Increasing Your Kindle Rank: Goodreads, Giveaways, and Reviews

I wrote recently about reaching the Kindle top 1000, 8 weeks after releasing my first-ever novel, Hush Money. This post is part of a series talking about some stuff I did that helped me get visibility and sell books.

So I said the other day that Goodreads was described to me as “Facebook for book people.” I think that’s pretty much true. It’s very social networky, and yet the only thing anyone’s talking about is books.

I didn’t spend much time on Goodreads before I released Hush Money. It’s one of those things I probably should have done, but…need I tell you again that I’m not great with the social stuff? If you’re not either, try making friends with just a few people who are active there.

One of the cool things about Goodreads are the update emails. People who get those get a digest list of things their friends are doing on Goodreads. Things like: adding a book to their “to-read” shelves, posting ratings and reviews, updating their progress in reading any given book.

Additionally, members who have their Twitter and Goodreads accounts linked are sending out tweets about books with every status update, so you’re getting your name out there on two platforms at the same time in those cases. (I suppose this is also true of Facebook? I’m not a Facebook person at all.)

If Goodreads member “Jane” decides to add my book, any of Jane’s friends who get those emails may see my book cover when Jane adds the book, when she starts reading it, anytime she updates her progress through it, and when she finishes it and leaves a review. That’s a lot of nice exposure for my book cover, and it’s exposure to a group of people who might be more inclined toward my book than the average person on the street, assuming that Jane liked my book, and that Jane’s friends know their own tastes are often similar to hers.

But how did I get Jane to read my book? Well, if you’ve spent enough time on Goodreads to make some real friends, you might have some people reading you just because they like you and they’re curious about what you’ve been working on. I had a few of these friends, but not enough to really get going.

After setting up my Goodreads Author stuff, I read about Giveaways. Unfortunately, that section of the site is only for physical books, which I didn’t have at the time. But there was the Events section which didn’t say you couldn’t use it to give away ebooks…

First, I wrote up a post for my blog about giving away review copies of my book, so that I would have something to link to when I set up the event on Goodreads. Then I wrote a brief, to-the-point, no pressure invitation:

I’m giving 100% off coupons to download Hush Money, in a variety of ebook formats, to anyone willing to leave me a review here on Goodreads, at Amazon, on a blog, etc. If you’re interested, just send message me via Goodreads or send an email and I’ll hook you up. Offer ends August 23, 2010. Please feel free to invite your friends to this event.

By the way, I think it’s better to keep things like this simple. Avoid playing the friend card, avoid sounding like a sales person. I think the only thing I would add to this would the the 400 character blurb for the book, so that the user didn’t have to click around to look for it.

Two Goodreads friends tweeted me to confirm whether I really wanted to them to invite all their friends, to which I said Yes, please! I had only 8 friends at the time. A very small reach. Once they had sent out invitation, about 350 people were personally invited to come check out my book.

That might scare you. It shouldn’t. How many people on their friend lists are actually active on Goodreads? How many read ebooks? How many are interested in spending their reading time on an unknown indie author? In my case, about 10% responded with a Yes or Maybe. And even had more responded, giving away ebooks costs me nothing. If you think of every giveaway as a lost sale, I’d recommend changing your thinking.

To each of those people, I sent a PM via Goodreads with the information to get my book with a 100% off coupons via Smashwords. While I had a form letter that I pasted in, I tried to personalize the messages any time someone made a comment in their event response, and I used different messages for those who said Yes or Maybe. I spent a lot of time that week responding to PMs and emails. All totally worth it.

By the way, very few people emailed, PM’d, or left comments to my blog. Most response I got was just saying Yes, No, or Maybe to the invitation (you get notified of each of those by Goodreads). So you’ll want to keep close tabs on that and keep track of your replies. You’ll have a few people who do not accept PMs via Goodreads, and for whom you do not have contact information. I don’t know how they expect you to give them anything, and I’m not sure there’s anything to be done about that.

Did everyone who downloaded a copy give me a review? No, not yet, anyway. I didn’t actually expect 100% on that, yet I was very pleased with how many people have come through with reviews. And think of your own TBR pile. This is going to take some time. Smashwords sends out an email to anyone who downloads a book from there, reminding them to come back to Smashwords and leave a review. I think this was GREAT, in that it reminded people they had my book and were supposed to be reading and reviewing, without me having to ask them. I got a small flurry of reviews at about that time.

The event did get a lot of people adding my book, and it did result in more ratings and reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and Smashwords than I would have had without having done it. All of this increased the book’s exposure.

