Goodreads is changing its giveaways program, making it harder for readers to discover indie books

Friday, 01 December 2017, 07:22:25 AM. Authors will have to pay to give away their books

For the last couple years, if an author wanted to promote their new novel, one reliable way would be using Goodreads, a social media site for booklovers, to set up a giveaway contest. Readers could enter the contest with the click of a button, and the author or publisher would be responsible for mailing out the copy when the contest ended. Up until now, the feature has been free to authors and publishers, but today, Goodreads announced that it will begin charging authors and publishers to give away their books. Conversely, the program has become incredibly popular, and the fees will undoubtably help filter out some of the noise that some authors have complained about.

The giveaway contests are an excellent way for authors to drum up some buzz for their book. (I did it myself with an anthology that I edited a couple of years ago.) When you or a friend enters a contest, it shows up on your timeline, helping to boost the site’s exposure. The feature also allows authors and publishers to get the books into the hands of non-reviewers (i.e., regular readers), who are then encouraged to post a review, usually before the book’s publication date.

Now, Goodreads is aiming to monetize the feature. The site is introducing two tiers for giveaways: a “standard” package, which will cost authors $119 to give away up to 100 copies; and a “premium” package, which will cost $599, but gives the author an “exclusive placement” on its Giveaways page. That’s only for a single giveaway campaign, however; if you’re marketing two books, you’ll have to pay again. (Goodreads is offering some introductory pricing: between January 9th and 31st, standard packages will be $59, while the premium tier will be $299.) It’ll also only be open to users who are US residents.

Up until now, authors and publishers have only been able to give away physical copies, but authors who publish through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program (Amazon owns Goodreads) will be able to list Kindle editions, something that was only open to established publishers. There’s some other useful perks for readers: both the standard and premium packages will automatically add a contest book to your Want-To-Read list, and users who have already added the book to the Want-To-Read list will be notified if it’s the subject of a contest. Winners will also be emailed eight weeks after the contest to review and rate the book. The new guidelines will begin on January 9th, 2018, and any giveaways started before then will run normally.

Unsurprisingly, some authors and readers are unhappy with the changes to the program. Goodreads has been a useful tool in the world of book discovery, as authors face an uphill battle of trying to get their names and titles out in an ever-increasingly crowded field. Now, they will have to pay to give away their own work. Lesley Conner, the managing editor for Apex Publications says that she thinks it’s a bad move on Goodreads’ part, and that running Goodreads promotions lately hasn’t been as useful. (Disclaimer: Apex is the publisher of an anthology that I edited.) “This new change is like the proverbial nail in the coffin lid,” Conner told The Verge in an email. “We aren't going to spend the small marketing budget we have on a service that we've already noticed isn't that effective.”

In a statement to The Verge, a Goodreads spokesperson affirmed that indie authors and publishers were an “important part of the Goodreads community,” and that the program has been redesigned with input from authors and publishers. The company also notes that the cost of the tiers “reflects the marketing value we are providing to help authors and publishers drive interest and awareness of their books.”

With endless lists of books on retailers pages and on bookstore shelves, book discovery remains a challenge for authors, and Goodreads has been an incredibly useful tool for authors who don’t necessarily have the resources of a major book publisher, allowing their books to be listed alongside their heavyweight competition. These changes upend that. Smaller publishers and independent authors will be impacted the greatest: spending $200-$600 to give away one’s books just doesn’t make sense, especially when they can go onto their Twitter or Facebook pages and essentially run the same contest, even if they miss out on the ability to reach new readers through the site. By offering more attention to the authors and publishers who pay more to get their book prominently featured on the site, readers will only be able to easily discover books with the most marketing dollars behind them — which could leave indie authors and publishers in the dust.


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