How to Make a Friend in Estonia

EntropyMy Goodreads giveaway, which I described here, just completed. My reason for running the giveaway was to raise awareness of the book, in order to increase sales of the book. I’m quite certain that the former happened. Let’s give it a week or two to find out whether the latter did.

The contest was to win a signed copy of Entropy, shipped for free anywhere in the world. 1,200 people (exactly! I’m not rounding there) entered. Is that a lot? It turns out it is. Goodreads has a “Most Requested” list that sorts the currently-running giveaways by the number of entries. 1,200 people puts my book at number 158 of the 2,600 giveaways running at the same time mine ended. That’s the 94th percentile. If we are handing out report cards, that’s an A.

I’m honestly quite surprised at this for a few reasons. I promoted the giveaway on Twitter, but in order to enter you needed a Goodreads account, and I doubt that many people would create one just to enter (if they didn’t already have one). So while I’m sure my followers contributed somewhat to the number, the vast majority of those 1,200 people just found it on their own on the Goodreads site. That’s pretty remarkable since I didn’t advertise it at all. They just found it in the list. And there were 2,600 books in that list! And a lot of those books are from major authors you’ve heard of.

On the advice of Catherine Ryan Howard, I made my giveaway global. From what I’ve read that’s somewhat unusual, so that partly explains my success. People in places like Estonia don’t see the full 2,600 books I see.

Another part of the reason they saw it is because my cover stands out. Negative space on covers is quite rare. Of the top 100 giveaway covers, I’d say two had the Bauhaus aesthetic of my cover. I’m not saying my cover is better than those others—I’m saying it catches your eye because it’s different.

The other thing that might have garnered more entries was my pitch:

Enter to win a signed copy of Entropy by Joshua Edward Smith. Entropy is a cerebral erotic romance. It is far more character and plot driven than your typical erotica, and much smarter than your typical romance novel. Entropy challenges and engages the reader, and makes you love and cheer for its deeply flawed characters.

Since the point here was to get them to be curious enough to enter, I focused on what was different about the book. I have a little anecdotal evidence that this worked, because one entrant sent me a direct message inside Goodreads saying that my pitch caught her attention.

My book also has a great rating of 4.82/5 on the site, but I doubt that had any impact because Goodreads doesn’t show that in the summary where you click to enter.

Running a giveaway is free, except for the cost of the book ($6.84 in my case, including shipping from my printer) and shipping to the winner. The winner turned out to be a 19-year-old woman in Estonia. Sending a book to Estonia from the USA costs $22.25, so this promotion ended up costing me $29.09. I make different amounts depending on where/how someone buys the book, but on average I’m making $2.49 per sale. So I need to sell 12 books as a result of this giveaway to break even. Let’s give it a couple weeks. I’m skeptical.

The other benefit of running the giveaway is that as part of entering, you can put the book on your “To Read” shelf. So now my book was “added” by about 500 people. This “adding” thing is the default. You have to uncheck a box to not add it to your to-read list. So another way to look at this is 700 people went to the trouble of unchecking a box, because if they don’t win this book, they have no intention of reading it. By itself, being on all those “shelves” isn’t particularly useful. However, it does lend the book some credibility, because it looks like hundreds of people plan to read it, even though we know most of them really don’t.

Update: In further discussion with the entrant I mentioned above, I learned that she actually didn’t see my book in the giveaway list at all. She was just browsing books, like you might browse movies by category on Netflix, and it was in the list. I suspect it was in there because a lot of people who like the same stuff she does were adding it to their to-read lists. So while you need some people to see your book in the giveaway list, once that starts, there’s a virtuous cycle that will cause more people to see the book, and enter the giveaway. That is also a big reason to do a global giveaway, since you are more likely to get into that loop if people see you on the list. And you are more likely to be seen if you don’t limit your territories.

Ms. Howard did an update post, in which she also pointed out that everyone who put it on their shelf is going to be notified the next time I run a giveaway. And that means if I do this again exactly the same, there’s a good chance I’ll get an extra 500 entrants. That would push me higher on the “most requested” list, which would probably mean more exposure, and more entrants. Whether or not I test that theory depends mostly on how close I get to that 12 books I need to sell to cover my costs from this first giveaway.

So stay tuned. And sign up for my Entropy mailing list if you want to be notified about the next giveaway I run, if I decide to run it.

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One thought on “How to Make a Friend in Estonia

  1. I love love love using GR giveaways as free promo (mostly free, aside from my cost of the book and shipping). I have to tell you that several of my most enthusiastic and stellar reviews have been from GR giveaway winners, so while not directly – they certainly contribute indirectly to my sales because of those reviews. At this point, everything you do needs to be done for awareness and discoverability, and the giveaway delivers both. I have one going right now too. 🙂

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