Another great outcome of the Goodreads event was that book bloggers hang out there, and they love books! Many of them have to buy a lot of the books they read and review, which gets expensive. So many of my responders were book bloggers! Bonus! I’ve had 15 reviews on individual blogs since Hush Money’s release, as well as a few interviews. It’s hard to approach reviewers when you’ve got no author cred, no publisher validation or reviews backing you up. But the event sort of had them coming to me, in a more low-obligation kind of way than if I gone to them and asked them to review my book for their blog.

Now, I had a lot of people read Hush Money before it was released. Eleven beta readers/proof-readers. Remember that not everyone who is your friend is going to want to read your book, and not everyone who reads and tells you they like it is going to write you a review. It’s all percentages and is not personal. But since I had eleven betas, and they were my friends, when I asked for Amazon reviews as soon as it was live, I got 4 reviews right away. So anyone who came across my Kindle page in the early days had something to look at.

Between those reviews from the betas, and the ones that started to show up after the giveaway, it became a lot easier for me to approach book bloggers and ask for reviews because, in my query, I could link to a page full of positive responses to my book. There have got to be very few book bloggers out there looking for stuff to hate. They want to have some idea that this book is for them, and that they’ll be able to recommend it. Many don’t even write reviews of something they didn’t like, so giving time to a book they don’t like is a waste for them. They want to have the sense that they’re going to like your book before they agree.

At the time of this writing, I’ve had 247 adds on Goodreads (and I think most of those have gone ahead and purchased because the price is low), 15 reviews on blogs, 20 Amazon reviews, 15 on Smashwords, and 29 on Goodreads (38 ratings). All of those, plus tweeting about them by me as well as others, have helped make me more visible.

And visibility is our biggest hurdle, seconded by credibility.

The reason that I consider the Goodreads giveaway event serendipitous, was because it wasn’t something I had planned to do. It was more something that came out of a marketing brainstorm while the book wasn’t really moving in that second week of release. And it’s really been possibly THE best thing I’ve done so far. (Well, after that whole writing a decent book and putting it out thing.)

So I hope it helps some of you as well. Sorry I’ve run long today. I’ll hope you’ll come back next time, when I think I’ll be talking about Blogging and Social Media. If you think other indies might be helped by the ideas in this post, sharing buttons are located below for your convenience. Thanks!


Filed under book blogs, Hush Money, ideas, Increasing Kindle Rank, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, tips, writing

24 responses to “Increasing Your Kindle Rank: Goodreads, Giveaways, and Reviews

  1. Um, you’re kind of brilliant, and I’m kind of going to steal this idea. 😀

  2. Pingback: Kindle Rank: Unknown to top 1K in 8 Weeks | Hunting High and Low

  3. I released an erotic short story at the end of last month just to test the waters as a free read. I was pleased at the number of downloads. However, I only received one review. Reading your post shows me where I could have done better.

    For starts, there’s no incentive to read it if I’m giving it away for free without stating what I want in return. Most of the readers probably downloaded and simply forgot about it. I probably have a hundred free reads in that category. I love your idea of offering coupons in exchange for reviews.

    2) I didn’t even realize my book would end up on goodreads after publishing it. I thought books were manually entered by authors, readers, etc. Only a week ago or so did I realize this, and that I could have an author page. So those who did download it, didn’t add it to their reading list. No easy linkup. And it’s a shame, since I sent out an invitation on goodreads also.

    3) The other issue is the cover, something you mentioned in your last post. I knew it was rather drab at the time. But figured it’s a short story, free read, who cares? 🙂 Silly. Cause if I saw the cover in my collection, I’d pass it right over for a sexier cover.

    It’s too late for a first release, but I’m working towards a new cover. When I do I’ll re-release with your post in mind. Thanks for the information.

    • Zoe Winters has beaten it into my head that I need to ask for stuff and believe that people will want to help me.

      My thoughts about cover art have really changed. Before I wrote the book, I didn’t the cover art mattered very much, because it didn’t seem to matter to me personally. The number one thing for me is if someone who knows me tells me I’m going to like this book.

      However, when I had to change cover artists and my cover was way delayed, I started to get it. Because of the image-centered nature of the internet, I really needed something graphic to represent what I was talking about, in the same way that we associate an avatar with the person behind it. I’m going to talk more about my thoughts on cover art on Friday, but professional quality, genre-appropriateness, and something to make it stand out or intrigue are things I think are important. It can seem really hard to justify putting money into cover art for a free ebook, and yet what’s the end purpose, to promote the story or to promote yourself? Because you’re definitely worth it.

