, getting prizes to winners, and handling certain income tax reporting responsibilities.” Prizes can be anything available on Amazon, not just books. The Rafflecopter blog outlines the terms, which includes only giving away 50 prizes, worth up to $5,000 total, not being able to edit a giveaway after it starts, and all prizes are shipped by Amazon.

The Digital Reader said that “contests can be set up so the first X participants get the prize, or every Xth participant receives one, thus guaranteeing either a frenzy or a long term build to a finale.” And earlier this year, Amazon opened it up so that you can offer digital prizes, such as ebooks. According to Digital Book World, this can help attract followers to your Amazon author page, increase traffic to your book pages, and help when you launch your next book.

Chris McMullen, who has experience using both services, outlines the the features of both Goodreads and Amazon Giveaway. He mentions that the audience for Goodreads and Amazon Giveaway is different. People on Goodreads are readers who love books, while people on Amazon have much broader interests. Also, Goodreads lets you target audiences with keywords, while Amazon does not, but Amazon generates traffic more quickly.

You can say the same things about LibraryThing and Rafflecopter: LibraryThing’s audience is readers who love books and Rafflecopter is more general. Also, LibraryThing is free to use and you can give up to 100 ebooks away, and Rafflecopter is free to use its basic features, but you have to pay extra to make it possible for people to sign up for your email list.

Tips for Running Giveaways

Author Marketing Experts lists ways to maximize giveaways on Goodreads, though many of these strategies can be applied to other giveaway sites. Tips include having shorter giveaways (one to two weeks long) and including blurbs in the book description.

Rafflecopter has more tips, including a worksheet to help figure out all the elements of a giveaway to give it the best chance of success (such as start and end dates and entry options). The Rafflecopter blog also offers promotion tips, such as having strong images and timing your tweets for maximum engagement.

Last, if your giveaway did not go as well as you’d hoped, Rafflecopter gives some advice on how to learn from the experience and make the next one better. Things you can improve include offering a better prize, having the right entry options, and having a marketing plan.

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