Writer's Notes

Writer’s Contests: Do You Feel Lucky? By J.L. Greger

Author–sponsored book giveaways are contests, too. Theoretically, free book giveaways, such as those sponsored by Goodreads, generate publicity for a book in several ways

By J.L Greger

Feb. 16, 2018

shedidn'tknowherplace2Author–sponsored book giveaways are contests, too. Theoretically, free book giveaways, such as those sponsored by Goodreads, generate publicity for a book in several ways.
• Individuals are more apt to read a blog or Facebook post that announces something free.
• Authors tend to post more on Facebook when they’ve set up a giveaway.
• Applicants for a book in a giveaway are likely to remember the book’s title.
• Goodreads encourages applicants for a giveaway to include it on their Want-to-Read list.
• Winners of a book from a Goodreads giveaway are supposed to post a review.

My Real Experience

I’m not expert on giveaways but I’ve done giveaways for four of my books during the last three years with Goodreads. Each time I publicized the giveaway on twenty different Facebook sites at least twice, sent over fifty tweets, and wrote blogs mentioning the giveaway on at least three different sites.

The books generated 347 to 657 requests each even though I offered only three to five copies of the book. I think most giveaways are for less than five books. I suspect Murder: A Way to Lose Weight garnered the most requests because of the cute cover and humorous, catchy title.

The first two giveaways were free for me because my editor supplied Kindle copies of my books to the winners, but I received no reviews. I offered signed print copies for the last two books and tucked a thank you (in advance) note for the reviews in each book. Thus, those giveaways cost me the books and postage, but I got the reviews for The Good Old Days? A Collection of Stories. The giveaway for She Didn’t Know Her Place ended just before Christmas 2017 and it’s too early to assess results. I couldn’t discern an increase in Amazon sales of books (paperback or Kindle versions) in the month following any of the giveaways.

New Developments. I don’t think I’m the only author disappointed by my results. Goodreads announced a new giveaway program starting in January 2018. Three features are interesting. Everyone who enters a giveaway automatically adds the book to their Want-to-Read list. About eight weeks after the giveaway ends, winners receive an email from Goodreads to remind them to rate and review the book. The standard giveaway plan isn’t free anymore. It costs $119. The premium plan costs more.
Conclusions. I don’t think I’d pay over $100 to do another giveaway. However, I should admit I’m not into social media as much as many authors and do not have long friends lists. I’m also not lucky. I’ve played ten cards of Bingo on ten occasions in the last year and have not won once.
Do you feel lucky and want to see if you can increase your books sales with a giveaway? Maybe you’d rather read my new mystery.


JL Greger and BugBlurb: In She Didn’t Know Her Place, Dana Richardson faces that dilemma in her new job at a state university in New England. A research center, which reports to her, is falsifying data to help industrial clients meet federal pollution standards, and the last woman who tried to investigate the problem died under suspicious circumstances.

Available in paperback and Kindle:

Author: J. L. Greger is a biology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison turned novelist. She likes to include tidbits of science in her thrillers and mysteries.

Her newest mystery is She Didn’t Know Her Place. Her other books include: Riddled with Clues (Finalist for a 2017 NM/Arizona book awards) and Murder: A New Way to Lose (winner of 2016 Public Safety Writers Association [PSWA] contest and finalist for a 2016 NM/Arizona book award).

She focuses on families in her short stories. She has published two collections of stories: The Good Old Days? and Other People’s Mothers (finalist for a 2017 NM/Arizona Book Awards).

Learn more at her website:



12 replies on “Writer’s Contests: Do You Feel Lucky? By J.L. Greger”

I hope so! I’m researching a drawing give-away contest. I’m thinking a $25. Amazon gift card for the person who:
shares my posts on Facebook or comments on either Facebook or WordPress for a week (Sunday to Sunday). The idea is to get the posts out to a broader audience and engage the folks who already read Just the Facts, Ma’am.
What do you think? Would you do this? Why or why not?

I had a Goodreads giveaway when my western, Four Furlongs came out in 2016. Almost 700 signed up for the book. I gave three books and none of the winners posted reviews. There is no way I’d pay $119 to do it again. I wouldn’t even pay $25. I might try giving a few copies via a contest on my website and advertised on Facebook, Twitter, and anywhere else I can think to post.

I’ve done Goodreads giveaways for a number of my books and received reviews for some, though getting the name better known is more of an incentive. With the ridiculous price GR is now charging, I won’t be doing more through them. I haven’t tried an Amazon giveaway, so I can’t comment on their value. Thonie’s idea of combining a giveaway with a gift card or some other prize might be worth a try.

I’m totally bummed out about the Goodreads giveaway change. I used those giveaways with every book launch, and they helped get news eyes on my books. Not only did they encourage people to add it to their TBR shelf, but those readers would also get alerted every time I published a new book. I cannot fathom spending $119 every time I want to give books away. Giveaways were already expensive for me just with giving away books I paid for, plus S&H. This new change is completely unfair to smalltime authors just trying to get their name out there.

I was worried when I wrote this blog that it was too honest. I guess the “success” with Goodreads giveaways is limited for most. And no one thinks they’re worth $119.

JL Greger

Janet, honesty is always good for authors. If I, as a writer, don’t know what to expect, I can be easily “scared” off.” If I knew Goodreads would charge for giveaways and I knew they worked, I’d probably go ahead with them. But your honesty (and Crissi Langwell’s) have opened my eyes. You’ve saved me time and effort, both of which are in short supply. Thanks for this honest post, Janet!

Welcome to Thonie's world!

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