      Anyway, it’s never too late to do anything. I just perused an article yesterday. It was something like: when do you stop promoting your book? The answer, of course, was never, but one of the ideas was re-launching a book. The example given was how Disney puts the cartoon movies in the vault and re-launches them every 7 years when there’s a new crop of kids to market to. (Is there anyone who doesn’t hate that, btw?) But you can re-launch your ebook whenever you please. I still haven’t had the Hush Money launch party. Maybe I will someday.

  4. Andrew Mocete

    This is really great info, thanks for sharing.

  5. Pingback: One Author’s Rise from Unknown to 1K in Weeks | Self-Published Author's Lounge

  6. Kristen Lamb

    Thanks for giving me this link. I will add it in the mash-up this week. There is a lot of stuff out there for sure, but your blog I think will help writers make better use of Goodreads if they decide to be on there.

    Thanks so much!!!!

    Kristen Lamb

    • Thanks, Kristen. In a way, GR seems to be one of those places that caters to the book-a-day bookworms that everyone wants, like you talked about in your book. There are a lot of those great readers there, and I think there are also a lot of people pressed for time, who can’t read everything, and just want to make the best choices. Like all social media, it would be easy to spend too much time there, but I also think most authors would benefit from having a presence there, and using some of the tools provided.

  7. I’d been discouraged by the no-eBooks policy on Goodreads giveaways, as I’ve been trying to figure out how to do exactly the “free book for review/promotion” deal you’ve struck on, and creating an event is a GREAT workaround for that. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Pingback: Posting Second-Hand Stuff–Just Because We Can, Doesn’t Mean We Should « Kristen Lamb's Blog

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  10. Thanks – great idea. I just tried it on 2 group pages for my book JesusPotterHarryChrist… kind of worried I’ll get flamed for self-promotion, but I guess someone’s gotta do it.

    • You’re welcome, Derek. I’m very cautious about self-promoting in groups on Goodreads. I think it works best if you’ve been contributing to the group for a little while and have more to offer than self-promotion. Ideally, it would be great if another member would start talking up your book. I have yet to figure out how to make that happen as my mind control device is not yet operational.

  11. Thanks so much for taking the time to create this post! I am an independent author trying to use goodreads to create word of mouth, and this information is incredibly valuable. Congrats on all your success!

  12. Daniel Grant

    This is an excellent and really detailed article which is incredibly generous. Thanks for taking the time to write it. It will help new authors like myself get a foot on the ladder. You deserve all the success you receive.

  13. Excellent post! I’ve been pondering the whole giveaways thing myself lately. I’ve been involved with groups and book bloggers, but it seems that GR is a good centralized method for doing this without stretching yourself too thin with a gazillion bloggers–at least not right off the bat.

    Have you ever tried any Amazon gift card giveaways or anything of that nature?

    Also, when you did the Event, does it ask if you want to invite other friends to it and then you sort of daisy-chained off of them?


    • Thanks, John.

      I’ve done something with other authors using Amazon’s Give a Gift feature. An example would be when I have away 5 copies of Stacey Wallace Benefiel’s Glimpse on my blog and she gave away 5 copies of Hush Money on hers. That way were both spending the same amount of money and getting the same number of sales. It’s not as easy and certainly not as inexpensive as giving away Smashwords copies, but if you want to specifically target Kindle readers, it is another way to go. Ultimately I didn’t end up doing many of those.

      When I originally wrote this post, giving away Kindles was a thing. I never tried that and I think a lot of people agree that giving away things that don’t really tie into your specific work/genre brings you a lot of entrants who aren’t really interested in what you do and aren’t going to become your readers. I think giving away things like gift cards (or even Kindles) is a nice thing to do and it makes people happy, but do it to thank your readers, don’t count on it for promotional value in terms of getting a lot of new readers.

      When I set up the Event, I believe there was something you could check or uncheck where you could allow others to invite their friends to the Event. Look for that. (I’ve only done the one Event I talked about in this series, I didn’t do it again for my second book, so my memory is a bit fuzzy.) Then, if you have a few good friends who wouldn’t mind you asking, you could ask them if they’d be willing to invite their friends which I think they can do from the Event page. Two of my personal friends invited their Goodreads contacts to my Event (I didn’t ask them, they asked me if I wanted them to), and it really made all the difference.

  14. Thanks for your time and the info! =)

  15. Oh, and BTW, love the Hush Money book cover. Human faces tend to draw the gaze to them. And those huge eyes…well it’s a proven fact we like big eyes!

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